Lawmakers Exam Mental Health System In Oklahoma

Wednesday, November 4th 2015, 6:49 pm
By: News 9

Lawmakers are taking a hard look at the way mental illness is handled in our state. Compared to other places in the country Oklahoma lags behind in how we deal with mental illness. It's a complicated issue, but an issue that is costly and can be a life or death situation.

We have seen the effects recently play out in very public places as horrific crimes. Some things can’t be controlled, but the signs were arguably there.

Adacia Chambers indicated during her psych evaluation that she had a history of treatment.

11/4/15 Related Story: Psych Evaluation: Adacia Chambers Showed ' Severe Signs Of Mental Illness' 

"She had a mental hospital she went to in Wagoner at one time,” Adacia Chambers’ father Floyd Chambers said.

However, for Adacia Chambers that wasn't enough.

"They released her and said there was really nothing else they could do for her,” Chambers said.

Four people died when she barreled her car into an OSU homecoming crowd.

Two months earlier, Labor Commissioner Mark Costello was stabbed to death by his own son who battled mental illness for years.

11/3/15 Related Story: Labor Commissioner's Wife Speaks Out For Change In Mental Health System

"When we were eating dinner our son announced, 'I quit taking my medication,’” Costello’s wife Cathy Costello said.

Information about a person's mental is protected by HIPAA, and intervention is often surrounded by legal red tape.

"Right now the only way that a family can get help and really encourage a person to seek their treatment and to maintain their treatment protocol is if they commit a crime or they're hospitalized,” Senator AJ Griffin said.

Lawmakers are hoping House Bill 1697 will eventually change that with court ordered intervention.

"The assisted outpatient treatment program would give our court system another tool to intervene with individuals who have a diagnosed mental illness who can function in society when they're maintaining their treatment protocol but are at risk of harming themselves, harming others or committing a crime,” Griffin said.

Oklahoma has one of the highest percentages of people with mental disorders with 13.3 percent of the population. About 13,000 are offenders.

"In Oklahoma we still don't necessarily treat mental illness as the illness that it is,” Griffin said. "It's causing a lot of problems. It's damaging families, and it's actually ending lives."