Sunday: Lack of mental health beds means work for Tulsa police
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Off-duty Tulsa police officers are being called to transport mental health patients to facilities across the state, part of a short-term solution to keep more patrol officers in the city limits.
But for a long-term solution, police and local mental health officials said that more beds and resources are needed within the city to adequately meet the demands of Tulsans in a mental health crisis. Officers are required to transport people exhibiting signs of mental illness for an evaluation. If treatment is required, police take that person to the facility with an opening.
With fewer than 60 beds in Tulsa dedicated to mental health treatment, the facilities fill up quickly. When a facility reaches capacity, it goes on divert status, which requires the patient go elsewhere — sometimes as far as Fort Supply, near the Oklahoma Panhandle. Previously, those trips were taken by on-duty officers, said Tulsa Police Maj. Tracie Lewis.
“That was depleting our resources way too much,” Lewis said.
In the first seven months of 2012, Tulsa police have made 194 trips transporting mental health patients to facilities across the state. Officers have logged nearly 43,000 miles on those trips. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services reimburses the department for mileage.
Sometimes, multiple officers were taken off the street to make the transports, which hurts force strength, Lewis said. One day in June saw four transports to Muskogee, Lawton, Norman and Oklahoma City, records show. One officer made two of those trips.
Read more in Sunday's World.