Major new Tulsa mental-health partnership detailed
BY World's Editorials Writers
Monday, September 24, 2012
9/24/12 at 2:56 AM
The announcement Thursday of a new mental-health treatment partnership is some of the best news this area has received in a long time, and could mark a major turning point for the state in the treatment of these patients.
Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services officials announced the partnership - among Family & Children's Services, Hillcrest Medical Center and the Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health - at the National Zarrow Mental Health Symposium, which is under way this week in Tulsa.
The new initiative will provide for an increase in the number of inpatient beds for psychiatric care in Tulsa, add a crisis stabilization unit and improve treatment possibilities for the many area residents who struggle with mental-health conditions.
The Tulsa plan and a similar one in Ardmore are among efforts by the ODMHSAS to enhance crisis and treatment services statewide. The two new initiatives are being made possible by new state funding, sought by Gov. Mary Fallin, for improving crisis and treatment services.
Under the terms of the ODMHSAS contract, F&CS will manage a new-concept, outpatient crisis stabilization unit and HMC will open 16 new adult inpatient psychiatric beds. Currently, TCBH, which is operated by ODMHSAS, has capacity to provide inpatient behavioral health care for just 56 patients.
"This plan builds a new point of entry for psychiatric crisis services in Tulsa County," said F&CS CEO Gail Lapidus. "Best practices will be used to triage individuals and route them to the most appropriate level of care. By enhancing the system, we expect to improve patient experiences and outcomes, save money and reserve the higher-acuity resources for individuals with the most intensive needs."
Hillcrest currently operates a 14-bed adult behavioral health unit and a 72-bed child and adolescent unit. This partnership will allow the hospital to open an additional 16 bed adult unit.
Terri White, ODMHSAS commissioner, and the governor were obviously pleased about the evolving partnerships.
"This move is going to strengthen the behavioral health care system statewide by providing desperately needed beds here. It's an amazing partnership," said White.
"Untreated mental illness and addiction costs our state far too much, not only in terms of how it affects the individual, but also the costs borne by Oklahoma communities to deal with the resulting negative consequences such as overcrowded emergency rooms, increased need for law enforcement intervention and rising incarceration rates," Fallin said in the statement. "By working with communities to provide these services, we save lives and tax dollars."
A major benefit for the Tulsa area will be the lessened burden on the Tulsa Police Department, which has had to frequently transport people in need of stabilization across the state because there often aren't crisis beds available in Tulsa. During the first seven months of 2012, TPD officers had to make 194 trips to hospitals as far away as Fort Supply, in far northwest Oklahoma, to find crisis beds for individuals in need of stabilization.
The added beds and the new outpatient facility will be designed to work together, steering patients who now are being taken to inpatient settings to other alternatives, such as the new stabilization unit and outpatient services.
It's not a stretch to say the changes planned here border on the transformational. As White noted: "Our ability to successfully treat illness is determined early in the disease process, and expansion of these services means expansion of our ability to help Oklahomans in crisis, their families and communities as a whole."
Our sincerest thanks go out to the governor, who was instrumental in making this happen, the mental health department, and all the partners who will carry out the effort. It will mean a better future for many of our most vulnerable citizens and their families.
Original Print Headline: Turning point
Commissioner Terri White announces a new mental health partnership at the Zarrow Mental Health Symposium Thursday. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World