Cuts to mental health could affect police response

Updated: Oct. 18, 2017 at 10:48 PM CDT
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LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - The possible budget cuts to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services' outpatient services could also have a major impact on law enforcement agencies across the state.

Sgt. Timothy Jenkins said the Lawton Police Department receives multiple mental health-related calls a day, and while not all calls require officers to transport someone to an outpatient mental health facility or hospital, those that do would be impacted by the cuts.

"If we're not able to do that, when it comes to mental health patients being able to take them to Taliaferro or another mental health facility that needs transportation in Oklahoma it will be an ordeal for us," Jenkins said.

Deputy Chief Johnny Kuhlman, with the Oklahoma City Police Department, spoke at the press conference when the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse services announced the potential cuts of 75 million dollars.  He said many Oklahomans suffering a mental health crisis, may end up in the back seat of a police car and that's not the way it should be.

"These cuts, if implemented will make an already difficult problem for law enforcement even worse," Kuhlman said.

Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes also spoke and says we're already asking law enforcement to do too much when it comes to mental health. He's pleading with lawmakers to get something worked out.

"Compromise on both sides is a must and if we don't act immediately we will be killing Oklahomans on a daily basis because we are not providing them the necessary mental health treatment," Clabes said.

Sgt. Jenkins said they're going to have to find different avenues to make sure mental health patients get the help that they need.

"And so by doing that, if we're able to figure out some other way hopefully that will establish a different protocol and that we are able to find some different avenue for them to get the help that they want," Jenkins said.

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