By Matt Trotter
The passage of sweeping federal health legislation with several mental health provisions is being welcomed at the local level.
Besides boosting research funding and accelerating drug approval, the 21st Century Cures Act has several provisions to improve mental health care. In the absence of the legislation, Tulsa County has already developed some of the programs the legislation describes. Mike Brose with Mental Health Association Oklahoma said some aim to incarcerate fewer people with mental illness.
“A lot of the things that will help support those efforts are in this bill … , but we have really got a great start through our local Stepping Up Initiative that our Tulsa County commissioners all supported,” Brose said. “Over 300 counties nationwide have passed these resolutions, and Tulsa was one of the first in the country.”
The Stepping Up Initiative calls on public and private groups to work together in diverting those with mental illness away from jail and prison and into treatment.
Brose said mental illness is a bigger problem than many realize. For example, while the U.S. averages about 17,000 homicides a year, it also averages nearly three times as many suicides.
“This bill has a lot of information funding services to increase the level of suicide prevention, diversion, helping people in a mental health crisis to get treatment they need,” Brose said. “I think that’s a pretty telling story of why we need this federal legislation.”