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Labor Commissioner's Widow Speaks Out For Change In Mental Health System

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Undated photo of Mark and Cathy Costello Undated photo of Mark and Cathy Costello
OKLAHOMA CITY -

The wife of slain state Labor Commissioner Mark Costello is speaking out about mental illness and hopes to shed light on the issue in order to change some state laws.

Cathy Costello was one of many Tuesday to speak in front of a state senate committee hearing about possible outpatient and medication treatment for people who are in and out of trouble.

From the time he was a little boy, Cathy Costello said her son, Christian, was always creative, but as the years passed, his behavior went from artistic to concerning. It wasn't until he was 19 that he was finally diagnosed with schizophrenia.

He was hospitalized 10 times in the last four years including five times within the past 12 months.

"We were literally running around from hospital to hospital,” she said. “We'd heard he was in the hospital, and we'd say, 'Is our son here?' And they'd say, 'Is he over 18?' 'Yes.' 'We can’t tell you.'"

Christian Costello eventually made a health decision he wasn't capable of making on his own, his family said.

"When we were eating dinner, our son announced, 'I quit taking my medication,'" she said.

Moments later, witnesses said Christian Costello stabbed his father to death.

"He died in my arms, and I prayed with him, and I told him that I loved him,” Cathy Costello said.

News of Mark Costello's death spread quickly, but what isn't being spread enough was something he was passionate about and what his wife said ultimately took his life at the hands of his son -- mental illness.

Cathy Costello spoke at the Capitol during an interim study about the issue hoping make treatment and medication mandatory for those who need it most.

"For some, it could mean the difference between life and death,” Ohio Sen. David Burke said.

Cathy Costello said court intervention and changes in HIPPA laws could have prevented her husband's death.

"I think those are the two huge things that could change the face of mental illness in Oklahoma,” she said.

"I'm going to do everything I can to keep moving, because I do believe that when you have breath in you, it's such a gift to be alive, and we shouldn't waste our time,” she said. “We need to do something good."

There is a similar model in effect in Ohio that requires loved ones to provide documentation, and then a judge decides if intervention is necessary. 

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