The tragic death of our beloved Labor Commissioner Mark Costello allegedly at the hands of his own mentally ill son shocked everyone. The highly reputable Mark Costello, however, did not die in vain. Led by efforts of his wife Cathy, all of Oklahoma has become more aware of the acute and pressing need for Mental Health (MH). According to the OK Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS), Oklahoma ranks 3rd in the nation for rates of Any Mental Illness. And, we rank #2 when it comes to SMI, Severe Mental Illness. His was a wakeup call for all of us to get serious about treating mental illness and promoting mental health. As your State Senator, I am continuing to work with MH stakeholders to find meaningful solutions to advance Oklahoma’s awareness, prevention, and treatment of MH disorders.
Three critical areas of reform:
- Enacting Smart Justice Reform and thereby providing alternative treatment and diversionary programs that correctly distinguish individuals with mental illness from criminals. Our Department of Corrections (DOC) should not function as our ODMHSAS, yet too often the DOC becomes the housing and “treatment” source for those individuals who are clearly suffering from MH disorders.
- Assisting veterans and returning combat individuals with mental health testing, treatment, and follow-up, to include a comprehensive program of medications, counseling, psychotherapy, and newer innovations, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy when appropriate. I will continue to fight opioid abuse and seek holistic ways that empower our veteran population. Additionally, I support the expansion of veteran’s treatment courts among all 77 counties.
- Offering screening options to parents in order to identify and treat MH disorders early in their children’s lives, and working with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and other healthcare and community stakeholders to ensure access to inpatient psychiatric care for qualifying children. Early and consistent screening for children will lead to the best results, using tools as simple as the Pediatric Symptom Checklist. Such proactive steps will aid prevention and / or mitigation of more substantial, subsequent life risks and improve general quality and productivity of life. With 1 in every 4 Oklahomans who will struggle with a mental illness and / or a substance abuse disorder, we cannot afford to shrug this off as “somebody else’s problem.”
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