Mental Health Cuts Will Cause Police To ‘Kill On A Daily Basis,’ Chief Warns

Anders Hagstrom | Justice Reporter

An Oklahoma police chief warned that “we will be killing Oklahomans on a daily basis” Wednesday if planned cuts to the state’s mental health and substance abuse budget are allowed to go through.

Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes gave the warning to legislators on behalf of the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police, NewsOK reported Wednesday. The state’s Mental Health Department may be forced to cut 23 percent of its budget if the state legislature doesn’t act. The $75 million loss would have catastrophic consequences, according to Oklahoma Mental Health Commissioner Terri White.

“Our hope is that a solution is found in time to keep these cuts from happening,” White said in a written statement. “At the same time, to allow plans to move forward without notifying all impacted would be unfair and irresponsible.

“These cuts are unbearable and will decimate our state’s behavioral health care system. Yet, they are the only choices the agency has left to keep from completely eliminating services for Oklahoma’s most acutely ill.”

Police are making their presence known on the issue because they are often the ones who find mental health or substance abuse patients and enroll them in government programs. Police logged nearly 50,000 miles in 2013 driving patients across the state, and they expect to respond to 18,000 mental health calls this year. (RELATED: If Officials Don’t Act, Oklahoma’s Prisons Are ‘Going To Pop’)

“We plead with our legislators to stop aligning your party affiliation and find a solution to the budget deficit,” Clabes told reporters. “Compromise on both sides is a must. If we don’t act immediately, we will be killing Oklahomans on a daily basis because we are not providing them the necessary mental health treatment.”

Police also fear a rise in violent crime if the state stops taking care of the mentally ill. (RELATED: Oklahoma Prisons Consider ‘Opening The Back Door’ To Ease Prison Overcrowding’)

“There will be a dramatic increase in both nonviolent and violent calls for service, as it relates to the citizens of our community,” An Oklahoma City Police Department spokesman told reporters. “It’s also reasonable to expect that we’ll be making a number of arrests of these individuals as they commit crimes on our streets. Until they get the treatment they need they’ll wind up in our county jails and maybe even in our state prisons.”

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