Concerns raised about tracking mentally ill

Tuesday, June 13th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Better tracking is needed to ensure the well-being of mentally ill patients who have moved into private care from Eastern State Hospital, Tulsa health officials say.

Patients from the state hospital began shifting into private mental health centers in January as part of cuts tied to a shift toward community-based care.

Mike Brose, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Tulsa, said advocates have found that not all released patients are having the same experience.

Regular monitoring, he said, could help meet one of the main goals of the change: successful integration of patients into their communities.

"We want to know: `Are these people being successfully transitioned back into the fabric of society?' " he said. "We don't know that answer."

The cuts at Eastern State have resulted in more than 100 patients being sent to three pilot organizations -- Parkside Psychiatric Services, Associated Centers of Therapy and the Grand Lake mental health care program.

John Hudgens, director of community programs for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said the transition is being scrutinized.

Patients are being tracked by monthly reviews of statistical data and a review of individual records to determine where the patient is, what medicine is being taken and to assess any needs, he said.

"It identifies, at a minimum, what services a patient should receive," he said.

Tracey Leeper, grants project manager for the Mental Health Department, said the first three follow-up activity reports show that 94 percent of patients were monitored within three to four days of their release at the pilot sites.

"That's very good for community mental health centers that haven't gotten any additional funding yet," she said.

But Paul Greever, executive director of Parkside Psychiatric Services and Hospital, said officials there are working on a new monitoring system for former Eastern State patients.

Parkside has been the primary facility for released patients in Tulsa since the transition.

"We were concerned that some patients would fall into the cracks along the way," Greever said.

Parkside's director, a member of a nine-member panel overseeing the transition, said more case workers to track released Eastern State Hospital patients could help determine what patients encounter after release into their communities.

"From our position as a mental health care provider, we have to know why a client misses an appointment," Greever said. "There has been concern about those patients ending up in jail."