Mental Health Needs in SE OK

Friday, 05 August 2022 20:35

Mental Health Needs in SE OK Featured

Written by Rep. Randy Randleman
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This week, I want to provide an update on the adolescent crisis unit in McAlester that I've been working on with a state agency for some time.

The Oklahoma Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has a rule that went into effect in 2017 which has unfortunately been restricting what we can do in the state to address mental health. This rule stipulates that there can only be one crisis unit in each region of Oklahoma. After learning this, I checked and discovered that our area in southeast Oklahoma did not have even one adolescent crisis unit.

Crisis units are extremely valuable in addressing immediate mental health concerns and are designed for adolescents who are at risk to hurt themselves or others. After this adolescent is identified, they can be transported to the unit to be assessed.

If the assessment shows that they can manage with outpatient care, then they are assigned a therapist to work with them and their family. If the assessment shows they need more intensive care, they can be placed in a mental health bed within the unit for seven days for further assessment. After these seven days, if they're not better, they can be assigned to an adolescent psychiatric hospital.

After learning of the dire need for a crisis unit in southeastern Oklahoma, I filed HB1637 in 2021, which created conversation with Commissioner of Mental Health Carrie Slatton-Hodges. She agreed to work with me to establish an adolescent crisis unit for southeast Oklahoma within the next year, and this just opened in January of 2022! Carl Albert Community Mental Health, located in McAlester, is expected to be completely finished by the end of August.

Commissioner Slatton-Hodges also agreed to assess Poteau and Hugo for additional adolescent crisis units within the next two years. If the need is there, we may open other units in both of those towns. Additionally, McAlester Regional Hospital is currently gathering cost estimates on dedicating a wing of their hospital for adolescents in crisis.

By filing HB1637, I was able to start a conversation and ultimately address this immediate need without passing a new law, bringing a solution more quickly. If we can continue with this current discussion, we may have crisis adolescent centers in McAlester, Poteau, and Hugo, and establish the psychiatric hospital in McAlester. This would provide a range of services that we need! We have previously not had these kind of services in our area ever, with the closest being hours away in Tulsa.

Improving our mental health outcomes in southeastern Oklahoma is a huge goal of mine as your state representative for House District 15. This is one issue I will continue working on for the upcoming legislative session. In future columns, I'll discuss other issues I'm working on as well, including foster care and teacher retirement.

As always, please continue reaching out to me about your concerns at 405-557-7375 or randy.randleman@okhouse.gov. Thank you for the privilege of representing you at the State Capitol!

Rep. Randy Randleman, a Republican, serves District 15 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which covers Haskell County and portions of Muskogee, Sequoyah, LeFlore, Pittsburg and McIntosh counties.

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