Nearly 80 percent of all female inmates and 50 percent of all male inmates have mental health needs. In prison, many go unmet due to lack of resources.

Mental health courts, like drug courts, keep those inmates out of state prisons. But only 14 Oklahoma counties have mental health courts. Legislation approved by the state Senate this week expands that reach once funds become available.

That may be a long time. In the meantime, prison doors are revolving doors for criminals with unmet mental health needs. Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, author of SB 2153, wants the courts’ success throughout the state duplicated. She also thinks it can save money.

“We have the potential to save millions of dollars every year in state spending on corrections, healthcare and public assistance,” Sen. Leftwich said. “Mental health courts have been proven to be far less expensive and have enabled individuals with mental illness to become much more productive by giving them access to the treatment they need.”

Senate Bill 2153 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration. House members should approve this and hope for better resources down the road. It’s an investment that will save the state money.

— The Norman Transcript

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