Court docs: System failed man in poison case

Posted: 5:54 PM, May 10, 2016
Updated: 2016-05-10 18:30:31-04

Kyle Bessemer is a 29-year-old man facing local and possibly federal charges. He's accused of entering a handful of local grocers, spraying rat poison on produce.

His mind told him others were trying to poison him. So he was returning the favor.

His alleged actions, caught on camera, have caused panic amongst the shopping public and questions as to why.

The 7 Investigators have obtained state court records that show Bessemer's mother sought help for her son nearly two years ago.

She claims he suffers from Schizophrenia. She says he refuses to get help. He hears voices, and believes his family is trying to poison his food.

Records show Bessemer was hospitalized, evaluated for short term treatment, but beyond that, his long term care is a mystery.
"Filing a petition with the probate court and having someone hospitalized involuntarily is the last resort to get access to mental health treatment," says Dr. Gerald Shiener, a veteran psychiatrist.

He says this case is another example of the state's inability to properly deal long term with the mentally ill. And in this case that failure led to a public health crisis.

"The public is at greater risk for harm, and the care for the mentally ill has shifted from medical care and a whole structure of mental health, to the Department of Corrections and the police."

It was never supposed to be that way, he says. And it shouldn't be.

"Mental health treatment should be as readily available as any other medical treatment," he says.

So who failed this young man?

"Primarily the state's... because the care of the mentally ill since after the civil war has been the responsibility of the states," he says. He adds, "The states have been cutting back services since the 1960s. This is the result."

In Michigan, short term hospitalization, medication and a speedy release, has long been the norm for those with mental illness.

In Lansing, there is currently a push to better utilize an available, but often unused law that will allow judges to order more meaningful care: outpatient treatment that lasts no less than six months.