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Possible Mental Health Funding Cuts Could Impact MWC Program

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Inmate Patricia Lacey is in the Midwest City jail for possession of marijuana, and she hopes she will finally getting the help she needs. Inmate Patricia Lacey is in the Midwest City jail for possession of marijuana, and she hopes she will finally getting the help she needs.
MIDWEST CITY, Oklahoma -

The Midwest City Police Department plans to cut up to three-quarters of inmates in the state through counseling, but a major challenge could halt these kinds of programs.

The program identifies inmates with mental illness or substance abuse problems and gets them into counseling, but state funding could doom this kind of work.

Inmate Patricia Lacey is in the Midwest City jail for possession of marijuana, and she hopes she will finally getting the help she needs.

"I have anxiety," said Lacey. "I feel depressed all the time, and at nighttime, I can hardly go to sleep."

Lacey signed into the Inmate Diversion Program at the Midwest City jail. She'll work with a counselor to get to the core of her substance abuse and find treatment.

"I got molest from age eight to the age of nine then my husband molested me, and it's like I don't want that cycle to keep going," said Lacey. "I don't want my kids coming up the way I camp up, using drugs."

Midwest City jails about 4,000 people every year. Major Robert Cornelison said 75 percent of his inmates suffer from a mental health illness or substance abuse.

"We're trying to catch them at this level, municipal level before they get involved in more serious crimes," Cornelison said.

 

Officers arrest some inmates hundreds of times a year.

"The less people that come through our doors, the better," said Cornelison. "It frees up our officers on the streets."

The city partners with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse splitting the cost of the full-time jail counselor, who works with the inmates.

"The sooner we treat mental illness and addiction, the better the recovery rate," Commissioner Terri White with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse said.

White said a lack of funding puts a squeeze on the diversion program, but not treating the diseases costs more.

"People end up in the criminal justice system, more kids end up in the foster care system," said White. "You have people showing up in the emergency room."

Lacey sees the program as her way out of years of struggling.

"Nothing like this has ever been offered to me," said Lacey. "I will not end up back here."

Midwest City police said they've already seen successes with the program.

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