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It's prudent to bolster mental health programs in Oklahoma

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: January 27, 2013
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So, Fallin and policymakers need to find other ways to continue dealing with this issue. Stateline.org reports that a number of states, which like Oklahoma have cut their mental health budgets through the years, are giving it renewed focus. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, for example, wants to use $18.5 million in state money to help prop up mental health services, to include building additional crisis centers. A number of states also are looking to change their laws to make it easier to commit those whose behavior is extreme enough that it makes them a risk to others.

In an essay this month for National Review, research psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey said most of the problems related to untreated mental illness are caused by 1 percent of those who suffer from the most serious forms — bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. They account for 10 percent of all homicides in this country and 20 percent of the nation's prison population, he said.

“Tragedies related to untreated mental illness will continue to happen more often than they otherwise would until governors, state legislatures and state mental health departments are held responsible for the treatment of severely mentally ill individuals,” Torrey wrote.

And the earlier, the better. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that one in 10 children in the United States has a mental health condition that causes significant impairment. This translates to about 93,000 children in Oklahoma. Yet about 40 percent of Oklahoma children who need services don't get them.

Lawmakers found a way last year to help our mental health agency assist those in need. They should continue on that course in 2013.

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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