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Western Oklahoma is a desert when it comes to mental health courts


If an Oklahoman has a serious mental illness and gets arrested for a nonviolent crime, whether he goes to prison or gets enrolled in a diversion program largely depends on where they live reports KGOU.

Only 16 counties in the state have mental health courts.  The only two in Western Oklahoma are in the southern counties of Comanche and Cotton according to the Oklahoma Government website.

These courts have a successful track record: a 79 percent reduction in jail days, a 92 percent reduction in arrests, an 81 percent reduction in unemployment, and 64 percent fewer inpatient treatment days.

Terri White is the state’s mental health commissioner.  She recently told lawmakers that specialty courts like drug and mental health courts, save the state thousands of dollars.

White also says Oklahoma has one of the most successful drug court programs for those who are lucky enough to get a spot.

Oklahoma has the second-highest rate in the nation of adults with serious mental illnesses.  It’s also has one of the highest incarceration rates per capita.

More counties have requested the addition of these courts, but that would require additional state dollars.