Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. (ODLC) and ACLU of Oklahoma (ACLU -OK) Welcome the Department of Justice investigation into Oklahoma’s Failing Mental Health Services System and Oklahoma City Police Department’s Response to Mental Health Crises

November 18, 2022


RoseAnn Duplan, ODLC

Cassidy Fallik, ACLU of Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY – ODLC and ACLU-OK were pleased to hear the Justice Department announcement that it has opened an investigation into the State of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, and Oklahoma City Police Department (OKCPD).  Earlier this year, ODLC and ACLU-OK filed a joint complaint requesting the Justice Department open an investigation into the unnecessary segregation of persons with mental illness in Oklahoma County and the County’s heavy reliance on law enforcement to respond to mental health crises.

For over a year, ODLC and ACLU-OK reviewed documents and interviewed individuals with mental illness and their family members as well as others knowledgeable about the provision of community-based mental health services in Oklahoma County. This investigation led our offices to conclude that the State of Oklahoma does not provide mental health services in the most integrated setting appropriate. As a result, hundreds of individuals with mental illness in Oklahoma County are unable to access the community services they need and are unnecessarily hospitalized, segregated, and/or incarcerated in order to obtain treatment.

Brian Wilkerson, ODLC’s Director of Litigation and Legal Services said, “While our complaint was specific to Oklahoma County, we believe this to be a statewide problem, and we hope this investigation will lead to statewide changes that will greatly improve the mental health service system for all Oklahomans.”  Wilkerson added, “The Oklahoma County Detention Center has become a revolving door for people experiencing mental health crises, and we see similar situations across the state.”

“We all deserve to be safe, regardless of where we live, how we look, or who we are,” said Megan Lambert, Legal Director for the ACLU of Oklahoma. “Safety means investing in communities and people instead of punishment. Oklahoma can improve public safety by focusing on prevention and by strengthening communities through investments in proven solutions instead of incarceration. These include affordable housing, jobs, education, health care, and mental health and substance use services. Our communities deserve proven solutions to take care of our people, not a criminal legal system that punishes our most vulnerable populations.”