Yesterday, Commissioner Terri White held a well-orchestrated press event. State media covered it thoroughly. It was well done and masterful.
White knows how this chess match is done and she carefully made her best move.
These are draconian threats, but I believe the real Mental health cuts will be in State mental hospitals. Oklahoma used to have 5000 beds in the state hospital. They now have 349. The agency seems to not want to really run hospitals. They seem to be willing to privatize that function.... which is why the county jails and state prisons are left to do much of the real mental health care... at a far higher cost to human lives and state treasury. IF Commissioner White would amend agency contracts so that all corporate hospital contracts REQUIRED accepting court-ordered individuals and police psychiatric detentions, then I'd be far more supportive. I expressed that to her personally. We have over 1000 mentally ill in jails only because there wasn't a bed available for a cop to bring them to for a psych evaluation.
Tulsa county jail, alone; has twice the mentally ill patients as all state mental hospitals.... COMBINED! I have spent hours discussing this problem directly with Commissioner White and her top administrators. We don't see 'eye to eye' on what's best for the taxpayer and the severely ill. She's doing what's best for her agency, and that's not the same as what's best for Oklahoma.
White closed up over half of Griffin Memorial Hospital and leased out the buildings to her corporate partners. Mental Health Courts don't have authority to order corporations to take in the mentally ill.. so there's a long waiting list.
I blame the legislature HEAVILY for cutting the mental health budget through irresponsibly taking reliable funds any and cajoling mental health advocates to help them pass a horrible tax scheme. When Rep. Leslie Osborn said; "No other agency is closer to my heart than the Mental Health agency.."; she was lying. Because she robbed them of 23% of their funds. Maybe the legislative leaders would have some real courage if they would have funded capitol operations and legislative salaries with that "Tobacco Cessation Fee".
We need to speak out, but I believe the real cuts (if & when they happen) will be worse for Oklahoma than what we've heard threatened, in yesterday's press event.