Officials: Oklahoma Meth-Makers Impact Taxpayers, Hospitals


Friday, January 4th 2013, 5:54 pm
By: News On 6


Police say a Tulsa man is recovering from severe burns after his apartment caught fire while he was cooking methamphetamine.

The man has not been identified because he is not in custody. He is being treated at a Tulsa hospital for severe burns and investigators said it's one more example of how the deadly drug is impacting bottom lines across Oklahoma.

Firefighters were called to the Tamarack Place Apartments just after 11 p.m. on Thursday.

No one else was injured in the fire and firefighters said it only affected one unit.

"We encountered a victim... as we were going up, he was coming out," TFD District Chief Jon Steiner said.

He first told investigators he was making model airplanes, but they said he later admitted to making meth.

He was taken to the Hillcrest Medical Center Burn Unit with severe burns.

It's not known whether he has insurance, but according to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, the majority of meth-makers are not covered, placing the financial burden on the hospitals where they're treated.

"It is a problem that puts considerable strain on us and the community," Hillcrest Chief Financial Officer Donald Baker said.

Baker said the hospital doesn't track whether a patient is a meth user, but said each year, Hillcrest loses more than $37 million because of patients who do not have insurance.

"It affects our ability to invest and grow at times," Baker said. "It affects our ability to add jobs. Those costs are considerable from the standpoint of trying to cover them when you don't get paid for those costs, it's felt through the entire health system."

The meth problem in Oklahoma runs deep.

From 2003-2009 there were 64 meth-related burn injuries across the state. Tulsa and Cleveland Counties had the most cases, and according to OBN, it can cost as much as $350,000 to clean up a single meth lab.

In the case of treatment, especially of a burn, the cost can be much, much more.

Baker said there are some instances where it can cost as much as $1 million to treat a burn patient.

If the patient isn't insured, that's money lost.

"It affects all of our health system," Baker said. "The bottom line is you absorb those costs and the burden is felt across the board for us economically."