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State Budget Cuts Could Have Negative Impact On Tulsa Jail

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TULSA, Oklahoma -

Lawmakers are trying to figure out their next move today after a bill to solve the state's budget gap died in the house of representatives Wednesday. State leaders say they plan to put forward a new plan in the next few days they say would end the budget crisis and prevent cuts to crucial services.

The impact of the cuts would be widespread.

The Tulsa County Sheriff's Office is concerned about what it would mean for its inmates and the new mental health pods.

The sheriff's office says the Tulsa County Jail is the largest mental health facility in the state but not by choice.

The sheriff's office said its mental health pods have been at full capacity since day one and if state budget cuts to the mental health department go through, even those services could suffer.

"A regular, general population pod is not ideal to stabilize somebody with mental health issues," said Casey Roebuck with the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office. "35-45% of our jail population are on some sort of psychotropic drug."

But, with many mental health department programs at risk of being cut, Roebuck said they fear the jail population will continue to rise--filling cells with people who really don't need to be locked up.

"When they're having some sort of psychosis, during that time, they'll commit some sort of crime. So, they end up in our jail instead of getting the help they need," Roebuck said. 

Mike Brose, with the Mental Health Associations say these budget cuts are not money savers at all.

According to the Community Service Council, in Tulsa County alone, it costs $10 million a year to incarcerate 520 people, versus $2.5 million dollars a year to treat them.

"Worst outcomes, highest cost. Where is the savings? I challenge and ask our elected officials, and I ask your viewers. Where is the savings in that?" said Mike Brose with the Mental Health Association.

"There's no money saving involved here. It's going to cost more in the long run," Roebuck said. "You're going to pay for it either way. We would prefer to see these people get the help they need instead of becoming inmates."

Roebuck said this is a public safety issue and said they urge everyone to contact their legislators to stop this axe from falling.

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