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Report finds 80 percent of Oklahomans served by public mental health system are unemployed

The National Alliance on Mental Illness released the report Thursday, pointing out there are models for job programs for people with mental illness but they are often underfunded.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: July 11, 2014 at 10:00 am •  Published: July 11, 2014

Nearly 80 percent of Oklahomans who receive publicly funded mental health services are unemployed, according to a report released Thursday.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness released the report Thursday, pointing out there are models for job programs for people with mental illness but they often are underfunded.

Mike Brose, the executive director of Mental Health Association Oklahoma, said public officials should take a leadership role in making Oklahoma a forerunner in helping people with mental health issues find jobs.

“The state of Oklahoma, via the governor and Legislature, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitative Services and other state agencies need to take leadership and communicate through all avenues the value to the workforce of Oklahoma to hiring people with disabilities, particularly those who live in recovery with mental illness and substance abuse histories,” Brose said. “Additionally, people who have made mistakes and who have been convicted of nonviolent felonies, many substance abuse related, and have turned around their lives, should have opportunity for education, training and employment, also.”

Oklahoma has the second-highest rate of residents with serious mental illness, a population that often struggles with finding employment, according to NAMI and federal data.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma is among 10 states that spend the least funding per capita on mental health services, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Oklahoma leaders have celebrated the state’s low unemployment rate, which was at 4.6 percent in May.

However, the report shows that rate isn’t true for all Oklahomans.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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Mental illness should no longer sentence people to poverty. People living with mental illness want to work, frequently can work and models have been developed to help them succeed. However, these effective interventions are few and far between. Multiple implementation barriers exist, including lack of political will, inadequate funding, misaligned policies, stigma and discrimination against people with mental illness.”

Employment report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness,


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