By the Watchman
One of the most tragic and least talked about departments within the state government is the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. These are the people that are supposed to be helping our residents get the treatment they need as well as individuals with addictions to get the care that they need. We can only ask how they can do that by selling off state facilities to private concerns and making only 300 beds available to the legal system for 77 counties. It just can't be done.
Oklahoma's Mental Health system seems to be running in reverse. We found this article that pretty much explains the challenges the mentally ill and addicted face Oklahoma's Mental Health System: Get Sicker First | Oklahoma Watch. So why then did they sell off so many of the state operated beds? Could it be that they have forgotten about the patients or is it that they just don't care? We believe that it could be a complete lack of proper leadership from the Commissioner and the remaining staff that has allowed this situation to develop.
We first went to the home page web site and looked at the administrative team here Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services - Administration Team. We found that we were only able to verify the education level of the Commissioner and the Chief Operating Officer. Although highly educated individuals both, neither has a medical degree in Psychology. The Commissioner has a master's degree in Social Work and the COO has a doctorate in Business Administration. We were unable to verify the education levels of the remaining staff.
We did manage to find a biography on the director, Terri White, in fact we found two. The first is this one Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services - Terri White Bio. This is where we found out there was a second biography page which you can see here https://www.ok.gov/odmhsas/documents/Terri White bio long 10-15-15.pdf. As most government officials do, she lists her achievements in both, but neglects to list her failures in the operations of the system.
One of the achievements she is proud of was being the 2015 recipient of the Henry Toll Fellowship. The Toll Fellowship Program, named for Council of State Governments founder Henry Wolcott Toll, is one of the nation's premier leadership development programs for state government officials. This just proves that even the best of programs can make a mistake.
The next article of interest we found was this Terri L. White - Wikipedia. We urge you to open this document and read it for yourself. In it you will see an individual who worked hard to get her education and then established connections within the political community at the Capital. What becomes apparent throughout the article is that she has very little on hands experience working in Mental Health or in the treatment of those with addictions at all. This appears to be a case of not what she knew, but who she knew. That cost her fellow Oklahomans a lot even to a point of some of them it cost them their life.
This next article we found shocked us Oklahoma mental health commissioner to keep court informed | News OK. This is a link you must open to believe. How can an appointed government official completely ignore an order from the court and not end up in jail. How can they deny the treatment ordered by the court? It's understood they can't exceed the available beds, but why does the state have so few beds? There were more beds than what is currently available prior to the current leadership of the department being placed into their offices.
The next article of interest we found was this Thousands with mental illness will lose services in Oklahoma | News OK . They claim that over 73,000 Oklahoman's with mental health or substance abuse disorders will suffer due to budget cuts. Well all these reporters seem to be missing the fact that they have been warehousing the mentally ill in the state prison system for decades. We understand that's another one of those problems that the legislature wishes not to deal with. They don't want to lose the votes. With the second highest rate on the nation of adults with serious mental illness we spend the least per capita on mental health.
Just a couple of months later they went back to the press with this article "We are already at a crisis point," Oklahoma mental health officials expect things to worsen | KFOR.com. We hate to say this but the mental health department started slipping into crisis when they shut down the first facility and allowed a civilian mental health provider to take over operation. Those were beds that were needed by the state. Those were beds needed to assist law enforcement to help the mentally ill within the communities they serve. Those are beds no longer available to the state.
The next article of interest we found was this https://www.nasmhpd.org/sites/default/files/The Oklahoma Enhanced Tier Payment System Final.pdf. We do encourage you to open this link and read it. The document itself is rather long. The department did the correct thing in asking how these facilities improved their performances. We feel they did it the wrong way. They sent out a survey. You have got to be kidding. Where is the spot inspection? They didn't do the leg work that was needed to support the paperwork. The Chief Operating Officer should have known that as well as the Director.
The next article of interest we found was this 9 Investigates: Mental Health Care In Oklahoma - NAMI Oklahoma Inc. - NAMI Oklahoma Inc.. Sadly this looks like it was put together by NAMI themselves. NAMI is the National Alliance for Mental Illness. They took advantage of the Mark Costello tragedy to get a little publicity for their local chapter. This is a group that has good intentions, but is going about it the wrong way. They should be working more closely with the Department of Mental Health than they are.
The next article we found was this https://ok.gov/odmhsas/documents/BudgetRequestOutline_1-25-2011_.pdf. This is the 2012 budget for the department. It was the last budget we could find on line. We can say that they are consistent about the percentage of Mentally Ill and Substance Abuse adults in the state over the years. They always seem to stay about the same.
The next article of interest we found was this Two New Mental Hospitals To Open In Oklahoma - News9.com - Oklahoma City, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports |. So here all but around 300 mental health beds in the state are gone and now we have an influx of out of state firms opening mental health facilities. Now we are all for capitalism. We are also all for those in need of help getting the help that they need. The problem with these new facilities is that they are outside of the ability for the legal system to order a person into treatment to. In short, if you've got the money or the insurance you're welcome, but a court order just doesn't get it done. It would appear that they made a spot for Obamacare never thinking that it would collapse like it is doing.
The next article we found was this Oklahoma - Treatment Advocacy Center. We urge you to open this link and read the report. We will admit it's rather old, but if things here were this bad then, they have only gotten worse with all the budget cuts. In 2005 there were an estimated 5,215 seriously mentally ill inmates in Oklahoma Prisons. Do you honestly believe they were getting the treatment they needed? That was up from a population of 1,463 in 2004. Who are they trying to fool? This is indicative of gross mismanagement within the department.
The next article of interest we found was this report from 2011 www.odmhsas.org/eda/bedreport/20111126bur.pdf. This report indicates that every facility available to the state had beds available as late as the 26 November 2011. So if we had the beds available why were so many people incarcerated that were seriously mentally ill? Why were more people not being placed into care during this time? Most important of all why did we sell the facilities? It just doesn't make since.
The next article we found was this Hidden Oklahoma: Norman hospital once a 'mythical city' | News OK. Now all of you history enthusiast will want to open this link. This is the beginning of the mental health system in the State of Oklahoma. It is well worth the read if you like your history.
The next article we found was this LAWSUIT: OKLAHOMA OFFICIALS HID WRONGDOING [Archive] - Ex Scientologist Message Board. This is a lawsuit that involved an investigation of the death of an individual being treated at a Narconon facility. The facility is run by the Scientology religious group and the individuals were pressured to make changes to their report. There is a hint of revenge indicated in the firing of these employees. It is well worth the effort to read the article.
Then we found this article Oklahoma's Mental Health System: Get Sicker First | Oklahoma Watch. This puts our mental health system in a single ball. There aren't enough beds to handle the patients, so we warehouse them in the state prison system. The beds we use to have are gone due to mismanagement. The people that are suffering are the people who can't protect themselves.
There is only one conclusion to be drawn from this. The Department of Mental Health has been badly mismanaged over the last two decades. You have underqualified and under experienced individuals in leadership positions that have no business being there. What we are seeing is a continuation of the good old boy network down to the department level within the Health Department. This has got to stop.