The Edmond Sun

February 11, 2013

Official reports huge gap in mental health services

Edmond officer applauds school safety panel’s work

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Seventy percent of indigent adults needing mental health treatment and 40 percent of youth who need mental health services don’t receive them, a state official told a school security panel.

Edmond Police Capt. Tim Dorsey is serving on the Oklahoma Commission on School Safety, a non-partisan panel initiated by state leaders. It is being chaired by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, R-Edmond, who authored the Oklahoma School Security Act and has experience as a U.S. Secret Service agent.

The panel is studying a number of school security issues with a goal of providing suggestions and possible legislative recommendations for the 2013 legislative session.

Ashley Kehl, spokeswoman for Lamb, said the top five issues being reviewed are requiring school security training and professional development for school staff, updating and standardizing crisis management plans, making it easier for school administrators to provide more awareness about patterns of concern and changing law to require that regular Safe School Committee meetings are documented.

Dorsey, one of several law enforcement representatives serving on the commission along with other stakeholders, said the panel has met twice and is getting ideas from different sources.

“What can we do to make the schools safer in Oklahoma is really our priority,” Dorsey said. “We’re bouncing ideas off one another saying, ‘What are you doing? What are you hearing?’ ‘What can be done?’”

Dorsey said it’s an honor for the Edmond Police Department to be part of the committee

“Everyone’s open minded right now,” he said. “In a few more weeks we’ll see what kind of recommendations we come up with.”

Dorsey said he has contributed information about what the Edmond Police Department is doing with Edmond Public Schools with efforts such as the school resource officer program.

Lamb said Dorsey brings valued expertise and gravitas to the commission. Initial discussion has been informative. The goal is to mitigate and limit the probability of large scale school violence, he said.

“With the right knowledge and resources, we can effectively provide a safer school climate for our most precious commodity,” he said.

During a recent meeting, Terri White, commissioner for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and a product of Edmond Public Schools, briefed the panel on the condition of mental health services in the state.

According to information from White’s presentation as little as $2,850 a year investment for a person in need of services can be the difference in determining whether or not that person is someone potentially dangerous due to their illness or one of the majority of people with a mental illness and/or addiction who are no more of a threat than anyone else in the general population.

Potential policy decisions for state leaders suggested by White include outpatient civil commitment, which has been enacted in other states and would require a significant additional investment in outpatient care, and potential decisions related to increasing the availability of training for school resource officers and campus police.

Another potential decision could include focusing additional services on college campuses. The onset of mental illness most often occurs during the late-teen and early adulthood years, according to White’s presentation information.

The ODMHSAS’ fiscal year 2014 budget request does address expansion of needed services to impact a multitude of negative consequences that occur when treatment is not available.

The panel meets from 1:30-4 p.m. Tuesdays at the state Capitol. To watch a commission meeting live, visit www.oksenate.gov, scroll to the bottom of the page and under “Live Video” and select “Live Committee Meetings.”

Lamb said the commission plans to forward its policy recommendations in March.



marks@edmondsun.com | 341-2121, ext. 108