Are Oklahoma Veterans ‘Unlikely to Survive’ the Mental Health Crisis?

Leave it to Oklahoma legislators to put on a show when it comes to the state’s mental health.

At the 2016 Governor’s Veterans Services Symposium, Governor Mary Fallin padded the state’s mental health crisis with good old-fashioned Oklahoma fluff.

We have increased access to mental health and established the Oklahoma Suicide Prevention Council.

As she stood to speak on behalf of the men and women of my state who have served this country and those we have lost, I was angered and insulted on behalf of every Oklahoman who struggles with mental health, especially our veterans.

The lives of our loved ones depend on the changes Oklahoma politicians create. Do they really think we do not notice when doors are open or closed or when we invest more in our roads than we invest in the people who pay them to stand in that office?

Trust me, we notice when our veterans sleep on the street.

What Governor Fallin meant by “increased access” is that Oklahoma House Bill 1697 was passed, permitting her to sign the Labor Commissioner Mark Costello Act into action. What she meant to do was pat herself on the back.

Meanwhile, those receiving state-funded services through the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse are at risk of being legally compelled to shove pills down their throat. Whatever happened to that “recovery-oriented” approach?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines recovery as “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential.”

Yet, if the original House Bill 1697 had been passed, every Oklahoman who struggles with mental health would have lost the right to live a “self-directed” life and make their own healthcare decisions. That right based on a few flexible words, which leave Oklahoman vulnerable.

As outlined in The Oklahoman, for a person to qualify under the terms of this act, he or she must be,

‘Unlikely to survive’and ‘unlikely to participate in treatment.’

I struggle with mental health. 

I also currently receive state-funded mental health services. When Oklahoma cuts nearly 24 million dollars from the state’s mental health budget within six short months, leaving more than 73,000 people without access crucial life-sustaining services, it makes me concerned about survival. Not just for myself, but also for 23,750 Oklahoma veterans living below the poverty line and depending on the state’s mental health services to help them survive. So, let’s get real about mental health and stop mucking around!

We cannot afford for our Governor to cover up the blood our veterans have spilled, just so her political agenda and reputation can stay sound. We also cannot afford to regulate mental health changes introduced by former

We cannot afford for our Governor to cover up the blood our veterans have spilled, just so her political agenda and reputation stay sound. We also cannot afford to regulate mental health changes introduced by former government officials driven by the grief of losing a child; no matter how tragic it was (or how heartless I sound!).

In a recent review of Oklahoma’s mental health crisis and an interview State Mental Health Commissioner Terri White, Fox News reported, “one in four people struggle” with mental illness, and Commissioner White expressed,

Treatment works if you can get in the door.

Yet it seems like the only people who are “unlikely to participate” in treatment are the very people who should be opening should be opening that door.

Taking control away from those who receive or are in need of mental health and substance abuse services does not increase access to care.

It increases fear.

Consumers who receive mental health services will be more unlikely to communicate when there is a crisis or they are in need of higher-level services, out of fear of state-controlled treatment, rather than recovery-based, trauma-informed care.

It sends the message to those waiting for help or in need of care that if they get involved with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, they might be deemed “unlikely to survive” and forced into state-controlled psychiatric care.

It silently exposes incarcerated individuals to the possibility of misuse or abuse by law enforcement or other court-appointed officials in charge of behavioral health services while under state care.

The Costello Act sends a message to those who do not struggle with mental health about those of us who do. It sends the message that people with mental illness are dangerous, unstable, and should be reprimanded and feared.

It fuels every stigma associated with mental illness that victims, survivors, and advocates have been trying to shatter for years!  More importantly, it slams doors. Doors we should be racing to open. Terri White puts into perspective,

Commissioner Terri White puts things into perspective,

We should absolutely be concerned that the suicide rate is going to begin to climb back up again in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma suicide rate already surpasses the National average by nearly 5 percent. One in every five suicides is someone who put his or her life on the line to fight for our country, to fight for this state, and to keep us all safe.

So, I just want to say to the leaders of this state, how many more lives will be lost while you feed us lines about increased access to services you are cutting state funding for?

I say not one more! Rise up, Oklahoma. It is time to secure our survival.

2 thoughts on “Are Oklahoma Veterans ‘Unlikely to Survive’ the Mental Health Crisis?

  1. Shared on FBook with text
    Oklahoma has a Mental Health Crisis..
    The Department of Mental Health doesn’t sound compassionate.
    There have been savage cuts to Welfare
    Those who fought hardest are at a high risk of suicide
    The legislation is fluff as Grace puts it, very well
    To my friends over there and in the states, I’m appalled
    To my Irish friends, it’s an eye opener
    Every person that I hear of or think of who loses their life makes me very sad and I am guilty of mulling on it.
    Legislation changes (anywhere in the world) must be highly considered with the right stakeholders and be person focused/here – mental health state benefit recipient centred
    73,000 referred to in the article is terrifying.


    Liked by 1 person

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