Archive for Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mentally ill patient highlights limits of jail system

Resident costs city $250K in 10 years

Lawrence Police officers arrest Robert “Simon” Gilmore at Seventh and New Hampshire streets in this Dec. 30, 2005, file photo after fielding several calls about him walking in the streets. The city of Lawrence says information about officers involved in complaints, the specific allegations they faced, and how the cases were handled should not be public.

Lawrence Police officers arrest Robert “Simon” Gilmore at Seventh and New Hampshire streets in this Dec. 30, 2005, file photo after fielding several calls about him walking in the streets. The city of Lawrence says information about officers involved in complaints, the specific allegations they faced, and how the cases were handled should not be public.

May 9, 2010


In terms of taxpayer dollars, Robert Gilmore might be Lawrence’s most expensive person.

Mentally ill patient costing taxpayers

A well-known homeless man in Lawrence is costing local taxpayers. Robert Gilmore has cost the city about $25,000 each year for the past 10 years in jail and arrest costs. Enlarge video

Gilmore, 52, who can frequently be seen in downtown Lawrence wearing a robe or bedsheet and socks on his hands, has cost taxpayers $250,000 over the past decade.

The Journal-World and 6News tracked Gilmore’s arrest record and time he has spent in Douglas County Jail since 2000. Gilmore’s frequent encounters with the local criminal justice system — which often include offenses such as illegal camping and blocking traffic — have led to 106 arrests and the equivalent of about four and a half years spent in jail over the past 10 years.

Related document

Jail costs from 2000-2009 ( .PDF )

Jail costs alone for Gilmore have topped $166,000 for the 1,617 days he’s spent there, and costs per arrest — based on national estimates of between $500 and $1,000 for minor offenses — place Gilmore’s per-year cost to taxpayers at around $25,000.

In times of city budget cuts, furloughs and layoffs, is there a cheaper — and more effective — way to deal with Gilmore?

‘Part of Lawrence’

Gilmore, who sometimes goes by “Simon,” has been profiled in the Journal-World several times, following arrests and unsuccessful efforts by social service agencies to help him.

Friends from the School of the Ozarks, where Gilmore went to college in the 1970s, have described him as “brilliant,” though he exhibited odd behaviors back then. Previous Journal-World articles state that Gilmore’s mother said he received a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia in childhood, and that Gilmore has spent time in psychiatric facilities.

Approached in downtown Lawrence, Gilmore declined to talk with the Journal-World.

Whether marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, or sleeping in a downtown alley, Gilmore has been a well-known figure in the community for years.

“It’s just part of Lawrence,” said Sgt. Bill Cory, spokesman for the Lawrence Police Department.

Despite Gilmore’s frequent run-ins with authorities, Cory said Lawrence police have no particular protocol when they respond to Gilmore.

He commits a crime, such as blocking a street, and police arrest him. Sometimes, Gilmore is charged with additional offenses resulting from the arrest, such as obstructing justice or resisting arrest.

Gilmore gets booked into Douglas County Jail, serves his time and is released. Only to be arrested again.

It’s a cycle that benefits no one and costs taxpayers, said Rick Cagan, executive director of the Kansas chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“It’s not working for him and it’s not working for others,” Cagan said. “I don’t know why the city and county aren’t doing more.”

Dave Corliss, Lawrence city manager, said he wasn’t surprised to hear taxpayers’ yearly cost for Gilmore.

“I think it more disappoints me,” Corliss said, and the city has explored options for a better solution for Gilmore.

“The city has been trying to facilitate some of those discussions,” Corliss said.

But those discussions have not led to alternative housing options, and Corliss said Gilmore has at times declined private housing services.

Former Lawrence Mayor Boog Highberger said that he’s been providing legal representation for Gilmore, but declined to comment on his case.

Lack of resources

Efforts to house hard-to-place individuals such as Gilmore are also hamstrung by a lack of resources, said Shannon Murphy, who runs Douglas County Jail’s re-entry program. While she couldn’t speak directly about a particular case, Murphy said a lack of housing for the mentally ill remains a huge gap for inmates returning into the community.

“There’s not a lot of options,” she said. “People end up on the street or at the shelter.”

Murphy said the statistics show that Gilmore is not alone in his cycle of trips to Douglas County Jail.

In 2009, 43 percent of inmates booked into the jail were there for the second time in a year, and 900 people accounted for the more than 2,400 jail bookings in 2009.

The numbers highlight a trend across the country as mental health funding gets slashed from state budget deficits, said Dave Johnson, CEO at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.

“We’re just criminalizing mental health care,” Johnson said. At Bert Nash, Johnson’s budget has been cut $1.5 million, and the agency has had to eliminate about 5 percent of its work force.

The cuts to mental health funding will lead to more expensive treatment — in the criminal justice system, he said.

“It’s done supposedly as a means to deal with budget problems, but it’s just pushing the cost somewhere else.”

Housing options

A national housing program, Housing First, could provide a solution for Gilmore’s situation, said Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. The program, modeled in larger communities across the country, works on the philosophy that it’s easier to address mental health and substance abuse issues when someone first has a home.

“Stability of a place to live makes services more effective,” Roman said.

Housing First programs provide free housing for chronically homeless people, then service providers slowly work to address people’s other issues.

The key, said Roman, is to offer housing with as few conditions as possible.

“They reject housing over time because it has strings,” she said.

National programs have been shown to reduce costs over time for the hard-to-place homeless, but Roman said that even if the costs were equal, such programs make sense for people such as Gilmore.

“We’re spending $25,000 whether we leave him on the street or whether we house him,” she said. “No one thinks it’s a good idea for the public sector to be spending this much money for a bad outcome.”

But giving someone free housing goes against societal norms that people should earn what they have, or that some people choose to be homeless, Johnson said.

“It’s not a person who’s lazy, yet those stereotypes still persist,” he said. “It’s not a choice anybody would really make.”


Tim Quest 8 years, 1 month ago

What an incredibly depressing article.

Liberty275 8 years, 1 month ago

Drive him to the state line and kick him out. Let Colorado have him.

Liberty275 8 years, 1 month ago

I drive myself to Colorado once a year for vacation. Government need not apply.

geekin_topekan 8 years, 1 month ago

Liberty, you sound like a Topekan.

WHy dont you go to Colorado and never comeback? That would be the answer to your problem.

emptymind 8 years, 1 month ago

Colorado would love to keep you permanetly, and we'd benefit from ain't gone yet?

Liberty275 8 years, 1 month ago

No. I live in Lawrence. And when the housing market comes back, we will indeed be selling the house and leaving this cornfield behind. Not to Colorado, but Florida. No state income taxes!

Colorado is really cool for vacations though. This year we are probably going to Arizona instead to see meteor crater and the Grand Canyon.

Jaylee 8 years, 1 month ago

Hope you're white and armed if you're going to AZ!

Liberty275 8 years, 1 month ago

Colorado is a jail? Wow, that's news to me. As for my mother, she isn't proud of anything. She reverted to dust a few years back. Thanks for your concern though. If she wasn't sitting in an urn, she would appreciate it.

If I am afflicted with the mental illness you have diagnosed, yet I crawl out of bed at 6:30 am and work 40 hours each week to prevent myself and my family from being homeless, then I don't see why the other guy can't.

In fact, it is true that I have a condition that is just about as debilitating as one can be. Agoraphobia. I deal with it daily. I also continue to do what it take to keep a roof over our heads even though most of the time my brain is screaming "run away" for no reason.

This guy has gotten help hand over hand for years and refuses to help himself. Meanwhile, people like you just make up excuses for him instead of actually caring that he has wasted his life. I don't care, but I also won't make up excuses for him. You can call that being hateful if it makes you feel better. Just quit making me foot the bill while you help him self destruct.

lounger 8 years, 1 month ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Liberty275 8 years, 1 month ago

I've been called worse by better people. No problem.

You might note though that later in the thread I changed my mind and came to the conclusion we should buy him an Amtrak ticket to Berkeley instead of dumping him in Colorado.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 8 years, 1 month ago

What a meaningful and relevant article. Much better than the story about the guy who got his golf clubs stolen.

"It’s done supposedly as a means to deal with budget problems, but it’s just pushing the cost somewhere else.”

That is the overall effect of losing our state mental hospitals. The state is no longer providing services that could help (or even cure) some of these people, so counties and cities spend funds perennially on cases like Simon's.

sbell10 8 years, 1 month ago

I don't think that photo is unbiased, not to mention totally inappropriate.

geekin_topekan 8 years, 1 month ago

Simon has rejected many offers of private housing and after listening to the man ramble one day, I decided that he is not 'brilliant' but a bloody G E N I U S !! I am guessing that forcing social norms will have little effect on him.

Then there is the BurtNash couple who, regardless of recurring housing vouchers insist upon becoming homeless every other month,only to go back to BN for a voucher, an d another, and another. That cycle has continued since the day I met them in 2000. He gets a monthly check, works under the table when it becomes available, then refuses to pay the bills so the landlord kicks them out. No problem though. Back to LOS and BN for a voucher.

Then there is the other BN couple who receive a check under the guise that they are actually separated, even though he works 40+, very much lives in the home and is perhaps one of the more capable former homeless I have ever met. They have plenty of $$ for booze and pot from his job. On top of it, they receive a monthly check. A bonus for lying about who is in the home.

I am no mental health expert but Simon would be the only one of the three households who is truly incapable of caring for himself in term of social norms. The other two are smart enough to navigate the system repeatedly and able to comprehend the consequences of their actions and therefore disguise their situation in a pre-meditated lie.

So, SImon gets none and the other two use the system as a hammock. WHat are the answers? Because truthfully, if the other two cases were removed from the list of benefits, they would simply live by the river and smoke pot down there.

vimes 6 years, 6 months ago

Robert was my best friend in college, and indeed one of the most brilliant people I have ever known. If he had access to a computer or a way to write, I think he could easily make the $25,000 a year; He might lack certain social skills, but so did H.P. Lovecraft, and his writing changed science fiction and horror writing far beyond his own life. Robert, despite his peculiarities in college, was the most brilliant science fiction and horror writer I have ever read; he also did brilliant satire and social commentary that went far beyond anything I could imagine; he seemed personally socially awkward, but we were always amazed at how deep his perceptions were. I wish someone would try to help him to do what he thinks is important; to write and help other people see the world in a different way. His parents had him diagnosed as mentally ill, but that says nothing about the years of abuse he was forced to endure by fundamentalist christian parents who could not handle his intelligence,tastes in reading material, or his curious nature that made him question everything around him. beating a child and accusing him of being possessed by demons just for enjoying classic science fiction stories at an age far younger than those around him was perhaps not the best way for preparing him to function in society.

independant1 8 years, 1 month ago

No easy answers.

Everybody has rights, like the right to be homeless, the right to be different, the right to be mentally ill and free.

“They reject housing over time because it has strings,”

Here's housing fella, no strings attached. We'll parchute it in, no assembly required.

Assuming he has no family/extended family/caring friends, what triggers government intervention? Only if the person is harmfull to self/others. In this case - throw more money at it but be carefull you don't crush him with aid, gov'ts are guilty of that by accident if it is your last resort for aid you know.

Look up there! We're down here, we need water, food, tents, blankets! Help!!! Oh thank gawd!!!! Look out!!!

Crushed by a pallet of aid poor b_d.

I'm from the gov't and I'm here to help you.

If one is lucky a church or civic group steps up.

kernal 8 years, 1 month ago

Simon has family and friends who care about him. After he had been missing for years, one of his college friends found in on the internet in a LJW story, came here to find him and notified Simon's family. Some of his family members did come here to see him and wanted him to go home with them; he wants to stay in Lawrence and here he shall stay, until.... I'm just afraind someone is going to run over him some day, or night. Lawrence is not equipped to deal with the Simons of this country, but there are a lot of people in town who know who he is, what he is about and keep on eye out for him. He's of no danger to anyone but himself. And, yes, Simon is the one who used to where the red t-shire that said "That's my Dillons".

independant1 8 years, 1 month ago

Didn't know. I remember him as quiet and gentle too. Lost track of John, glad he's doing well.

Thanks for the answer and the link.

Georgine McHenry 8 years, 1 month ago

I thought "Tan Man" passed away years ago. Is Gilmore "Red Man" (always wearing red sweat pants and the blanket?)

workinghard 8 years, 1 month ago

I believe he was the 'That's my Dillions' guy.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

Not the same person. And to my knowledge, Tan Man has never been homeless.

50YearResident 8 years, 1 month ago

Hey, City Guys, I promise to stay out of trouble and out of downtown Lawrence for only $20,000 a year. That is a $5,000 savings forom the City budget every year and over 10 years it will save you guys $50,000. So just send the money to my Bank account by way of direct deposit. And, yes I am extremely happy to help do my part to save the city these expenses of $50,000. Thank You. My account number will be sent in an unmarked envelope.

parrothead8 8 years, 1 month ago

That's their "usual" approach? I'd like to see it documented that the LPD shoots every person they encounter with a mental illness. Your comments on the LPD grow more inane by the week.

lionheart72661 8 years, 1 month ago

Robert "simon" Gilmore is a genious and if you have ever heard him speak you would know that, I happened to be sitting in a courtroom one day and heard him address the judge. He had actually represented himself better than most defense attorneys could possibly do. He is harmless and he does need help. He is part of the Lawrence cultural seen as was the "TanMan", the "Blue lady", Charlie the trumpet player and the many other cast of colorful players here in lawrence. If you have ever been to Berkley California you will see a comparison between the 2 cities. That is why I cal Lawrence Little Berkley. Kick Simon out. NO! let him stay. There are far worse than him here that cost the city far greater money. They're called "POLITICIANS"

independant1 8 years, 1 month ago

Cornfield Berkley iz wut i used to hear.

50YearResident 8 years, 1 month ago

lionheart72661 (anonymous) says… Robert "simon" Gilmore is a genious and if you have ever heard him speak you would know that, Maybe someone needs to tell himto: Get a Job..........Get off your lazy butt.

ozzynbn 8 years, 1 month ago

Has he ever tried employment at Cottonwood? Seems like a perfect place for him learn a skill and not have to rely on the county jail as a home.

Liberty275 8 years, 1 month ago

Schizophrenia can be mitigated by anti-psychotics. That excuse fails.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 8 years, 1 month ago

O... M... G...!!

Dude: he's mentally ILL, not stoopid. You don't see the difference?

workinghard 8 years, 1 month ago

“It’s not working for him and it’s not working for others,” Cagan said. “I don’t know why the city and county aren’t doing more.”

Did Mr. Cagan offer any suggestions as to what the city and county could do? If he has answers, let's hear them. It's one thing to sit in judgement and tell others they could do better and another to have actual viable suggestions that would work. LJW needs to do a follow up with Cagan and what he suggests we should do.

Jaylee 8 years, 1 month ago

Cagan doesn't have to. LMH used to have a mental patient area, but that got cut a ways back. I would think having averted this $25K to mental health care facilities would have been much more useful.

lounger 8 years, 1 month ago

Hate and sadness fill you up spacehog.

Liberty275 8 years, 1 month ago

A copy of a bad piece of artwork is both a copy and a bad piece of artwork; cheesy twice. That situation as it regards cities and towns is sad, and one that a truly caring citizen would hate.

Also, when you ignore the subject completely and instead resort to ad hom attacks, you fail by default.

rckchlkjhwk31 8 years, 1 month ago

You can not send someone to prison for a misdemeanor crime, hence why he has never gone.

Liberty275 8 years, 1 month ago

I think the number you are looking for is directly proportional to the number of people willing to make excuses for disorderly drunks, meth heads and those that refuse to take their meds.

Now I think you can choose to live outside of society and be well within your rights. I'm sure all across the northwest you'll find persons or couples that live miles from the nearest road and shun civilization as much as they can.

This guy is different. I don't care that he's homeless. I don't care that he's crazy or on drugs. What I care about is seeing my tax dollars going to help a lost cause that seems to consistently abridge the rights of other people. Genius or not, his rights end where other's start.

Maybe I was wrong before. We shouldn't dump him at the Colorado border, we should buy him an amtrak ticket to berkley. Let him help bankrupt california.

BlackVelvet 8 years, 1 month ago

..."annoyingly harmless is not the same as drug/alcohol addicted and violent."

Really? then about the time that Mr. Gilmore (and yes, I know him quite well) steps in front of a car and is hit and maimed or worse, how many here will chastise the "system" for not getting him OFF the STREET and into safety? I'd bet the screams will be quite loud that he should have been institutionalized for his own safety.

lionheart72661 8 years, 1 month ago

spacehog you space cadet! Have you ever been to Berkley? Am I cool yes I am are you ? i can see by the pic you have posted you are not! And no you're not stuck you can leave anytime you like. Did i say we aspire to be like berkley? NO. So sit back pick ur toe jam and relax

lounger 8 years, 1 month ago

Of all the homeless people Simon is one I dont mind running into. He is not scary, sometimes polite and pretty smart. It took a while for him to warm up to me but when he did he was quite engaging and funny. You really should take down this awful picture of him though no one would want to be humiliated like that. Give the guy a break.

Kris_H 8 years, 1 month ago

Last I knew, the main criterion for involuntary committment for treatment in a psych institution was "danger to self or others." If Mr. Gilmore doesn't fit that, that's why he's not in one. (I worked at Topeka State Hospital for more than 25 years, if you need my qualifications to speak on these issues).

Simply refusing to take medication doesn't qualify, even though it's probably a bad decision on a lot of folks' part. This time, he was walking in the street? OK, that could be dangerous. Someone would have to tell a judge so, and probably outline any efforts made to get him to do otherwise. Apparently nobody wanted to go to that trouble, and it wouldn't be a sure thing in any case that he would be committed.

Mentally ill people are always going to be a part of society. We can lock up some of the hardest-hit ones, for a while, from time to time. The rest we will encounter at various degrees of functioning; sometimes you won't even know, and other times you'll learn to deal with unusual behaviors. Maybe you'll do that well, maybe you won't.

Is Mr. Gilmore involved with any kind of out-patient care? Does he have a case manager, or anyone keeping track of what's going on with him? Sounds like he needs at least that degree of support.

Multi is right--schizophrenia is a cruel disease, striking mostly young, capable people and rendering them into frightened, hallucinating, incoherent social outcasts, unable to take care of the most basic human functions, and who sometimes strike out against things they are not understanding at any given moment.

I hope none of you ever have to experience it, either first-hand or in a loved one.

Adrienne Sanders 8 years, 1 month ago

He is a danger to himself and others, IMO, b/c he sometimes decides that he needs to walk slowly down the middle of the street. But if you go back and read other articles about him that have been published in the LJWorld, he doesn't want help. He's had offers of a place to stay and offers of help, and he won't take it. And you can't force it.

ivalueamerica 8 years, 1 month ago

Reagan closed most of the state hospitals around the country in order to provide community based services, but then never funded community based services to compensate, an no president since has bothered either, creating a heavy drain on our police and having them serve as untrained mental hospitals.

It is not fair to the people living with mental illness, it is not fair to the community and it is not fair to the police.

Every single President, Senator and Congressional Representative from the time of Reagan to the Obama has failed America on this issue.

asbury 8 years, 1 month ago

The man IS brilliant....knew him many years ago when I worked in a downtown Lawrence office. " Annoyingly Harmless'" is probably the best description I have seen of him on this thread. I also had an occasion where I saw him in action as his own attorney. Incredibly intelligent! Not a danger to himself or others, unless as Kris said, he is percieved to be a danger to himself because he tends to walk in the street. Look at the picture. It is accurate. Is this how the mentally ill should be handled? I think not. I don't assume that I know the answer, but I can tell you that being roughly handled while being arrested on some trumped up charge just to get him out of sight isn't it!!

Tony Kisner 8 years, 1 month ago

So he has counsel?

Does his counsel attempt to get this guy meds which might help or does counsel make sure his client’s rights to not medicate are protected?

Kris_H 8 years, 1 month ago

Well, it's not really counsel's (as in his attorney) job to make him take medication. Unless he's a danger, he can't be forced, and even then it's a dicey situation.

As far as him walking in the street, well, drivers in general don't want to slow down for a crazy guy. Lawrence drivers in particular don't want to slow down for bicyclists, pedestrians even in crosswalks, other drivers, or anything else that might cause them to have to remember where the brake pedal is.

Heck, they don't even want to give up texting while driving!

Jim Williamson 8 years, 1 month ago

Robert is incredibly intelligent, but his lucid moments are becoming fewer and farther between. He's clearly a danger to himself and others. He will soon be hit by a car or rolled by a bunch of drunk frat boys, and then he won't be a problem anymore.

asbury 8 years, 1 month ago

Unfortunatly, Phogfan, you are most likely right.

greenworld 8 years, 1 month ago

This guy "Simon" will never take anything from anyone, thats not his game. He believes in himself with no help asking for nothing and walking in truth. THere is no doubt he has serous mental issues that probably will never be overcome as he doesnt want them to be fixed and wants no help. The whole process of jail, court, and back to the streets is the game he plays. He is smart enough to know that jail food isnt that bad and he needs nothing to survive other than himself and food and water. His life style is slightly different than somebody that is homeless because Simon doesnt want help and its his personal choice to live like an animal. He loves the attention that he gets and probably when talking to a judge can talk a judge down by an act of reasoning that only makes sense to himself not the judge. His sickness is his own no one else's. The Cops I know use him for training by the looks of how many times he has been arrested.

Angie Dick 8 years, 1 month ago

I think this is PURE INSANE. He was diagnosed at childhood for mental issues? And no hospital to deal with him? So they let him run the streets homeless and cause disruption, then toss him in jail? 106 times? Come on people, that is just crazy! It is a prooven fact, the guy is not stable, he don't need to be in jail or running the streets, he needs to be in a mental facility, So he can get his meds and get the help that he needs. I think as a tax payer, I'd rather pay for him to be where he needs to be, verses on the streets and in and out of jail. What are they gonna do if he has episode and someone get's hurt or killed? I just don't understand what this world is coming too? Our law system is JACKED.

crissamber 8 years, 1 month ago

He isn't hurting anyone... So is it okay to arrest him because he makes people feel uncomfortable?

Kris_H 8 years, 1 month ago

People with mental illness have rights, including the right to refuse treatment. Again, it all hinges on the voluntary vs involuntary treatment issue, with the dividing line being danger to self or others. Someone would have to take the necessary steps to commit him, and there is a regular legal process for that.

That is not as easy as some seem to think. Pretty much, he will have to do something that results in actual injury to himself or someone else for a commitment procedure to happen. And the state hospital would not keep him forever. His stay there would be reviewed periodically, and likely he'd be there two or three months at the most.

What he really needs, I think, is a friend. Someone to tell him, "Hey, it's a bad idea to keep walking in the street," whether he would actually listen or not. Unfortunately, friends are very hard to come by for people who have long-term mental illness.

I'm not saying that's a great situation, I'm just saying that's how it is.

greenworld 8 years, 1 month ago

I believe Mr Gilmore has been admitted to Osawatomie State Hospitol and was treated and released. He I am sure did everything they ask and was a waste of their money also so they turned him back loose to the streets. Why doesnt someone drive him out to the middle of Jefferson Co and drop him off. He then would be out of people's way and possible to live or work on somebodys farm and sleep in a barn. I think his behavior looks different and he acts weird to most people or city folks but if you put him in the country he would fit right in with country people.

Emily Campbell 8 years, 1 month ago

I'm very sad by this article. Growing up in a family where both parents were involved with the mental health of communities accross the state of Kansas, and knowing/seeing how the lack of interest and funding for the area has hurt more then helped. Why not spend more money in the area? By example this one person's "tab" is cheaper than having a hospital open to care for people in need of this type of medical attention... sad truth.

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