Addressing mental health, addictions
MAPS 4 includes proposals for a ‘diversion hub’ and for enhanced mental health, substance abuse services
In a two-and-a-half year span, Shannon Garrison spent about two years in and out of county jail for drug possession and other offenses fueled by her addiction.
There was no treatment for her trauma, Garrison said, and there was no treatment for the addiction that was a result of it or for her mental health.
“We don’t need to be incarcerating people with mental health and addiction,” said Garrison, 43. “We’re putting them in there and we’re locking them up, and we’re not treating the addiction. And then they come back out and we all do the same thing because we haven’t had any treatment.”
MAPS 4 would provide $17 million for a “diversion hub” to relieve pressure on the Oklahoma County jail and help low-level offenders establish a more productive life by connecting them with coordinated, life-stabilizing services.
MAPS 4 also would provide $40 million for two new mental health crisis centers, temporary housing for people experiencing mental illness and homelessness while transitioning out of a crisis center and a new restoration center that would include a crisis center, methamphetamine detox and substance abuse services.
The MAPS proposals go up for a vote Dec. 10.
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Most people who suffer from addiction have trauma that needs to be dealt with, Garrison said. She said her mental health worsened while she was in jail, and she has severe post-traumatic stress disorder from being locked up.
Garrison, who is bipolar and has a severe anxiety disorder and has battled addiction to heroin and methamphetamine, went through mental health court. The 18-month program required her to go to treatment, see a counselor and go to medication appointments.
She graduated from mental health court in August 2018.
“That program saved my life,” Garrison said. “It just feels like we throw addicts and people with mental health problems in jail to fix them, and it’s just not what it does.”
Today, Garrison is an active, productive member of society. She has been sober for three years. She’s had mental health treatment for the past three-and-a-half years and takes her medication daily.
“I have goals,” Garrison said. “I’m now trying to find a house to buy and I talk to my kids every day and I go to family functions. … I’m actually a productive member of society.”
She now works to help others who are battling addiction. During the week, she works for the Oklahoma City-County Health Department. She’s placed inside drug court and mental health court as a community health worker. Her job is to connect people with resources to help them overcome obstacles to sobriety.
On weekends, she works as a recovery support specialist at a crisis center. Garrison said there aren’t enough beds for people who need mental health services.
She sees the same people that are going in the crisis center going to jail.
“They need treatment,” she said. “They don’t need to be locked up.”
We’re putting them in there and we’re locking them up, and we’re not treating the addiction.”
The diversion hub would serve as a convener of services for people entangled in the criminal justice system. It would assist low-level, nonviolent offenders.
Sue Ann Arnall, president of the Arnall Family Foundation, said the goal is to connect people who are involved with the justice system to needed resources and supports to help them become contributing, responsible, safe members of the community.
“We’re trying to slow the flow into prison, and we saw a gap there,” Arnall said. “The judges were asking for some place to send people instead of keeping them in jail or instead of sending them to prison.”
Oklahoma County District Judge Kenneth Stoner, who presides over drug court, said the criminal justice system can be complicated and difficult to navigate for people who aren’t familiar with it.
During a presentation to the city council this summer, Stoner said incarceration does little to solve the underlying issues that get people involved in the criminal justice system, such as addiction and a lack of safe, stable, sober housing.
“The diversion hub, to me, is about removing obstacles,” he said.
The diversion hub would bring together a comprehensive, multi-agency network under one roof, similar to Palomar, Oklahoma City’s family justice center, which brings together a number of partner agencies in one location to assist victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and elder abuse.
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‘There’s just such a great need for this’
Potential service categories at the hub include housing, education, employment and family support.
Arnall said the hub would take referrals from judges, district attorneys and public defenders, as well as self-referrals from defendants. Each person would be assigned a case manager who would serve as a case navigator.
The Arnall Family Foundation has been working to get people who failed to appear back to court and on the right track. Staff also have been working to assist people who are about to have their probation revoked for a reason that’s not a new offense.
Case managers have been able to work with some of those individuals to help them get back into compliance and back on track. Arnall said they’d like to continue doing that only a larger scale with the diversion hub.
“We’re having a lot of success helping them, and there’s just such a great need for this,” she said.
Many of the people they’ve been helping said they lost hope, Arnall said. They were given the wrong court date or heard the wrong court date so they didn’t show up and then they were arrested again. Then they couldn’t afford bail and they couldn’t be released on their own recognizance because they failed to appear.
“Then they were charged with new charges, fines and fees, and it becomes overwhelming and they know no matter how much they work, they’ll never be able to pay it off, and they lose hope,” she said. “And nobody’s helping them figure out what’s possible.”
An advisory council composed of various stakeholders has been meeting to discuss the diversion hub. Arnall said they’re looking for space to rent where they could move in right away to start offering Phase One services: essentially, housing and employment.
“We’re not going to duplicate services if they already exist,” she said. “We’re going to help the service providers expand their capacity so that they can come on and do what they do best.”
The Arnall Family Foundation has put a $20 million endowment in the Oklahoma City Community Foundation to help pay for operations of the proposed diversion hub, Arnall said.
Connecting the dots
As a case manager for the Arnall Family Foundation, Sumer Kiser works with people who have violated probation, trying to help bring them back into compliance before the district attorney issues a warrant. She helps to connect them with the resources and services they need to stabilize them and get them on the right path.
“There’s homelessness, addiction … transportation,” she said. “All those things that can be a barrier.”
Kiser met Davonte Garcia, 25, in May after a warrant was issued because he violated probation. Garcia didn’t have a place to stay after court. Kiser promised she wouldn’t leave him until she found somewhere for him to go. Community partners found a spot at a sober living home.
Kiser called him every day to check in with him.
“He probably was annoyed at me in the beginning,” she said with a laugh.
Garcia found a job at a grocery store. He was named employee of the month soon after he started working there. He now works for a different grocery store. He’s been working on his GED and hopes to serve in the Air Force.
Garcia said without the help and resources he received, he’d probably be locked up. In the past, he had been living house to house. He said he was suicidal and used drugs to numb his feelings. He has more than 40 scars on his left arm, and he said he’s been to a mental hospital four times in his life.
Back then, he didn’t have anyone to talk to.
Having a place like the diversion hub where people could connect with a variety of resources in one place would help a lot of people, he said.
Like Garcia, most people entangled in the criminal justice system want help, Kiser said.
She said the criminal justice system can be like glue.
“You get stuck in it if you don’t have the resources to get out or the right mindset to get out,” she said. “Davonte’s a great person. He just needed to be reminded of that and that he can succeed and that he can accomplish things. I think the diversion hub, the idea is to do that for everyone who comes in the door.”
We’re not going to duplicate services if they already exist. We’re going to help the service providers expand their capacity so that they can come on and do what they do best.”
What MAPS 4 would do if approved
If approved by voters on Dec. 10, MAPS 4 would also allocate $11 million to construct two new mental health crisis centers.
It would allocate $22 million for a “restoration center,” which would include a crisis center, methamphetamine detox, substance abuse services, medication-assisted treatment for people coming off of opioids, a medical clinic, a pharmacy and other comprehensive services.
It also would allocate $7 million for housing for residents who are experiencing mental illness and homelessness and transitioning out of a crisis center.
Construction for all of those projects would be conditional on the identification of operational funding from a non-municipal source as well as operating agreements that include measurable benchmarks, according to the MAPS proposal.
Oklahoma County Commissioner Carrie Blumert said nearly one out of every five Oklahoma County residents needs treatment for mental illness, and four out of five residents with mental illness are not receiving treatment they need.
She said there are two crisis centers in Oklahoma City. Each has 16 beds, and often those beds are full so officers have to drive across the state to find a safe place for someone. Law enforcement who respond to calls for people in crisis more often are taking people to hospitals or jail.
Jails are not treatment facilities, she said.
“It is more humane and less expensive to get people mental health and addiction treatment to prevent them from going to jail,” she said. “It’s a waste of your tax money to send a mentally ill person to jail who has a low-level offense. It’s better for the person and it’s better for your taxes to provide them mental health treatment.”
Another theme that came up during conversations with stakeholders was that if someone goes back to homelessness after leaving jail or a crisis center, it’s difficult for the person to stay on medication and to stay sober, Blumert said.
The MAPS proposal would include a building with 30 apartment units to help people who are transitioning out of a crisis center, she said. It would be staffed 24 hours a day and provide temporary, supportive housing.
Blumert said they are still exploring operational funding for the mental health initiatives, but the funding will come from a variety of sources. Who operates the facilities will be up to the citizen’s advisory board and the city council, she said.
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What will you pay?
The Oklahoman’s MAPS 4 cost calculator can help you estimate how much of your sales tax would be allocated to MAPS 4 if the project is approved. Enter in an estimated monthly amount spent on items subject to sales tax — things like groceries, clothes, home supplies, decorations or other tangible products — to see how much MAPS 4 could cost you over the next 8 years.