Authored by Elizabeth Bangert
You may be willing to walk a mile in someone’s shoes, but would you walk 180 miles? And if you walked 180 miles, what would you expect when you arrived at your destination?
In April 2018, that is exactly what Tim Barry set out to do. He felt a calling to protect his daughter and so he answered; he walked 180 miles from Moorhead to St. Cloud; his destination was St. Paul, Minnesota, but a snowstorm and extreme cold meant that the remainder of his trip was made by car.
But who would walk 180 miles and why? It only took one conversation with Tim for me to understand exactly why he would walk that far. One conversation. And yet when he walked 180 miles, he was met with resistance; with harsh and unsympathetic words. In an email, one legislator even told him, “Mister Barry, I am a little taken aback by your anger, I think you are a little too emotionally connected to this issue”.
There is such a thing as righteous anger, and it only took one conversation with Tim to understand that his anger is justified. He is fighting for his daughter. His love for her is so strong that he walked 180 miles towards St. Paul.
There is noone who knows this story better than Tim himself and so the following is an excerpt from the letter he wrote, hand signed, and hand delivered to 202 Senators, Representatives, and the Governor.
What is a father to do with a system which (I thought) was designed to protect the vulnerable in our society? My ‘WALK’ from the Clay County Courthouse to the Capitol in April accomplished nothing more than to get me two pants sizes smaller. That has led me to this point.
I have been traveling around Minnesota from county to county whenever I can with the enclosed petition speaking with Sheriff’s, Police Chief’s, Public Defenders, and then getting public signatures. The response has been tremendous. Out of every county I have been to, only two Sheriffs have not signed, Otter Tail and Clay. Those just happen to be the counties where my daughter has been incarcerated. Every other Sheriff said ‘keep going’ – ‘something needs to be done’.
Cassy’s story: Bipolar, addict for years who at the age of 26 had a massive frontal lobe stroke, TBI, along with the amputation of her right leg due to the stroke. Since that time I have been trying to get Cassy help wherever possible. Basically the only place she has been is prison and jail and maybe a treatment center. While in prison she received her prosthetic leg and was beginning to walk. The inmates stole the remote to the leg and flushed it down the toilet leaving her leg inoperable. The prison sent it to Essentia Health in Fargo for repair. Essentia repossessed Cassy’s leg for ‘non-payment’ because Social Security Disability does not cover when you are incarcerated. She lost her leg twice. What psychological damage did that do along with the stroke and the TBI? When she is in jail or prison, because of the brain damage and lack of impulse control due to the stroke, she spends most of her time in solitaire. What further damage does that do? Cassy currently sits in the Clay County Jail awaiting trial. Why? Let me tell you.
In August of this year she went to Tapestry, a dual-diagnosis women’s treatment center in St. Paul, where after a couple weeks her and her roommate got in an argument over a pillow. Cassy threatened to kick her back with her ‘one’ leg. They kicked my daughter out for the exact behavior she was there to treat. She came back to Fergus where probation and parole put a warrant out for her arrest for not completing the treatment. She called the Fergus police to come and get her; by the time they got her she had taken her meds and was out of it. They took her to Clay County detox where after two days someone left the front door open, she wheeled herself out the door into the elevator and out the door. They found her across the street, wheeled her back in and in the process, she hit an orderly. They charged her with felony escape and two assault charges and took her to jail where she has incurred two more assaults on correctional staff. She now sits with five charges.
My daughter has never received the help that she has needed since the stroke, from Clay County Social Services, MNDHS or any other entity in the state of MN. It is a sad statement to the treatment of the mentally ill in the State of MN. The only help we have is prison and jail; 60% of prison inmates have some form of mental illness.
This is but a miniscule part of Cassy’s story and I am sure just one story that could be told by families across the state.
A few weeks ago, I met Tim while he was walking around the Capitol, again dropping off letters, each of which contains pages upon pages of signatures and phone numbers in support of what he is asking for.
Tim is a father. He is grandfather. He has amazing talent in woodworking; I’ve included pictures of his work, because it so inspirational.
But above all, Tim is human. He’s just an average citizen who is asking for help to fix a broken system. He is a Citizen Lobbyist.
As I sat in the lunchroom today with Tim, he shared how all of this started for him. He refers to me as “ma’am”; a man of great respect for human life. He said to me, “Ma’am, God called me to do this. In November of 2017 I threw my hands up in the air and said ‘well what now?’ And God told me, “Walk to the Capitol on April 1st; Easter Sunday. So I got my shoes ready and when the day came, I took off on my journey to do what I was called to do. To seek justice for my daughter.”
As our conversation continued, Tim and I both realized that neither of us had been involved in politics until the last year. We were both just average citizens, who are tired of being left behind.
Tim has found hope in the New House Republican Caucus. Representatives Jeremy Munson, Tim Miller, Cal Bahr, and Steve Drazkowski, believe in small government, but most importantly, government transparency. The members and team of the New House Republican Caucus has provided Tim with what he needs to have a real chance to help his daughter. They know his name; they shake his hand. They not only acknowledge him by name, but as a human; something we could use a lot more of in government. Much like the logo of the New House Republican Caucus, a new dawn is on the horizon.
I’ll be following Tim’s story and when his legislation is ready, there will be a “Call to Action” so we can rally together and help Tim receive justice for his daughter. When he walks his bill around for signatures of legislators, I intend to be there with him, and I hope you will be too.
The government is meant to be by the people, of the people, and for the people.
We the people are coming together to take back our voice. Will you join us?