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Oklahoma can't continue to roll the dice on mental health

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: April 21, 2013

The large number of people who need help but can't get it helps explain why our prisons and jails are so crowded (the Department of Corrections says half of all state inmates have a history of, or now exhibit, some form of mental illness), why our rates of children in foster care are so high, why our suicide rate is so high and why some of our other health outcomes are poor. In Oklahoma, mental disorders are the third-leading cause of chronic disease — when the brain doesn't function properly, the rest of the body suffers too.

Ever the optimist, White says that most days, “I'm really hopeful that we're getting toward a tipping point. But there are days when it is hard sometimes for me to carry that hope, because it just seems like still there's such a long way to go.”

Bending the curve back in the other direction will require additional funding from the Legislature — our per capita spending on mental health ranks 46th nationally. But just as important, Oklahomans must disabuse ourselves of the notion that seeking help for a loved one, or for ourselves, is a sign of weakness or an embarrassment.

And we must let our elected officials know that improving Oklahoma's mental health outcomes should be a priority. We've been rolling the dice for too long.

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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