The Edmond Sun

February 27, 2014

Police, citizens suffer from lack of mental health beds

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Edmond police officers logged more than 5,000 miles during a 12-month period transporting patients to locations including Cushing, Norman, Lawton and Ada due to a lack of mental health beds in the area.

The miles were logged from January 2013 to January 2014. Last month alone, Edmond officers drove 642 miles during 19 mental health transports.

Jenny Monroe, spokeswoman for the Edmond Police Department, said the agency is not complaining, that this is part of their job. Monroe said the lack of beds and the number of mental health patients is a reality local law enforcement deals with on a regular basis.

Monroe said the state reimburses mileage, but the City of Edmond picks up the tab for officer hours.

During the evening of Feb. 8, Police Officer Cody Hash was dispatched on a domestic disturbance call at a home north Edmond, Hash stated in his incident report. The call notes stated a male had attempted to harm himself as the Edmond Fire Department and EMSA also responded.

Hash stated he used his stun gun to prevent the victim from harming himself or others. Hash stated himself and another officer agreed the victim needed a mental health evaluation so they placed him in emergency detention.

Hash stated he went to INTEGRIS Health Edmond to watch the victim and completed a third-party statement for an emergency order of detention. He was later relieved by Police Officer Jason Lewellyn. The victim ended up being transported to Lawton.

Two days later, during the afternoon of Feb. 10, Police Officer Roger Shortt responded to a call about a male who attempted to harm himself in the vicinity of 15th and Broadway, Shortt stated in his incident report.

Shortt stated he placed the victim in emergency detention and he was transported to INTEGRIS Health Edmond where he was interviewed by a psychiatrist. A decision was made to have the victim admitted to a pyschiatric facility.

Due to a shortage of beds, the victim had to wait at the hospital until a spot opened, Shortt stated.

Monroe said during these calls officers spanning five shifts were needed to stay with the two patients placed under emergency dentention. The Edmond Police Department currently has a total of 85 officers in its Patrol Division spread out over three shifts. There are nearly 30 officers trained in crisis intervention.

Edmond Police Maj. Tim Dorsey said the number of hours spent transporting mental health patients due to a lack of beds puts a strain on the city’s resources, taking officers off the street. Dorsey said during transports, two officers are needed — one to drive and one to watch the patient.


Twenty one percent of adult Oklahomans — 700,000-950,000 individuals — reported having a mental health issue during the past year, according to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Mental illnesses includes major depression, major anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia.

In Fiscal Year 2013, however, the agency was able to provide services to about 187,000 individuals, according to the ODMHSAS. The number does not include patients receiving care in the private sector.

Eileen Morefield, president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Edmond chapter, said in the local community she is hearing total frustration with the mental health system in Oklahoma. Morefield said issues include lack of results during treatment, lack of family inclusion and a lack of patient beds.

“Too many loved ones are being sent to jail because there is no place for them anywhere at great expense to the tax-paying public,” Morefield said.

Oklahoma consistently ranks among the highest in the region — and nationally — for rates of mental illness, addiction and prescription drug abuse.

Unlike other illnesses, behavioral health issues left untreated have an impact far beyond the individual and often adversely impact families and communities, according to information from the ODMHSAS’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget request. If these illnesses are left untreated, they have a greater impact on other aspects of state government and public safety.

ODMHSAS officials say state investments made during the past three years in areas such as women’s substance abuse treatment, avoiding out-of-home placement for children and funding for three crisis centers are making a difference.

Each crisis center conservatively serves 2,000 people annually. New crisis centers in Tulsa and Ardmore opened last year; another in Sapulpa is scheduled to open sometime this spring.

The advances could be harmed by a flat state budget year. ODMHSAS Commissioner Terri White said due to growth and changes in federal match rates a stand-still budget will result in a $21 million cut to agency services.

“The only alternative will be to further reduce available treatment funding so that we can meet the increase, and, we know that doing so will result in thousands of Oklahomans who are currently in treatment losing those services,” White said.

White said additional resources are needed to maintain core services throughout the state.

“There is simply no other choice,” White said.

Cuts would involve state-appropriated funding supporting direct care and programs targeting at-risk populations, White said. Such cuts would potentially undermine recent progress in areas including prescription drug initiatives, mental health first aid and suicide prevention.

A $21 million cut would result in more than 7,000 Oklahomans living without needed services, the ODMHSAS says. The average cost for an emergency room visit combined with a community hospital stay is $5,013.

White said the ODMHSAS already has the lowest administrative overhead of any state agency — less than 3 percent. | 341-2121, ext. 108