OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Lundy Kiger announced a second meeting for the Southeast Oklahoma Alliance on Mental Health at 10 a.m. Friday, March 13, at the Kiamichi Technology Center in McAlester.
Kiger said health care professionals in the Southeast quadrant of Oklahoma (I-40 west to I-35 and counties connecting with Texas and Arkansas) will meet with law enforcement and state agencies over mental health, as well as other legislators from Southeast Oklahoma, to define the bigger issue and to also make decisions with current laws and facilities currently in place to help improve conditions for area people that have immediate needs.
The Southeast Oklahoma Alliance On Mental Health (rural hospitals in Southeast Oklahoma), along with health care professionals, law enforcement and state agencies, met two weeks ago in Poteau for the purpose of identifying specific issues causing delays in people receiving medical evaluations and treatment for mental health issues.
“Many people have been jailed without proper medical evaluations to determine if jail is the right place for them,” Kiger said. “From this initial meeting, it was decided to continue the discussion and invite the entire Southeast Oklahoma health care community to a larger meeting with the goals of improving this situation for everyone in Southeast Oklahoma.”
Kiger explained to the group in Poteau that it’s ridiculous it takes weeks and months for hospitals or law enforcement to get the help they need and forcing them to use precious manpower and time for so long or having to travel long distances to get a medical evaluation on any person. With the technology available today, most of this can be handled through telemedicine, saving time and money for city and county law enforcement as well as area hospitals.
“The difference in the meeting on Friday will be more lawmakers from both the House and Senate are invited to attend,” Kiger said. “I believe this will give us a great audience for local people to explain their difficulties so we can push for changes to be made immediately.”
“One of the areas we can see immediate improvement in is with Carl Albert Mental Health that’s located in McAlester,” Kiger said. “I’ve discussed the situation with the CEO for quicker medical evaluations and I believe we have a strong agreement with CAMH in working with us. We also will focus on helping law enforcement who may get a call with a subject that is experiencing mental health issues to get an evaluation quicker to help avoid a long jail hold time and delays in getting the help a person may need.”
Kiger told the group last week that mental health is a priority and will only get worse over time.
“Now is the time to improve the problems that our professionals and their families are experiencing as we work on lasting improvements through law over time,” Kiger said.