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Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105

For Immediate Release: March 8, 2010

Sen. Debbe Leftwich
Sen. Debbe Leftwich

Senate Approves Bill to Authorize Expansion of Mental Health Courts

Legislation to increase access to mental health courts has been approved by the full Senate. Sen. Debbe Leftwich is the author of Senate Bill 2153, which would enable the creation of more mental health courts once resources are available.

“We have the potential to save millions of dollars every year in state spending on corrections, healthcare and public assistance,” Leftwich said. “Mental health courts have been proven to be far less expensive and have enabled individuals with mental illness to become much more productive by giving them access to the treatment they need.”

Currently, only 14 Oklahoma counties have access to mental health courts, but Leftwich said the results have been significant. The Oklahoma City Democrat said in those counties, there has been a 79 percent drop in unemployment for those completing the program. Within a year of graduating, arrest fell by 92 percent and days spent in jail were reduced by 90 percent.

“When you look at the bigger picture, you can see how expanding mental health courts would dramatically reduce spending and increase personal productivity,” Leftwich said. “About 12,600 offenders held by the Department of Corrections have a mental health need—that’s 79 percent of all women offenders and 46 percent of male offenders. Until they get the help and the medication they need, nothing will change. But we can end this revolving door in our prisons if we improve access to mental health courts.”

Senate Bill 2153 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

For more information contact:
Sen. Leftwich: 405-521-5557

 

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