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OK Dept. Of Mental Health Commissioner Responds After Arrest In Florida

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In a statement issued Saturday, the head the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Commissioner Terri White addressed a recent arrest in Florida on a battery complaint after an altercation with a family member.

White, 44, was arrested by the Walton County Sheriff’s Office just before 1:20 a.m. on July 21 and was released just after 9 a.m. that same morning. White was vacationing with family, according to a statement White released Saturday afternoon.

Walton County is home to several popular beaches in the Florida panhandle, including Santa Rosa and Miramar beaches and is located several miles from the popular Spring Break locale Panama City Beach.

"I need to clarify that charges being reported by some have in fact been dropped. The case is closed,” White wrote.

In her statement, White detailed an incident between a family member that escalated to the point of being “overwhelming.” In response, White said she threw a glass of water in her family member’s face and was then shoved against a wall, prompting her to call law enforcement to “help deescalate the situation.”

“To my dismay, the officer who came arrested me on a misdemeanor charge for throwing the water,” White said, adding she was later able to talk with a judge and have the case dismissed.

“My family has been affected by behavioral health issues, just like countless other Oklahoma families…I believe that law enforcement in Oklahoma would have responded differently, and am thankful that they have the training and commitment to do so…My family is not unique and is not immune from these issues which further strengthens my resolve to help other families in need,” White said. 

Gov. Mary Fallin issued a statement of support for White Saturday afternoon as well.

"Terry [sic] White is a great commissioner of mental health and has my confidence. Her family has privately faced struggles, like many Oklahomans, with a loved one who has a long-time substance abuse issue. She handled her family crisis appropriately by calling a crisis intervention expert to protect herself and family.”

Fallin also politely criticized the actions taken by the law enforcement officials who arrived after White called for help.

"The response at the scene would suggest additional training by law enforcement could have helped sort out the situation," Fallin said. 

White has led the DMHSAS since 2007. She was also the state’s first woman Secretary of Health from 2009-2011 under then Gov. Brad Henry. 

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