Tulsa Child Psychiatrist: 'The Issue Is Much Bigger Than Just Shadow Mountain'

Wednesday, April 12th 2017, 8:04 pm
By: News On 6

Videos show children being restrained by employees at Shadow Mountain Behavioral Health; they’re part of a BuzzFeed investigation into alleged abuse and misconduct at the Tulsa center.

Since the videos have come out, many people have said they, too, either witnessed or endured abuse; but one child psychiatrist said it’s much bigger than just Shadow Mountain.

The allegations of abuse and misconduct at a Tulsa mental health facility for children have some people outraged - taking to social media, sharing their stories and asking for something to be done.

4/11/2017 Related Story: Former Shadow Mountain Employee Says, 'It's A Disturbing Place'

Dr. Sarah Coffey, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with OU-Tulsa, says it’s more than just one facility.

"I've been working here as a child psychiatrist in Oklahoma since 2014, and I'm certainly aware of the lack of resources here in Oklahoma as well as the decreased funding to kind of help support mental health really across the spectrum of care delivery," she said.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, we rank third in the nation for mental illness in adults. The state does not list statistics involving children.

Many of those suffering do not receive adequate treatment.

Coffey said there is a laundry list of factors to the problem, including a lack of training, limited funding, and a lack of resources.

"Quite often there's a lot of turnover, so you have a lot of people that are not trauma-informed working with kids - you might have people that have their own mental health or emotional difficulties that they are struggling with, and, quite frankly, they are probably not adequately supported to really manage the degree of complexity of the children that are on the inpatient ward," Coffey said.

These issues result in instances of possible abuse or mistreatment.

"When there's a lot of chaos within these facilities, whenever there's a lot of staff turnover, it can be re-traumatizing for a variety of different reasons," Coffey said. “There are certain things that can be inexcusable and we need to do better to protect our youth."

Coffey said while many say Shadow Mountain should close, she points out facilities like this are the only ones who provide in-patient care for those most at risk.