A broken, undersupported system that marginalizes individuals and compromises community safety. That’s how some describe the process for getting unstable Oklahomans who are a danger to themselves or others to appropriate treatment facilities.
Law enforcement officers hold the responsibility for transporting Oklahomans being held on emergency orders of detention for mental illness to crisis stabilization units. The problem is that there are only eight such units in the state of Oklahoma. Often, the 56 beds at Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health that serve all of northeast Oklahoma are full, forcing Tulsa police officers and the unstable individuals in their custody to travel to one of the state’s other seven facilities.
In 2011, the Tulsa Police Department logged 44,982 miles transporting 235 individuals to crisis centers in Muskogee, McAlester, Oklahoma City, Norman, Lawton, Clinton and Fort Supply. Projections for 2012 are even higher. Imagine if one of your friends or loved ones had a psychotic break after a terrible tragedy – and then had to spend four hours handcuffed, in the back of a police cruiser, for a trip to far western Oklahoma. When individuals are at their most vulnerable, they’re pulled away from friends and loved ones. At the same time, our police officers are pulled out of the communities they’re sworn to protect.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin is taking steps to improve the situation. Her 2012-2013 budget includes in it $2.5 million to fund one of the five new crisis units proposed by ODMHSAS. Where the new center will be located is still to be determined, but it should be noted that fewer than half of the existing facilities are located on Tulsa’s side of the state.
Mental Health America is using a catchy slogan this May – “Do More for the 1 in 4” – to celebrate Mental Health Month and increase awareness that one in four American adults lives with a treatable mental health disorder. Please consider answering the call to action. “Do More” by contacting your state representative and senator and urging them to fund the new crisis center in eastern Oklahoma.