Some Comanche County inmates no longer receiving free mental health drugs

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - Big changes are coming to the Comanche County Detention Center. Inmates with mental health problems will no longer be able to receive free medications.

Currently, inmates with mental health problems will visit the Taliaferro Mental Health Center, where they receive free evaluations and medications. But because of our state's budget crisis, that will soon stop. Inmates will still receive free appointments and evaluations, but they will be forced to pay for their own medications.

The change goes into effect next Monday, January 1, though it will only affect new inmates. Any current inmates who receive medication from Taliaferro will continue to receive that medication completely free of charge as long as they remain in the county jail. But new inmates will not receive that free medication, leaving Comanche County Detention Center officials scrambling to find a new way to receive those drugs.

"We're looking for sources out there through the state using some kind of funding for it but we're not absolutely sure where we're at," said Comanche County Detention Center Administrator William Hobbs. "It boils down to they pay for it or in some cases we may have to pay for it. The county. We're hoping that's not the case but we're looking for other resources."

Medical Supervisor Diane Ortega says mental health issues are a huge problem among inmates.

"You have a lot of schizophrenia or bipolar, manic depression. Without their drugs it's going to be very hard to control them," Ortega said.

William Hobbs said if they can't find another way to get the medications, things could become much more difficult for both the staff and the inmates.

"We're anticipating a lot of things to happen if people are not on their mental health drugs. They could harm themselves, be more violent to the staff, destruction of property here," Hobbs said.

Ortega said most of the inmates do not have a way to pay for the medications themselves and says she sees firsthand every day how important the drugs truly are.

"The ones that take the medications, they know they need them.  If they don't have them, they know they could cause problems or get in trouble more or less. And they will take their meds," Ortega said.

The Executive Director of Taliaferro did confirm the decision was made in response to massive budget cuts across the state. She said they were providing the free medications as a courtesy and there was no state law that required them to do so. In fact, she said from her understanding, they were the only mental health center in the state that was offering free medications to inmates. She said it was simply taking too much of a financial toll on them to continue doing so.

Copyright 2017 KSWO. All rights reserved.