Roy Exum: Schizophrenia Calls Again

Thursday, June 29, 2017 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

On Tuesday morning of this week a six-foot-tall, 6,000-pound monument of the “Ten Commandments” was installed on the Capitol Grounds in Little Rock, Ark. It was privately financed and quite beautiful. Less than 24 hours later, a vehicle crashed into the monument, knocking it off its base (plinth) in the early-morning darkness yesterday.

The Arkansas Capitol Police arrested a suspect, booking Michael Tate Reed of Van Buren., Ark., on charges of defacing an object of public interest, criminal trespass, and first-degree criminal mischief. The act was senseless, causing hurt to Believers everywhere. Then somebody remembered a similar incident in October of 2014 when a man shattered another large monument bearing the Ten Commandments at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City.

The driver in the 2014 incident made threats to then-President Obama, set some cash on fire and walked into the Federal Building to spit on pictures. He was identified as Michael Tate Reed of Van Buren, Ark., Three years ago Reed, age 29, was diagnosed with a schizoaffective disorder. Such illnesses do not go away, yet can be controlled. But yesterday he knocked another religious monument to smithereens.

In Reed’s case, readily-available treatment isn’t working. He’s been in a revolving door ever since 2014. Think three years of agony – his, his family, and our society. After bashing the monument in Oklahoma City, he has been in and out of treatment, both in-hospital and supervised outpatient, and now he just destroyed a monument in Arkansas not 24 hours after the stones were set.

The real reason he cannot control the dark places in his mind is because his meds are cost prohibitive – a monthly injection costs $900 over what insurance will pay. He can’t work – he is obviously sick -- so he can’t make any money. No money – no meds. Then the voices start and the hallucinations begin. A monument to the Ten Commandments falls.

At some point after this week’s incident, a Facebook Live video appeared on one Michael Reed’s page that showed the Arkansas Capitol Dome lit up at night. A female voice apparently came from the tape with the soothing words, “Where do you go when you are faced with adversity and trials and challenges?” Suddenly the driver growls and yells, “Oh my goodness, freedom!” and floors the accelerator. In the video the speedometer of the vehicle showed 21 miles per hours at impact with the Arkansas monument.

Yes, Michael Tate Reed has a sad history of schizophrenia and his is similar to stories of mental illness that is filling every county jail in the country to over-capacity. Talk about an epidemic. What is clear is that those who suffer from hallucinations, delusions, paranoia and manic issues are often easily treatable but, in Reed’s case, a lack of money and proper counselling is about to get him killed … if he doesn’t injure someone else. Trust me, there is no ‘happily ever after’ here.

This is all because he can’t afford his medicines. Society can hardly afford to have him on the loose yet a $900 injection is considerable cheaper than 30 days in a medium-security jail at $85 per night in taxpayer money. So what do you do? You treat the chicken or lock up the egg – what comes first?

That means after he bashed the statue in Oklahoma City in 2014, he drew a symbol on his forehead so he could report in to Satan’s priestess who he identified as Gwyneth Paltrow. He was placed in a mental hospital for 30 days but then drove to Kentucky where he was trying to outrun Satan who was chasing him. “The voice I had told me if I didn’t stop the (oncoming) cars on the highway, people would die.”

Are you getting this? The voice was telling him to cross the median and crash at high speed into oncoming traffic. The voice said all the cars were carrying meat that was infected with the spirit of Michael Jackson and it was a killer virus, he told authorities, who stopped him as he drove in the median on an Interstate highway.

Reed wrote a detailed letter about his fight with mental illness to the Tulsa World, sincerely apologizing for wrecking the Oklahoma monument. According to mental health experts, it is quite common for those who are religious to confuse their beliefs when they suffer from delusions and hallucinations.

Experts have found symptoms of a schizoaffective disorder usually appear during a person’s teenage years and it can occur as late as age 30. But with the right combinations of psychotropic drugs, the treatment is successful. The problem is finding the right combination, since mental sickness varies greatly from patient to patient. This is why nearly all of the estimated 35-40 percent of inmates at the Hamilton County jail who take mental medications require far great diagnostic care and follow-up.

There isn’t the money, the manpower nor the medical ability to provide that. Every jailer will tell you they know nothing about the effects, the cause, nor the treatment of mental illness yet every one of them faces it every day.

There are now over 70 people in the newly-funded Hamilton County Mental Health Court and, with the proper oversight, the first efforts have been tremendously successful and rewarding for all parties. Steve Smith, who handles the Public Defender’s Office, is a hero for initiating it and I believe it, and the Drug Court, are genius strokes.

But in Little Rock the voices inside of Michael Tate Reed have not gone away, not in three years, and the broken monument is the least of our worries. The Ten Commandments are believed to be Jesus’ greatest lesson but in Matthew 10:8, the Great Physician also said, “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.”

We need to pray that Michael Tate Reed will receive a miracle – he doesn’t deserve his torment.

Neither do we.

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