The Norman Transcript

Editorials

April 25, 2014

Help for the hurting

NORMAN — This past fiscal year, the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services served about 187,000 of our neighbors. That’s a lot of Oklahomans, but the department missed serving an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 more that are in need.

An estimated 21 percent of all adult Oklahomans reported having a mental health issue in the past year. Twelve percent reported a substance abuse issue such as alcohol, illegal drug abuse and legal drug abuse.

We are among the nation’s worst in rates of mental illness and addiction. Those conditions lead to other social problems, such as underage drinking, high rates of incarceration and domestic abuse.

Those missed in treatment often end up in our prisons, where corrections workers have become the first-line mental health workers.

A shocking 82 percent of all non-violent offenders in prison in Fiscal Year 2010 had a mental health or substance abuse treatment need.

The good news is the governor and legislature have recognized the issue and have stepped up with additional investments in women’s substance abuse treatment, Systems of Care and additional crisis centers. Those centers often keep Oklahomans out of expensive hospital emergency rooms and incarceration.

Just to maintain existing programs, mental health officials need to grow their budget by $26.5 million this year. Unlike other agencies that are expecting cuts, mental health was expecting a flat budget.

Their request to maintain services comes at a time when lawmakers are hellbent on cutting income tax rates while trying to plug a $188 million budget decline.

Continued investment in mental health services pays long-term dividends. Fewer incarcerations, fewer children in foster care, fewer needless ER visits and healthier families, workplaces and communities. We urge lawmakers to think long-term in their agency budgeting.

Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Editorials
  • State, local jobmarkets look up

    A tight labor market is often a big problem for economic development professionals. They need to be able to promise companies that there are willing workers in the community’s labor pool....

    July 26, 2014

  • Be careful out in the heat

    This week’s triple-digit temperatures are contributing to heat-related illnesses. The state health department’s Injury Prevention Service reminds Oklahomans of the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke....

    July 25, 2014

  • Get smart on crime

    It’s no secret that prison guards have become the frontline mental health case workers in Oklahoma prisons. Accessing mental health services outside of prison is tough but even harder behind the walls....

    July 25, 2014

  • Quite the resilient bunch

    The people of Moore are a resilient bunch. They’ve bounced back from tornadoes before, but the current renaissance may be the quickest yet. FEMA officials said it would take two years to see some sense of normalcy. That’s hardly the case....

    July 24, 2014

  • A fresh start for VA

    All of us have high hopes for the confirmation and success of Veterans Affairs Secretary nominee Robert McDonald. If confirmed — and most believe he’s a shoe-in — McDonald will take over a paralyzed system of health care that is not ...

    July 24, 2014

  • Call up National Guard

    We’re not sure it will help, but you have to hand it to Texas Gov. Rick Perry. He deployed up to 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to help secure his state’s border with Mexico this week....

    July 23, 2014

  • It’s only getting worse

    Conditions for children in Oklahoma were starting to look up for a few years, according to the annual Kids Count reports. Now we know it wasn’t getting better. The recession was impacting the rest of the country, dropping their scores....

    July 23, 2014

  • Noting a life well lived

    James Garner never intended to be a movie and television star. He just kind of lucked into it, he would tell those who asked. If you have the itch to act, get a good-paying job and spend your free time at your local community theater, he ...

    July 22, 2014

  • Recount that really matters

    Americans have been hearing a lot about Congressional elections, but there’s another one halfway around the globe that will matter far more....

    July 22, 2014

  • Runoffs get no respect

    The Aug. 26 Republican runoff election for the Cleveland County District 3 commissioner post is one of only 18 races on ballots around the state. Only two races are statewide — the Democrat contests for U.S. Senator nominee and state ...

    July 22, 2014