Oklahoma Implements New Mental Health Crisis Transportation

Beverly Cantrell - November 3, 2021 6:47 am

Oklahoma — 

Oklahoma has taken a significant step to change the way they address the mental health crisis.

Beginning Nov. 1, legislation that passed last spring will grant the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS) the ability to transport people experiencing a mental health emergency. This new law will allow for alternative transportation options, rather than with law enforcement officers.

ODMHSAS will partner with local transportation vendors to provide alternate crisis transportation. Children and adults that require inpatient psychiatric treatment will no longer need to be transported in the back of a police car.

“The back of a police car, in handcuffs, is not the best place for someone experiencing a mental health crisis,” said ODMHSAS Commissioner Carrie Slatton-Hodges.  “It often exacerbates the situation and creates a perception of criminality that in turn furthers a reluctance among many to ask for help before a crisis occurs.”

Transportation offered by ODMHSAS will be unmarked vehicles, driven by specially trained individuals.

Law enforcement officials have responded positively to the change, advocating for a more appropriate transportation option. They will still assist with transportations to facilities within 30 miles of the law enforcement officer’s operational headquarters.

“I am excited about this change, but also know that there will be some growing pains early on,” said Ray McNair, director of the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association.  “I look forward to working with the department as this unfolds, and being part of helping to build this system for the benefit of all Oklahomans.”

ODMHSAS has been working on this plan for several years, studying similar efforts in other states and determining what would serve the needs of Oklahoma.

“We are grateful to all our partners including Governor Stitt, our state legislature, law enforcement officers, hospitals, and the numerous community stakeholders involved helping to make this transition successful,” said Slatton-Hodges.  “With any major system change, we anticipate opportunities to learn and improve along the way.

For more information visit the ODMHSAS website at www.odmhsas.org.


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