Tulsa County Sheriff, Vic Regalado, came on morning talk radio on Monday; to address the greater Tulsa community about the recent mental health tragedy and some serious challenges in getting the mentally ill into essential care facilities.
The conversation was rather heavy and somber. Regalado does not expect the officers involved to face criminal or administrative sanctions. It appears Regalado and his colleagues are struggling with the reality that no easy answers exist in the current state policy.
Rather than insisting that the officers conducted themselves perfectly, the sheriff explained that each scenario is so unique that it's impossible to follow a preconceived method. There are, however; key objectives which they seek to accomplish for everyones' safety and the patient's mental stability & dignity.
Under our current laws, the local law enforcement are mandated to provide the medical transport for all mentally ill patients who are court-ordered into mental health facilities. This is problematic for a force which trains almost completely for dealing with "bad dudes" who are willfully suspected of crimes.
Aside from the 700 mental health transport orders the TCSO completes, Regalado says that the Tulsa County Jail has had to build the largest jail mental health facility in the state. After it's April opening, it has been perpetually full of the most seriously psychotic individuals in the whole jail.
TCSO says that 1/3 of the 1600+ inmates are being treated for serious mental illness on any given month. 90% of them are men. His staff says that a vast number of the seriously ill at the county jail have not been charged with a serious charge of victimizing anyone. It appears they were booked with a minor charge as a pretense so as to get them off the street.
All of this is in great part the result of a severely cut state budget for dealing with mental illness. I spoke in depth with state commissioner, Terri White. She says that Tulsa County has the worst conditions in the state and that our metropolitan hospitals have been asked to contract with the state to make more mental health capacity available, but they are resisting such partnerships.