Welcome to the County Jails. The largest mental health facilities in Oklahoma. In Tulsa County alone, there are over 500 men incarcerated & being voluntarily treated for a diagnosed serious mental illness, under the direction of the jail's medical services provider. That's about 1/3 of the whole population.
Some are so catatonic or delusional that they cannot reliably cooperate with jail detention officers. They are severely punished when they cannot understand or succeed in whatever a 19 year old detention officer (with no mental health training) expects of inmates.
These men are severely ill yet the manhandling and threats from jail staff even further deteriorates their minds with Post Traumatic Stress, causing years or lifetime night terrors or paralyzing fear of uniformed officers.
About 90% are men. These are people whom local law enforcement decided were a danger to society, but did not (or likely could not) seek psychiatric detainment. that's because the states 300 (or so) public mental health beds are perpetually full. Not to mention that it takes hours to process a psychiatric order, but just minutes to book them into the county jail.
Women suffer serious mental illness at rates similar to men, but society fears men more, leading officers to incarcerate them far more than women. This sexist abuse of mens' constitutional right to equal protection is likely to result in a class action which will dwarf the $10 million judgment that the sheriff is ordered to pay Elliot William's family for that barbaric death in the jail.
Will The Legislature Step In To Fix ODMHSAS Failures?
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
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
Commissioner White narrowly avoided going to jail herself, a couple years ago. A judge had ordered a severely psychotic man transferred out of a jail and into a psychiatric facility to get proper treatment and monitoring of his condition. She didn't do anything about his order for over 6 months. He then declared her in contempt. She appeared before his bench the next day and claimed there was no available bed for him.
She apologized for her gross failure to communicate with the court. He spared her the contempt incarceration, but did not order her agency to re-prioritize spending. As a result, her agency continues to operate mostly as a check-writing operation to preferred partners in corporate operations. These corporate agencies do some great stuff, but only for those who meet specific criteria. Quite often that criteria mandates that the person being treated has already filed successfully for federal disability and been placed on the SoonerCare enrollment. For the psychotic, this is often an impossible task without someone else intervening the jungle of paperwork.
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.