Back in March, something happened in Seattle, Washington. A man climbed a tree and refused to get down. Here he is:
The man has a name: Cody Miller.
After refusing to get down from the tree, Cody became kind of a media sensation. People were making jokes and memes all over the world. The police were trying to get Cody out of the tree. This was all probably very confusing and frightening to Cody, because he is a paranoid schizophrenic.
His mother did not know for a long time that her son had climbed the tree an refused to get down, but when she did, she told his story and all the jokes stopped.
Thankfully, the police did not shoot him. I have no idea how they got him down but eventually they did. The police were not amused and instead of sending Cody to a mental facility, Miller was jailed following the incident and held on $50,000 bail. He was charged with malicious mischief and third-degree assault and ordered to stay away from the tree, which sustained $8,000 worth of damage.
Welcome to the place where so many mentally ill ‘non-people’ are taken for treatment – jail.
And then something happened. A legislator from Pennsylvania, someone whose staff I work with, Rep. Tim Murphy, got involved in this case from all the way across the country.
Rep. Murphy wrote:
Just look at this picture and tell me our mental health system isn’t a mess. It’s unbelievable! Recall that for 24 hours last week, Cody Lee Miller remained atop a giant sequoia tree in downtown Seattle. Since that time, there’s been a greater outpouring of concern over the tree than the plight of this young man who is so clearly in the throes of a psychotic break. He’s ordered to have ‘no unwanted contact’ with a sequoia, yet no concern over getting him into treatment. Such a sad indictment against an abusive system that would order no contact with a tree, yet remains silent on getting the mentally ill into care.
Cody’s mom tried to get him help but since there are so few facilities that will handle Cody, even in Greater Seattle, and, Cody’s mom is not a millionaire, she and Cody were, as we say in the Army, shit out of luck.
Rep. Murphy finished up with this plea:
Cody’s mom talks about his downward spiral and has made it her mission to be a voice for families who desperately want to help their loved ones but are blocked by federal & state laws that make it impossible to help mentally ill family members. Meanwhile, Congress is still stalling my Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, HR 2646.”
The good news is that the House overwhelmingly passed HR 2646. The not so good news is that the bill was read twice and referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, where it has been languishing since July 14 of this year.
You can follow the progress of the bill here and read the entire piece of legislation if you wish. Heck, call your Senator and ask them to support the bill. Nothing will happen until after the election, and who knows then?
But on this day, I just want you to think about Cody and his mom and, as Bob Dylan sang, for each un harmful gentle soul misplaced inside a jail, and consider that just about every other civilized country treats their mentally ill better with better services than the US, that maybe we could do just a little better. Maybe we can do a little more to live out our creed, with liberty and justice for all, and promoting the general welfare, and all of that stuff we were taught in school.
Because everyone is a person has potential. Everyone can contribute. If we only can see them as human beings like everyone else and not as ‘the other.’
Just think about that today. And you can tell about what we value by what we spend our money on.
Because from where I sit, America doesn’t give a damn about its mentally ill citizens.