Asking for Ray Roseberry: Is Health Care Accessibility the Key to Uniting the Country?

The only thing dividing Americans is how to pay for it

Happy Women’s Equality Day, Chaise Lounge readers! Gailya Paliga, President of NC NOW says it best, “Women's Equality Day celebrates women getting the right to vote. This right was granted by the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1920, shocking that it took that long. More shocking that so many women were still prevented from voting in so many ways. 101 years later that the right to vote IS NOT ENOUGH. Women and men still need an Equal Rights Amendment.”

Before we get into today’s newsletter, I have a request. If you like what you are reading here at Chaise Lounge, please share the newsletter with a friend or friends. Word of mouth is one of the best ways for a newsletter to grow, and you are an extension of this newsletter.

This week we pivot from women’s issues to take a look at the ways that our poorly funded mental health care system impacts us all. From domestic terrorists to children waiting on emergency room gurneys for weeks at a time for a psychiatric bed, our country is failing Americans with mental illness. Last week’s attempted bombing in Washington, DC reminds us again, that ignoring mental health care can lead to horrific consequences for us all. But first, let’s take a look at some other news!

Global updates

  • The British National Rail Service has rolled out a new anti-sexual harassment campaign called Zero Tolerance. The campaign spells out behaviors that are to be reported and gives clear direction as to how to report.

  • While pro-life American groups claim that having an abortion can cause the mother mental health problems later on, women in Poland who are now forced to carry their significantly ill fetus to term are having their own mental health crises. A law passed in January no longer allows an abortion exception for a fetus that has a condition incompatible with life. A story in Al Jazeera follows the story of Dominika Biernat who had to travel to the Netherlands fifteen weeks into her pregnancy for an abortion because doctors in Poland are forbidden from performing them. Gynecologists are now providing “crying rooms” for the mothers where they can “get used” to the idea of giving birth to a child who will die.

  • In Afghanistan, women continue to fear for their lives and their futures. While the Taliban claim publicly that women will be educated and invited to be part of the government, many women report different experiences. Melissa Fung, a reporter who has spent years in Afghanistan, reports, “It is a special kind of fear when women speak to me about the Taliban. It is the fear of going back to a dark time of subjugation and imprisonment. The fear of losing control over one’s own destiny. The fear of no longer being able to dream.”

National updates

  • It is an open secret that the crash test dummies used for evaluating the safety of American cars are modeled after men. And while men cause more accidents than women, women die in them more often. Now there is some possibility of good news for a change. The House of Representatives INVEST in America Act includes a provision requiring updated and more equitable dummy implementation tested in every seat. 

  • In a recent study looking at the leadership of women in the study of diabetes, the researchers found that while women are well represented in the education and primary care diabetes journals, they are poorly represented in the academic journals. The researchers went on to say that one-third of grants are given to women researchers and only 2-12% of the major awards are granted to women.

  • The U.S. men’s soccer team filed a brief in support of the U.S. women’s soccer team’s quest for equal pay. The men’s team claims that U.S. Soccer “has persistently treated the women as second class throughout the 35-year history of the Women’s National Team.” Nice to see the solidarity here.

  • And just a few minutes ago, the North Carolina legislature passed the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act which prevents the shackling of pregnant people in their second and third trimesters, labor and delivery, and during postpartum recovery.  Just having to type those words is disturbing, but we are glad to see this bill move forward.


Asking for Ray Roseberry: Is Health Care Accessibility the Key to Uniting the Country?

When I think about Ray Roseberry, the North Carolina man who brought Washington, DC to a halt last week with his bomb threat, I wonder what could drive a person to do such a thing. Of course, there is no excuse for threatening to blow up the streets of Washington, DC, but what would make someone even want to try? Roseberry told us a lot about why he was upset, most of which was a replay of MAGA talking points. But there was one topic that he mentioned that surprised me and that was healthcare. And it turns out, this man needs a lot of health care!

In the long Facebook streaming video that he took from his truck, Roseberry says, “I went to the doctor yesterday to get some of those cell therapy shots they’ve been bragging about giving to athletes all these years. The doctor says, ‘No shots today. Insurance don’t cover it anymore,’” Roseberry said. “My wife goes to the doctor. She’s got cancer. And they told her it wouldn’t cover it anymore because it’s cosmetic. It’s on her face. Where’s your insurance at Biden? Obama? You keep on letting all these illegal Mexicans in here, all these illegal immigrants in here from Afghanistan ... we’re going to have free health care for us. You’re [expletive] giving it to them. The South’s fed up!”

As anyone who has ever had a health problem knows, having a doctor tell you that insurance does not cover the care that you need is incredibly frustrating and can be truly frightening in the case of life-threatening illnesses. It is not clear exactly why Roseberry wanted the “cell therapy” shots, although they are typically given for pain and are not FDA approved for this purpose and were never approved by insurance. We also do not know the exact situation with his wife’s face, but we can infer that she needs some cosmetic repair after cancer treatment. 

It is clear from this comment, that Roseberry feels cheated by his doctor, the health care system, and President Biden. He also believes that the American government gives free healthcare to illegal immigrants, and boy is he mad about that. The fact is, illegal immigrants are not eligible for Medicaid or to purchase insurance from the ACA Marketplace. The federal government does not give illegal immigrants free healthcare. 

Now I don’t know if Roseberry actually even has health insurance. There is no mention of employment in any of the news stories about him. We do know that Roseberry has few assets and has declared bankruptcy in the past. Roseberry, like me, lives in North Carolina, one of the few states that have not expanded Medicaid coverage. If he does not have employer-sponsored insurance, then the only place he could get insurance is on the ACA exchange. Except that in North Carolina, he may well not be eligible to do so because of the lack of Medicaid expansion.

The saddest thing about the whole affair is that it appears that Mr. Roseberry has a severe mental illness. His ex-wife, Crystal Roseberry, told Reuters that he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had threatened her with firearms in the past. This is clearly a man who needs mental health care with strong case management. Instead, he lives in a state ranked 44th for access to mental health services. 

When you combine a person with mental illness, make it extremely difficult for them to access healthcare, and then allow all sorts of harmful misinformation to make them believe that the one group of people is working against them, you have a toxic stew perfectly simmering to boil over into a situation where someone acts criminally. 

Mr. Roseberry is charged with threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction which carries the possibility of life imprisonment. He is also charged with threatening the use of explosives which carries a sentence of 10 years.

When he first appeared in court, Roseberry told the judge he was confused because he hadn’t had his “mind medicine” for two days. He will face a mental competency hearing.

Now some of you may be thinking that I sympathize with Mr. Roseberry, and I assure you that I do not. However, I do believe that we have a duty to look at the systems and policies in place and see how they influence human behavior. Mr. Roseberry’s anger was stoked by the misinformation being fed to him by media outlets and his frustration with our healthcare system. The fact that he takes “mind medicine” leads me to believe that does have some sort of doctor or psychiatrist, but he may not have been able to access the mental health services he so sorely needs. 

Now, not everyone who is fed misinformation or has mental illness goes to the Capitol and pretends that they have an explosive. But clearly, we have a number of people in this country, and especially in North Carolina, who need more mental health care than they can afford or access. In fact, according to Moonshot CVE, which tracks online extremism,  North Carolina had 43 percent more online searches per capita than the national average for political violence and 19 percent more searches for armed groups, such as how to join them.

One would hope that the North Carolina legislature would look at what is happening within the state and the hate that many North Carolinians are exporting around the country and decide to make changes. The state legislature is in the process of approving a budget that does make some new investments in mental health by increasing the number of psychiatric beds available. But the state clearly needs to invest in preventative services so that rather than having more people need to go to the psychiatric hospital or become domestic terrorists, they can access mental health services easily. 

Our governments are failing us right and left. Ray Roseberry is just one symptom of a broken system. Until we get serious about treating mental health, we will see more Ray Roseberrys, and that should frighten everyone. 

Just for fun

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