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By Chinta Strausberg
 
 
 
In an effort to get to the truth why the State of Illinois closed Dr. Carl C. Bell’s 37-mental health facility, WVON is hosting a town hall meeting Thursday, August 30, 2012, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Legacy Room, 1000 E. 87th St., Chicago, IL.
 
In the interim, Dr. Bell, who has been president/CEO of the South Side Community Mental Health Council, 8704 S. Constance for 37-years, continues to see his patients even though the state has shut down his practice. Several times a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Bell hauls out his lawn chair and armed with a laptop in front of the shuttered facility he sees his patients who continue to come to the Council for medical care.
 
“With the escalation of violence perpetrated by persons claiming or thought to be insane, closure of any facility servicing persons needing psychiatric help is unconscionable and places the general public at increased risk,” said WE CAN INC. President Florence Cox in support of Dr. Bell and his decades of service to the community and to the nation.
 
Since July 1, 2012 when the State of Illinois stopped his funding, Bell said he has seen about 250 patients most of whom were on Medicaid. With the State of Illinois closing the facility on August 1, 2012, Bell said he has seen or called 387 patients but there are still more than 414 and another potential 200-300 patients that are expecting to be seen by Dr. Bell. He vowed not to abandon them no mater what the State of Illinois has done.
 
Dr. Bell, who said his two financial experts and others will be testifying, said, “I would love an investigation.  I would love to have my day in court to explain to an impartial audience my version of what happen and to show my documentation and see where this leads to the multiple places it leads.
 
“I want my day in court, but I need a lawyer because the state has so weakened us that we cannot defend ourselves. We cannot tell our truths. I need some help,” he said referring to possible pro bono lawyers who could help him tell his version of the truth. In the interim, Bell said he will testify at the WVON town hall meeting and is looking forward to finally telling his side.
 
Bell blames his financial problems on the State of Illinois. He said his problems began when the State of Illinois slowed down its payments. It had a ricochet effect on his budget that caused some of his staff to leave due to lack of adequate payroll.  “The State of Illinois owes us for work that was done, or if they would give us some money to support the work I am essentially doing for free” would be appreciated, Bell said. He is asking the State of Illinois for three-months bridge funding to close out his 37-year-old practice in a professional way so that all of his patients will be notified and adequately transferred to other services.
 
Recently, Governor Pat Quinn appeared on WVON’s Cliff Kelley show and responded to Kelley’s questions about why the Council was closed. Saying Dr. Bell “was a good man,” Quinn said, “On that one, Dr. Bell is an exemplary psychiatrist, and he’s helped literally thousands of people in the course of his medical career. However, the particular agency, the Council, they had some fiscal challenges and” said the state tried to help him out.
 
“Basically, they got to get that resolved. When you’re dealing with public money, you got to be very, very careful so, that is what nub of the problem is. There are other community health clinics within a few miles of the Mental Health Council…and we’ll be working with them and we want to make sure that we work with Dr. Bell the best we can on how to resolve all of these financial issues,” Quinn said.
 
Kelley said all Bell wants at this time is for a three-month bridge grant to close out properly and ensure all patients are transferred properly. Quinn said, “We definitely have to work with the existing patients…in order to help them their transition. There are some financial issues that are very important and serious and do have to be dealt with some of them may involve with the federal government.
 
“We have to do this in a positive way as possible given the situation,” said Quinn. “We don’t want any person as a patient to lose out on the need they may have and we’re going to work as best as we can with the Council to make sure things are done in a smooth manner,” the Governor said.
 
“I have not heard a peep out of the Governor,” said Bell whose phone calls have yet to be returned. “We made mistakes but the state of Illinois has made mistakes,” said Bell. “Why is that so horrible? Both are doing their best. They have different ideas about how to get the job done. I will compare my ideas to theirs any day and see which one will save money instead of harming people.”
 
“I know what I’m doing, and I’ve been doing it for awhile,” said Bell saying he had good people many of whom used their own money to keep the doors open including using their personal credit cards and working months without any pay including himself.
 
But while he endures the silence from the State of Illinois, Dr. Bell vowed to continue seeing his patients in a very unorthodox way. He said more patients are beginning to come to the closed Council looking for him to get the medications they need to live a normal life.
 
“One patient called and said they can’t take me because of I have Medicaid,” said Bell referring to the State of Illinois’ referral system. “It made me feel sick to my stomach. I couldn’t help the person. I did everything I could. I am going to do the best I can for them because I could be them. He could be my brother, my mother…,” Bell stated.
 
“Some of the patients are former wards of the state who have been abused and neglected, and they are coming to heal their childhood trauma,” said Bell. “They are not bad people. They have been traumatized as children and are seeking to be healed. Unfortunately, I am one who is knowledgeable in that area.”
 
Not only is Dr. Bell seeing patients who suffer from mental illness but he is also treating former wards of the state who have been abused and neglected and who are suffering from childhood trauma, which potentially develops mental illness. “They are the people who are chronically mentally ill, psychotic and need their medication….”
 
Dr. Bell is looking forward to the WVON town hall meeting so that the truth as he knows it will be revealed. Bell said as late as May of 2012 State of Illinois officials told him they wanted to continue doing business with him, then all of a sudden they shut his practice down. He vowed to release his proof to the public so that everyone will know just who is to blame for the financial problems the State of Illinois is using as an excuse for closing the facility. He said errors were made on both sides but caught in the middle are thousands of mentally ill patients who have now lost the medical connection they’ve had for the past 37-years.
 
“I will continue seeing my patients. There is a spiritual, ethical, moral foundation in practicing medicine. It is extraordinarily serious. If they never pay us, I will be out here. They can laugh at me, but the patients will get what they need. I will not have anybody’s blood on my hands because I did everything that I could,” said Bell. He said the Medicaid from the patients he has treated goes back to the state and is used as cash flow. “Where is the money”? he asked. “The State of Illinois owes me” in more ways than just money, Bell said.
 
Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.
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