A conservative estimate is that drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, and domestic violence cost Oklahoma $4.3 billion each year, or $1,150 per state resident, reports The Oklahoman. “There are several areas where we’ve seen a lot of progress. But at the same time I don’t want to mislead anybody. We still have huge gaps in number of people who need services versus the number of people who actually receive them. Those still exist today,” said Terri White, commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.?
Service gaps form a pathway leading to the doorsteps of Oklahoma prisons. A state task force found issues related to prisoners with substance abuse and mental illness cost taxpayers more than $1 billion. Robert Powitzky, chief mental health officer of the state corrections department, said the prison system is bulging with nonviolent substance abusers or mentally ill or both. The corrections department spends more than $8 million for prisoner mental health services. “The problem is we have way too many people in prison that have no business being in prison,” Powitzky said. “In the old days, we used to put people in prison that were criminals.”