Monday, December 03, 2007

You shouldn’t have to strap a bomb to your body to get someone to help you

Leeland Eisenberg purportedly tried to get help before taking hostages in a dramatic scene on Friday at Hillary Clinton’s campaign office in New Hampshire.

Eisenberg was known for his erratic behavior and for drawing law enforcement’s attention, and yet when he was taking medication, he was a different person.

Family members and friends said that Eisenberg could be a funny and sweet man when he took his medication.

"When he was on his medication he was always making me laugh. He spoiled me. It was perfect in my eyes," Lisa Eisenberg told "GMA." "Without the medication and with alcohol, he turned into a different person."
The Eisenberg case is another in a long line of examples of why our country needs to recognize the importance of early and timely treatment for severe mental illnesses.

The Nation had this:

Without appearing to capitalize on the situation, Clinton, and all elected officials, can and should take this incident as an opportunity to emphasize the importance of mental health services in any health care package, criminal justice reform, and indeed, in any vision of what a more caring, safer America looks like.
One thing a more caring, safer America needs is more inpatient beds and better systems for the sickest people to access those beds. The number of available inpatient psychiatric beds in New Hampshire has dropped dramatically. In May of last year, the Concord Monitor reported on the crisis.

In the past 20 years, alternatives to New Hampshire Hospital, which cares for patients who are a danger to themselves or others, have dwindled.

Lakeshore Hospital closed. Portsmouth Pavilion downsized. The number of beds outside New Hampshire Hospital for patients who need to be involuntarily committed shrunk from 101 in 1998 to 22 in 2002, the report said. In residential acute psychiatric programs, the number of beds plummeted from 52 to 17 between 2000 and 2003 because the reimbursement doesn't cover costs.
Leeland Eisenberg – if he doesn’t land in prison – will likely now qualify for one of those beds. Which is ironic considering the undercurrent of desperation in this story – and of many like it. You shouldn’t have to strap a bomb to your body to get someone to help you.

The family says earlier last week Eisenberg, seeking mental health help, was turned away from a hospital because he had no money or insurance.

Eisenberg apparently went to the Clinton office because he saw an ad on television, in which a New Hampshire man said Clinton helped him get health insurance.

Eisenberg told a family member he was going to do something to get in the hospital. The next day witnesses say he walked into the Clinton office, wearing what he said was a bomb, demanding to speak to the senator. [Good Morning America, December 3, 2007]
It isn’t news that we need more psychiatric hospital beds and better overall systems to care for those who need it. Mr. Eisenberg may sadly have done more than secure treatment for himself – he may have secured some attention for these issues from those who are campaigning to be president.

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