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November 25, 2013

Treating mental health

NORMAN — For many years, Norman was the center for mental health treatment in Oklahoma. Central State Hospital, later renamed Griffin Hospital, was one of three mental hospitals serving the state.

With changes in treatment methods, community-based centers and better medications, fewer mental health patients required hospitalization. But for many, the state’s jails have becomer the new hospitals.

A panelist at as state forum on mental illness last week affirmed that theory.

“They’re our new institutions,” said Michael Brose, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma. “We’re all celebrating the closing of state hospitals and now we have them in jails.”

Drug courts, once thought of as a soft-on -crime approach, are now being sold on economics. A person in drug court pleads guilty but agrees to the diversion rather than jail time. They cost the state $5,000 a year rather than $19,000 a year while incarcerated.

The rate of recividism is also lower. Terri White, commissioner for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said less than 25 percent of drug court participants are re-arrested five years after graduation. For inmates who have served their time, 50 percent of them are re-arrested within five years.

The new Affordable Care Act requires insurance to cover mental health treatment but one of the problems in Oklahoma is lack of services. It’s also a lack of awareness. Many families don’t want to acknowledge mental illness and don’t seek treatment.

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