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Mental Health and Addiction Issues

Point of View: A MAPS 4 idea to consider


As Oklahoma City considers what to include in a proposed MAPS 4 package of improvements, there is considerable discussion of the need to address mental health and addiction issues. This presents us with a unique opportunity to confront these issues creatively. As we did with MAPS for Kids some years ago to benefit urban and suburban school districts, we should take this discussion countywide.

It's time to form a partnership involving Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County and the 19 suburban communities in our county to create a state-of-the-art facility to house and help those facing mental illness and addiction.

The recent death of an Oklahoma County jail inmate who had been waiting three months to transfer to a mental health facility reminds us that jail is a poor place to house those with mental illness, addiction or a combination of both. There are too few crisis center and addiction treatment beds available in central Oklahoma. The state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services says there may be as many as 500 mentally ill inmates in our county jail on any given day. Many others, booked on nonviolent drug charges, would benefit from addiction treatment.

In most cases, these individuals don’t require the expensive high-security environment of the jail. They are a primary reason for jail overcrowding, but there are too few places to send them.

If MAPS 4 would provide the seed money to construct a medium- and low-security mental health and addiction assessment center apart from the jail, we could then ask county government and the various municipalities to consider a cooperative effort to staff and operate it.

We already have a model for such city-county cooperation in our Metropolitan Library System, which has branches in virtually every suburb but is funded by countywide property taxes. In the case of a mental health/addiction assessment facility, cities would continue to pay daily rates for inmates they have taken there, just as they do now for those housed in jail.

In addition, we could ask those cities and county government to contribute operational funding, and turn to the state mental health agency, which already pays for psychiatric and addiction treatment through dozens of authorized contractors. We could also examine ways to create an endowment that would support continued operation of the facility.

This would be an example of the various agencies of local government working together to address a shared problem. We do that well when disaster strikes. The chronic lack of help for the mentally ill and the addicted is a disaster too. Let’s work together to address it.

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WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU! Comment on this "Current Issues" blog post as a way to write or comment your own ideas about how OKC should invest for the benefit of people with disabilities. You can also email us at staff@okddc.ok.gov regarding your ideas!

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To view this article, you can visit https://oklahoman.com/article/5623100/point-of-view-a-maps-4-idea-to-consider.

To view other articles regarding this matter, you can also visit https://www.bcmj.org/articles/other-dual-diagnosis-developmental-disability-and-mental-health-disorders and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4814928/.

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2401 NW 23rd St, Ste. 74
Oklahoma City, OK 73107

405-521-4984
Fax: 405-521-4910
Email: staff@okddc.ok.gov

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