Drug treatment program in Tahlequah loses $300K to new cuts

BY SONYA COLBERG Published: February 15, 2010
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TAHLEQUAH — Bill Willis Community Mental Health Center in Tahlequah still provides outpatient services for 2,000 people but closed its 20-bed men’s substance abuse program in January to save $1.2 million. Now, Executive Director Margaret Bradford said they’ve just been told to trim $300,000.

"It has had a severe impact in our community,” Bradford said. "That program was usually at capacity at all times and had a waiting list of between 40 and 60 at any given time.”

She said northeast Oklahoma’s only state-operated residential treatment program for men served Wagoner, Adair, Cherokee and Sequoyah counties.

"Many of these people were fairly severe in their addiction. Oftentimes we were a last resort to help them. I strongly believe without this type of treatment you’re going to see more and more people end up in the criminal justice system,” Bradford said.

She said there’s a risk of people using drugs illegally and going to prison, ultimately costing the state more money than the 30 to 60 day treatment at $120 per day.

Bradford said they often must refer male substance abusers to the state-operated program in Woodward five-plus hours away. Those who can pay don’t have to drive as far — about 90 minutes to services in Tulsa, she said.

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The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services provides residential treatment for about 300 adults and 100 adolescents at 24 state-run and contracted facilities across Oklahoma. More cuts are expected but here are the results of the department’s $17 million budget cut:


• Cut all 26 beds at the Enhanced Residential Services program at Central Oklahoma Community Mental Health Center in Norman.


• Cut about 30 children’s mental health beds at the Children’s Recovery Center of Oklahoma in Norman.


• Cut all 65 adult substance abuse treatment beds at the Norman Alcohol and Drug Treatment Center.


• Closed all 20 men’s residential substance abuse treatment beds at Bill Willis Community Mental Health Center.


• Reduced provider contracts for mental health and substance abuse services at contract facilities statewide.


• Cut 30 inpatient beds at Griffin Memorial Hospital in Norman.


• Cut 24 beds for patients with both mental health and substance abuse at the Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health.

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