While the mentally ill, as a whole, are no more violent than the general population, folks suffering acute psychosis may, in their confusion, harm themselves or others.
Mr. Kunzweiler's young adult daughter likely suffered just such an episode. We are not able to discuss a diagnosis at this time, but the good news is that neither dad nor daughter were critically wounded, when she apparently assaulted her father and herself.
A last report, Dad was home recovering, and daughter was receiving inpatient hospital care, but facing felony assault & battery prosecution.
Another district attorney, Jack Thorp; is assigned to handle the criminal law matter, by directive of AG John O'Connor.
Editor's note: As an Oklahoma leader in advocacy & training professionals & families on how to better care for those with serious mental illness; I highly commend the leadership of D.A. Steve Kunzweiler on this issue. Steve & I have discussed the challenges at length, multiple times.
As a past president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness(NAMI)-Tulsa, I can confidently recommend their free;
NAMI Tulsa can be reached through their website or by phone: 918-587-6264. They have an office at 7th & Boston, in downtown Tulsa.
NAMI Oklahoma has several other local affiliates, like the Edmond chapter, which the Costello family has been deeply involved with.
The Mental Health Association of Oklahoma is also a great organization with resources for housing needs, as well as learning, support groups, & a vast array of connective links for the mentally disabled.
Steve Kunzweiler, along with his family; held a press event the day after his family crisis.
Here is the transcript of that meeting.
And we have a God that we who we trust in to guide us on the path we're walking. I'm doing fine. I'm a little bit sore. I've got some staples, but I'm doing fine.
We'd like to thank the Tulsa community for the outpouring of love, support and prayers that we've received. This community has something very special that very few communities have. We love and support each other, even in some of the most trying times.
First, I would like to thank the dispatchers who took this call. I know they have a tough job, but they managed to get the right people to my home when we needed it the most.
Second, thank you to the Tulsa Fire Department, who did what they had to do to intervene. You guys are great. Thank you very much. The crews who showed up there were outstanding and how they treated me and my daughter and they treated her with professionalism and care.
Thank you to my law enforcement brothers and sisters. You were amazing. I have seen you work before, and I knew that you would work like the consummate professionals that you are. Thank you to Chief Wendell Franklin and his deputy chiefs who helped coordinate everything from my home to the hospital. In particular, I want to thank Sergeant Mike Parsons, who somehow found a way to get off his shift and see me at the hospital to make sure I was doing okay. Thank you, Mike, very much.
But I'd also like to thank Deputy Chief Dennis Larsen, who personally called my wife and made it a point to have people at the hospital to answer her questions, even called me when I was in the ambulance. Thank you for taking care of my wife.
And thank you to Sheriff Regalado, for also coming to the hospital. I will never forget that you had one of your deputies remain with me in my family the whole time. I was at the hospital until we got in our car to leave. So thank you, Sheriff.
And finally, to the entire Saint Francis team, we know that you're suffering from a terrible tragedy that you recently endured. I was trusted in your care, and you knew your good hands from the top to the bottom. All of you cared for me and my daughter. Thank you for treating her with dignity and respect.
Obviously, my office will not be handling this case involving my daughter. District Attorney Jack Thorp from Wagner County has been appointed by the attorney general's office to handle the case. And all of your specific inquiries, any questions that you have, you need to direct those questions to District Attorney Thorp.
I will simply say what I have said countless times before. We live in a great country in which we demand the presumption of innocence. It is what makes our country stand above all other countries. The presumption remains until a judge or a jury determines otherwise.
Mental illness is a terrible thing in many families. Many families like ours have endured years of anxious, ridden concern for our affected loved ones.
No one! No one wants to be mentally ill!
You have heard me speak on many occasions of this state and this country's need to address what seems to be an exploding mental health crisis among our population. In my 30 plus years, I've witnessed that that system erodes so badly that now the Tulsa County sheriff houses the largest population of mentally ill affected people in the state. That is simply wrong and we as a state need to do better.
In August of 2015, Labor Commissioner Mark Costello was stabbed to death by his mentally ill son at a Brahms restaurant. That was the state's very first public warning that our laws governing the mentally ill and the funding necessary to treat them, while also protecting the public, was in peril.
That was seven years ago. In that time, I served on the Oklahoma Commission for Criminal Justice Reclassification Committee. We were tasked with looking at our criminal justice system and making recommendations to our state elected leaders.
As part of that process. We looked once again at the paucity of funding and resources to address the treatment needs of our citizens.
It has been crickets since the death of Labor Commissioner Costello. Crickets!
When it comes to meaningful health funding, the elected leaders of our state, the elected leaders of our state legislature need to make this a priority.
Protecting our citizens is your job. Providing adequate infrastructure to safeguard all mentally ill citizens is your job.
All you have to do, all you have to do is take a little personal time. And I don't mean a little personal time in a committee meeting. I mean, you, the legislature, take that personal time and;
- I want you to talk with a psychologist.
- I want you to talk with a psychiatrist.
- I want you to talk with an emergency room doctor.
- I want you to talk with the parole officer. I want you to talk with a firefighter.
- I want you to talk with an EMSA worker.
- I want you to talk with a specialist.
- I want you to talk with the Department of Mental Health case manager.
- You should talk to a prosecutor.
- You should talk with a defense attorney.
- You should talk with a judge.
- You need to talk with court involved treatment specialists.
- Ask them what are the issues that these people see?
- Ask them what solutions they would recommend.
- Ask them what we can do to protect the mentally ill and the general public.
Stop putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. Figure out how to resource this problem. Put the time in to do your homework so that we can get it right.
30 years ago, 30 years ago!
Oklahoma was in a better mental health shape than what it is today. I started being a prosecutor back in September of 89, and we were in so much better shape that long ago than we are today. I know this state and I know its leaders can do a better job.