A bipartisan working group will convene Monday morning at the capitol, to hear from leading experts in criminal justice on the massive problem of jails becoming default mental health institutions.
District Judge, Kirstin Pace, along with two county sheriffs, and multiple mental health advocacy groups are preparing to present their reports and answer lawmakers' questions.
Reps. Randy Randleman and Colin Walke are teaming up to collect data and testimony from across the state, in an attempt to provide more humane solutions for individuals in crisis, while finding ways to more quickly deliver essential treatment for those in psychosis due to schizophrenia, mania, major depression, and other forms of psychotic illness of the brain.
The Dept. of Mental health is also collaborating to provide possible solutions to make more state mental health facility capacity available to cops and courts.
The Monday morning event will be televised on the capitol webcast network at https://okhouse.gov/Video/Default.aspx
County jail budgets are severely burdened with the load and expectation of providing adequate mental illness acute care and ongoing maintenance treatment for the mentally ill who commonly account for about 1/3 of the jail populations in most Oklahoma counties.
In 2017, Tulsa County spent an additional $15 million to expand the jail and create a 4-phase mental health treatment unit. At that time, in excess of 500 men in the county jail were receiving mental health treatment for a diagnosed condition.
Cops are telling SoonerPolitics off the record that often a cop will then arrest an individual on a pretense or aggravated confrontation of a distressed person who is simply wanting to be left alone.
At last count, less than 400 state-run mental hospital beds were operational. That's radically down from the over 2000 beds that the state has historically operated prior to 2002's reorganization.
Another potential solution may be sought by forming treatment coalitions with tribal governments who wish to make more options of jail diversion available in their historic tribal territories. By converting existing healthcare facilities to state-operated in-patient facilities, the tribes may greatly benefit the entire state in a way that strategically conveniences the residents in their tribal borders. It would split the burden so that the state funds the operations, while the tribe provides a generous lease , saving the state a heavy cost of building a campus.
Norman, OK is where the main state facility to treat serious mental illness was established at statehood. But the Mental Health agency now rents out this hospital to corporate contractors. Even though taxpayers built this facility, the agency can simply collect rent and not report it in their legislative appropriations package. Additionally, the cops and courts are contractually barred from most of those beds which were built and paid for specifically for jail diversion. By simply ending those lease agreements and resuming full operations as a state-run hospital, the mentally ill would immediately see more options for real acute mental health intervention and the jails would significantly be relieved of the burden of being a pretend treatment facility.