The Morning Brew: 'We have criminalized being mentally ill'
Welcome to your Monday. Have a little coffee, read a little news.
'We have criminalized being mentally ill'
In the second installment of 'Epidemic Ignored,' The Oklahoman's Jaclyn Cosgrove explores the way Oklahoma jails respond, or ignore, mental illness and substance abuse disorders.
Since statehood, Oklahoma has grappled with how to create a sustainable, comprehensive mental health system. The state has spent among the least in the nation on mental health care, all while filling jails and prisons with people who wouldn’t be there if they could afford and access basic health care for their brain disorders.
Imprisonment is not only the least effective form of "treatment" but also the costliest.
The cost of a year of state-funded mental health treatment: $2,000.
The cost of a year in prison for someone with serious mental illness: $23,000.
At last count, 60 percent of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ population — 17,000 people — have either symptoms or a history of mental illness. That’s the equivalent of jailing nearly everyone attending an Oklahoma City Thunder game on a sold-out night.
Often, before these Oklahomans are sentenced to prison, they spend months, if not years, cycling in and out of county jails.