The Edmond Sun

State News

February 27, 2014

Police, citizens suffer from lack of mental health beds



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

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