Oklahoma lawmakers no longer require that the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS) provide a minimum capacity of public mental health treatment 'beds'. So the department cut the capacity several years ago and never asked for the money to restore the constitutional role. Under the state constitution.
For the last 5 years, Commissioner Terri White has asked for hundreds of millions more, but did not designate a single dime to restoring inpatient acute care capacity. This year, White asked for $200 million more for her agency, yet she did not ask that a penny more in new facility or operation money to expand how many the state can treat in the public facilities. Her agency was reformed 20 years ago and combined with the substance abuse outreach effort. It has never been audited since, and no internal audit report exists at the State Auditor's office. The legislature has not directed any funding mandates to the agency, nor received accounting of the non-appropriated income sources, such as real estate they rent out or sold. the agency had a policy of not billing insurance for several years, but that has recently been changed.
Time For A Performance Audit
The House Speaker and the Senate President have the constitutional authority to call for a performance audit of ODMHSAS. It is a long-overdue necessity. After years of cutting inpatient beds first, then never even asking to restore that core function; it appears that the agency is largely avoiding it's constitutional purpose.
Nearly 20 years ago, Gov. Keating & the legislature ordered that Eastern State Psychiatric Hospital be closed permanently. It used to house 2600 patients. Central State Psychiatric (Griffin Memorial) has closed most of their buildings and rents out much of their remaining campus to corporate mental health providers. But judges and police cannot access those corporate facilities, even though Oklahoma Taxpayers built those buildings.
The Oklahoma Mental Health Statutes (Section 43A) allow the ODMHSAS to rent out or sell their agency campuses without even reporting the financial data to the legislature. The department has never undergone a performance audit by the State Auditor. Even though the agency collects rents, files health insurance claims on the people they treat, and disperses the bulk of their budget to corporate providers in the form of grants or other contractual 'partnerships' to provide care to the public.
The legislature appropriated about $427 million to the ODMHSAS agency last year. Not one dime was earmarked toward public beds for acute mental health care. The agency does offer their corporate partners a reimbursement of $495 per day for such beds. If we can assume that the agency spends that same rate on their own operation, then 300 beds would incur an expense of $43.8 million. That's just roughly 10% of the appropriated state funds! When you consider the federal reimbursement and matching money, and the non-appropriated money that agency acquires through their land and real estate ventures, they are certainly spending less than 10% of their agency budget on this core function.
So when the commissioner tells a district court judge that she must let a severely ill man rot in jail for 6 months because of a waiting list she created through her own agency's misappropriations... She ought to be truly declared IN CONTEMPT!
ODMHSAS In Contempt of Mentally Ill & County Sheriffs
By shutting down foundational services to the state, ODMHSAS is forcing cities and counties to deal with psychotic meltdowns as criminal acts. Only a state court judge can legally order psychiatric intervention, and only in a public psychiatric facility. In the past 30 years our state has shut down over 90 percent of our public beds. This is not only contempt for county sheriffs who now must house the ill, but it's also cruel contempt for the mentally ill, themselves. It is a systematic abuse of their civil rights. Federal and municipal law has no such constitutional power to intervene. But without a state infrastructure to administrate and operate treatment, even a state judge's order goes unheeded.
Last April, Commissioner White organized a rally at the capitol rotunda for mental health awareness. she invited the widow, Cathy Costello, to speak. Cathy's husband, Labor Commissioner Mark Costello, had recently been murdered by his schizophrenic son. We agree passionately with Cathy Costello, that Oklahoma's mental health system is broken. and we hold Terri White responsible for much of the failure. She obviously is putting many other priorities above the care for those in acute crisis and rotting away in jails because she won't prioritize beds.
We call on the legislature to mandate a line-item for funding public mental health bed capacity, so individuals in crisis are treated humanely, and not criminally, just for getting sick. We call on the legislature to step in to relieve county sheriffs of a massive budget crisis brought about by the ODMHSAS failure to fund this constitutional function of state government.
Opinion of the Editor
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David Van Risseghem is the Director of Sooner Politics.org. The resource is committed to informing & mobilizing conservative Oklahomans for civic reform. This endeavor seeks to utilize the efforts of all cooperative facets of the Conservative movement...