- Associated Press - Saturday, September 26, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma ranks 46th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in funding for mental health issues, according to a new report.

The report, funded by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, says Oklahoma spends $56.22 per capita on mental health - less than every state and D.C. except Kentucky, Idaho, Florida, Arkansas and Georgia.

The report, released Thursday, also found that 5 percent of adults in Oklahoma have a serious mental illness such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Only West Virginia has a higher rate.

State mental health commissioner Terri White told The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/1iBMP5P ) that treatment is often provided only to low-income residents who are in crisis.

“What that means is the people who don’t get in the door get sicker and sicker, often until they become a person who is now a danger to themselves or someone else,” White said.

“When we have a system that’s underfunded and those people who are the most ill are who receive services, the bulk of our money is tied up in community and inpatient care, which leaves very little money for prevention,” White said.

Chronically underfunding the mental health system has also led to a lack of infrastructure, and there aren’t enough counselors, therapists, psychiatrists or other mental health professionals to also care for Oklahoma residents who have the resources to pay for treatment, White said.

Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie, who has worked at nonprofit organizations that help children and families, said Oklahoma hasn’t truly embraced addressing behavior health as a health issue.

“This report highlights our need to really look at our justice system and how we are intervening,” Griffin said. “We spend less money on mental health services, and we have a very high frequency of mental health patients in our corrections systems. It’s backward. It’s much more expensive to incarcerate them than to treat them.”

Oklahoma needs criminal justice reform, which could help keep people with mental illnesses who need treatment, not incarceration, out of prison, along with reforms in the child welfare and the juvenile justice system, Griffin said.


Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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