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Mental Illness, Drug Abuse and Domestic Violence Cost OK $4.3 Billion a Year

  • Joe Wertz

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The Department of Corrections spends more than $8 million a year on mental health services for prisoners, The Oklahoman reported.

In 2005, a task force estimated that alcohol and drug abuse, mental illness and domestic violence cost Oklahoma about $3.4 billion that year, The Oklahoman’s Sonya Colberg reported.

The death toll and spending are rising, according to the report.

Today, a conservative cost estimate is about $4.3 billion or about $1,150 per Oklahoman, said Michael Lapolla, principal investigator of the cost study and retired professor of public health at the University of Oklahoma.

More than 500 Oklahomans died of drug overdoses in 2005. Last year, 715 died, mostly from pharmaceutical drugs rather than street drugs.

Mental health services at state prisons cost more than $8 million a year, Robert Powitzky, chief mental health officer with the Corrections Department told the paper.

Psychotropic drug costs, alone, were $763,000 in fiscal year 2011.

The mental health department received $155 million in state appropriations in 2005 and $183 million for FY 2012, according to the report.

The increase is directly attributable to funded spending increases related to drug court and core community health services, mandated employee cost increases and an increase in provider reimbursement rates, Terri White, commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, told the paper.

The department wants an additional $134 million for FY 2013, which includes $92.6 million for “Smart on Crime,” a program that will help educate police on treatment options to keep former offenders with abuse or mental health issues from re-offending.

Incarcerating offenders costs more than treating their mental issues outside the prison system — about $20,000 per year per person vs. $5,000 to $7,000 — the task force reported, according to The Oklahoman.