Tulsa, Oklahoma Therapists
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Guide to Mental Illness and Care in Tulsa, Oklahoma
As in most U.S. cities, Tulsa has found itself facing the challenge of dealing with the mental health care of its residents. Tulsa’s mental health care challenges can no longer be ignored as one out of seven of its residents have a mental illness. Tulsa may very well become a model for providing access to mental health care.
The severity of Tulsa’s mental health challenges is evident by looking at the statistics:
- One out of four Oklahoma residents has a mental illness, making the state ranked second in the nation for the percentage of the population with mental illness.
- Tulsa ranks 15th in the nation for suicide.
- In Oklahoma, one out of six children are subject to adverse experiences such as witnessing domestic violence or substance abuse, losing a family member ( incarceration, divorce, separation), or experiencing abuse or neglect.
- Ten thousand people, who are inflicted with a mental illness, make their way through the Tulsa County jail each year.
- Between 30%-40% of inmates at the Tulsa County jail are on psychotropic drugs.
- Ninety-thousand adults in Tulsa County need treatment for severe mental illness; however, the city only has the resources to treat 17,000.
- Forty-thousand adults in Tulsa County have a chemical dependency addiction, but the county only has the resources to treat 4,000-5,000.
- During the fiscal year of 2016, Tulsa County law enforcement reported that they made 1,960 transports of individuals who were experiencing a mental health crisis. Of those numbers, 40% had to be brought to mental health facilities outside the county.
There are a variety of reasons why Tulsa is where it is today regarding mental health. Oklahoma has experienced a financial crisis in its Medicaid system as it did not expand Medicaid. There are limited hospital beds available in both the public and private facilities. Further, the rising cost of behavioral health services creates a barrier to access, especially among those who are underinsured or uninsured.
Further complicating the problem is the fact that Oklahoma, like the rest of the nation, is experiencing a shortage of psychiatrists, in particular child psychiatrists. Even though the state ranks fifth in the nation for the number of mental health providers (Tulsa County has 421 providers per 10,000 people, which is twice the national average), there is a shortage of clinical specialists in Tulsa County.
Steps to Improve the Situation
The community of Tulsa is making positive steps toward addressing its mental health crisis. Researchers at the University of Tulsa partnered with the Urban Institute to evaluate the mental health issues of the city as well as its ability to meet those needs. The study funded, by the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation, conducted a comprehensive study of the county’s mental health care delivery system. Known as the Tulsa Regional Mental Health Plan, the study has led to a 10-year plan that focuses on five key areas:
- Reduce the gap in life expectancy between those with mental illness and the rest of the population.
- Reduce the rates of attempted suicide, deaths from suicide, and overdoses.
- Reduce the number of Tulsans who experience poor mental health.
- Reduce the cost to the criminal justice system, hospital emergency rooms, and first responders due to the mentally ill not receiving the proper care.
- Prioritize children and youth receiving access to mental health care.
The Tulsa Regional Mental Health Plan is the second phase of a project for improving the quality of life of Tulsa residents. The first phase was directed at health disparities among Tulsa’s residents.
A mental health action team was created to provide oversight and to ensure that Tulsa is moving forward toward the five key areas. The team also assists in capital projects and the scaling of pilot projects as well as tracking data.
Other notable efforts by Tulsa include the Oklahoma Policy Institute which has created a fellowship program. The program is directed toward students who are studying mental health or recent graduates. It prepares them to serve as mental health advocates for policy reform. Tulsa also created a Community Response Team that consists of a police officer, a paramedic, and a mental health counselor. The team can respond to individuals anywhere in the community who are experiencing mental health needs.