Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
For Immediate Release: February
Bill to Expand Mental Health Courts Awaits Appropriations
Legislation to increase access to mental health courts throughout
Oklahoma is awaiting action by the full Senate Appropriations Committee.
Senate Bill 2153, by Sen. Debbe
Leftwich, was approved by the Subcommittee on Health and Human Services
on Monday. Leftwich said although the bill wouldn’t kick in until
there is available funding, passage would be an important step toward
cutting millions of dollars in public safety costs in the years to come.
“We have thousands of people with mental illnesses in prison and
in county jails that probably would not be there if we had been able to
intervene, and the majority of them are nonviolent offenders,” said
Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City. “That’s the idea behind Mental
Health Court. It is far less expensive and much more productive to help
these individuals instead of perpetuating the revolving door of arrest
Leftwich said approximately 12,600 offenders held by the Department of
Corrections have a mental health need, including 79 percent of all women
offenders and 46 percent of males. The Oklahoma County Jail has up to
500 with mental illness at any one time.
“Right now people in only 14 Oklahoma counties have access to mental
health courts, but in those counties, the results have been dramatic.
There’s a 79 percent drop in unemployment for those who complete
the program. One year after graduating, arrests fell by 92 percent and
the days spent in jail dropped by 90 percent,” Leftwich said. “What
this means is that these individuals are becoming more productive members
of society and using far fewer public resources as a result.”
Senate committees have until February 18th to complete hearings on bills
filed by members of the upper chamber.
For more information contact:
Sen. Leftwich: 405-521-5557