Oklahoma City Police Captain Robert Nash oversees the Crisis Intervention Team and said cuts to the state's mental health services have put a strain on his officers.
Since state budget cuts have chopped the number of beds available at crisis or mental health services centers in half, officers are being forced to drive farther, even outside of the metro, to drop off a patient.
Law enforcement officials said they are worried because officers have to leave their areas unprotected to transport patients far away.
By Colleen Chen, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Budget cutbacks in the last two years have led to a loss of both private and public beds for those who need urgent care for mental health problems, and the cuts are starting to put a strain on law enforcement.
In July, Oklahoma City Police found themselves being impacted when the lack of bed space meant officers were forced to drive a patient to Lawton in order to get care.
"We would like to keep our officers serving in our city, but we have a duty to care for these people. Driving to Lawton took those two officers off our streets, but it had to be done. It's frustrating," said Oklahoma Police Captain Bob Nash.
Nash oversees the Crisis Intervention Team for Oklahoma City Police. The officers' jobs are to calm down often violent and delusional patients.
"The calls are traumatic enough without extending the travel time beyond what's reasonable," Nash said. "Once we take an individual into protective custody, we have no choice but to deliver them to a state approved mental health facility."
Nash said it's the first time the unit has had to drive someone so far, but he said he expects the problem to grow.
"It's difficult enough given the resources we have now to handle them without taking up a lot of manpower. I hate to think about it getting worse," Nash said.
Nash said it's an issue that's just beginning, and an issue that affects everyone.
"It's something everyone should be concerned about. Based on statistics, a city our size has around 100,000 citizens who suffer from a mental health condition," Nash said.
There is also a lot of concern for smaller agencies that only have a couple of officers and have to leave their areas unprotected to transport patients far away.
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