The Norman Transcript

Opinion

January 24, 2013

Mental health priorities in focus after shootings

NORMAN — Mass shootings around the country are causing political leaders to take a second look at mental health options provided their constituents. Reductions in appropriations to mental health agencies have taken place in dozens of states, including Oklahoma.

The state task force reviewing school security has included mental health professionals in its membership mix. States are reviewing their options as anxiety has built following shootings in Colorado and Connecticut.

Norman’s Griffin Hospital, formerly Central State Hospital, has weathered years of funding cuts at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Mental health programs are a popular target, since their constituencies often lack a unified voice.

Gov. Mary Fallin told reporters this week that she wants an additional $16 million to open three crisis centers, a suicide prevention initiative and a treatment program for prescription drug abuse.

That’s a good start. Another initiative the governor should pursue is better treatment of state inmates who suffer with mental illness. Many leave prison in worse shape than when they entered.

State officials estimate that thousands of Oklahomans who need mental health or substance abuse treatment are not receiving it. Instead of receiving help, they often end up in hospital emergency rooms where the cost is much higher and is often absorbed by the hospital and its paying patients.

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