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The 2009 Chicago Psych Olympics

By The Beachwood Mental Health Desk

An annotated chronology.

JANUARY 2009: Dr. Terry Mason, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, announces the impending closings of four mental health centers, as reported here by Megan Cottrell in the Chi-Town Daily News, on January 13th.

Also:

* Mental Health Clinics Under Attack . . . Again!

* Daley Blames "S-A-T-E" for Cutting Health Clinics. Audio here.

DALEY: "The state of Illinois funds those centers. We did not cut. They have cut state mental health facilities all over the state. That is state money. Underline that, S-A-T-E. It's called state money."

MARCH 2009: Advocates hope to save S. Side mental health centers.

APRIL 6, 2009: Mental health demonstrators press Daley administration.

With four CDPH mental health clinics slated to close at the end of the business day Tuesday April 7th, MHC patients picket Mayor Daley's office and attain the coveted Holy Grail of a meeting with Budget Director Paul Volpe, He's going to get back to them, and another meeting is scheduled for Tuesday night.

APRIL 7, 2009: Billing glitch led to mental health closures.

Within just a few hours, the mayor at his press conference announces a temporary reprieve for the four clinics while the matter is being discussed.He wants to investigate the billing issue. "We don't know. We'll get to the bottom of it," he said. "We are looking into that. We are taking it seriously."

* Sun-Times.

* Progress Illinois.

APRIL 8, 2009: Mason tells some 900 staff - at CDPH all-employee day - that he has received no official order from the mayor's office to stop the closings. After that meeting, the center directors receive a memo from Deputy Commissioner Sylvia Riperton-Lewis indicating that Thursday plans (i.e., moving day) are to proceed as scheduled.

* Questions remain after closed door meeting on mental health centers.

* Clinic closure uncertainty.

APRIL 9, 2009: Two of the four clinics are dismantled - furniture thrown out, computers carted away - with the other two waiting until Friday. Workers who have been re-assigned effective Monday the 13th report to their old sites as instructed and can't even sit down. Consumers involved in the negotiations, and patients generally feel they're getting a double-message,

* Mayor's office says clinics will stay open.

* Mental health clinics update.

* Clinics closing despite Daley reprieve.

* Clinics closed for business.

* Mental health centers appear to be closed despite mayoral reprieve.

"In a confusing turn of events, four city-run mental health centers appeared to be closing today, despite a reprieve by the mayor Tuesday designed to keep them open . . . As late as 10:30 a.m. today, Mayor Richard M. Daley was discussing the negotiations with mental health advocates about the fate of the centers. "We're still working with those people. We're working with them, yes we are, trying to make sure we keep them (the clinics) open," Daley said to reporters . . . But across town, computers and office furniture were being removed from at least two mental health centers."

AND:

"Requests for comment from the health department and mayor's office have yet to be returned . . . The turn of events left mental health advocates shaken and confused . . . Darryl Gumm, chairman of the Community Mental Health Board, which garnered a meeting with Daley's chief of staff Paul Volpe and Terry Mason, head of the health department, says Volpe told him the centers were supposed to stay open. The mayor's office yesterday said they would stay open as long as talks between city officials and advocates continued . . . Gumm says patients have been calling him all day . . . 'They've been freaking out. We thought we had a reprieve,' he says. 'This is not good for our patients. If we can't believe the mayor, if we can't believe his chief of staff who can we believe. How can they play with people's lives like this?'"

AND THEN: Federal dollars to save mental health centers.

AUGUST 2009: "It was a moment that would kill lesser political careers . . . Daley sat silent, mouth closed with eyes straight ahead. He would not answer . . . He just said nothing. Has there ever been a more insensitive moment in the history of the Daley administration?"

* Mental Health Blunder.

* Your Three Minutes With The Mayor.

* "Dozens of South Siders went up to the mike, griping about potholes, flooding and everything but the budget. Carol Smith put the mayor on the spot with her question about why the city is once again looking at shutting down five neighborhood mental health clinics. 'What is this about? I want an answer right now,' said Smith. "

* Video.

SEPTEMBER 23, 2009: City health chief resigns for Cook County job

NOVEMBER 2009: "Back in July we took Daley administration officials at their word when they said that the problems were fixed . . . Big mistake."

DECEMBER 2009: "The lack of answers coming from City Hall is so puzzling that some mental health advocates believe there maybe there is more to the story. Is the 'inability' to fix the Cerner system really a plot to shutter the clinics? After all, the city is making an obvious effort to starve the system of local funding. Or is there something more sinister involved? Last Friday, members of the Coalition to Save Our Mental Health Centers paid a visit to Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson's office in the hopes of getting some answers. They asked the IG to review the process that led to the contract. What will come of the complaint remains to be seen. All we can glean from the city's procurement records is that 13 companies submitted bids for the system. The IG's office told the coalition they will examine those bids and determine if an investigation is indeed warranted . . . "

PSYCH OLYMPICS 2: (Springfield)
This is different than the state being late reimbursing service providers. Rather, it's about the state using the arcane technicalities of Rule 132 (with regard to both billing and clinical practices/documentation) to invalidate billings altogether, and thusly create an oblique revenue stream for itself . . . Clinical attention and time is diverted into OCD-type mandatory fine-points, which are there in the name of 'quality-control' . . . Meanwhile, the software has proven unworkable on both the city and state side of things, with CDPH having stopped using both Cerner and ValueOptions software for billing.

The city's Cerner contract has been a public issue since April, just on basis of the software problems alone, and it wasn't until December that anyone suggested publicly that the contracting process might have been corrupt and not simply inept . . . On the state side, while no one has called the ValueOptions contracting corrupt to our knowledge, the architect of that contract, Lorrie Rickman-Jones, has in fact been said to be clouted-in.

MAY 21, 2009: "Statewide, mental health providers say they're hamstrung by a billing system that does not work, gobbling up billing information, but not processing it correctly," the Chi-Town Daily News reported. "Kopera says his organization is owed more than $500,000 by the state. Providers blame the issue on the software's developer, a Virginia company called Value Options. Value Options has said it is looking into the issue."

* "As the nation's largest independent behavioral health company with public sector contracts in 11 other states, ValueOptions has the knowledge and experience necessary to meet the state's requirements, strengthen our provider network and assist the state in providing for behavioral health recipients," said Lorrie Rickman Jones, Ph.D., Director of the Illinois Division of Mental Health. The contract covers the 166,000 Illinois residents who use DMH-funded services and the approximately 200 providers who serve them. Valued at almost $28 million for a three-year period, the contract began December 1, 2007.

October 13, 2007: "A porky job was handed out to Lorrie Rickman Jones PhD back in March 2007. Ms Jones is a psychologist with a standing practice. There's no reason to believe she isn't qualified to do the job as a psychologist . . . Earlier this year, Governor Blagojevich 'convinced' his buddy Emil to change the job qualifications for the Director of the Division of Mental Health job. A job with a $138,000 annual salary. This amendment yanked out the requirement that the director had to be licensed to practice medicine. Lorrie Jones, unfortunately, did NOT have that in her background. It also doesn't answer the question of whether or not she has any qualifications to manage thousands of people and a massive budget . . . And what do you know, by some act of fate, Ms. Jones is coincidentally the wife of Senate President Emil Jones!"

* Chicago Sun-Times: "State cleared way for Jones' wife to get job; Rule change let her become mental health chief . . . A top Jones aide and the state Department of Human Services insist the promotion of Lorrie Jones, a psychologist, was legitimate under state law. But a government watchdog called the move 'curious' given that the job was tailor-made for the spouse of Blagojevich's top legislative ally . . . 'Why in 2003 was there a great burning desire to have an M.D. in this position and then two years later it isn't' . . . "

LINKS:
* Community Mental Health Board of Chicago. Exists in an official advisory capacity, with reps from each of the 12 City MHCs.

* Coalition to Save Our Mental Health Centers ("The Coalition"). The group that went to the IG about the Cerner contract particularly centered at North River MHC, where the community had voted for a tax referendum for the benefit of the clinic - but also has a citywide scope.

* Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP).

-

UPDATES:

January 2010: Federal funds ease anxiety at South Side mental health agency

* A Small Mental Health Success, But Problems Remain.

-

Comments welcome.



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Posted on January 11, 2010


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