Tulsa County Program Helps People Accused Of Certain Crimes Receive Mental Health Treatment

We're learning more about a Tulsa County program that allows people with a mental disorder, accused of some crimes, to receive treatment rather than go to jail.

Thursday, April 27th 2023, 10:34 pm


We're learning more about a Tulsa County program that allows people with a mental disorder, accused of some crimes, to receive treatment rather than go to jail.

This comes after a woman who was in that program got arrested for her third assault in four months.

The DA's office told us how the federally funded program tries to balance the needs of the person with the safety of citizens.

The nearly $1 million grant is to be spent over a three year period; this is the third year of the program.

A woman who was arrested for two assaults, a week apart in December, had her cases dismissed last month so she could get mental health help, through the civil mental health diversion program.

However, Prisila Platzer has been arrested again for another assault.

Tulsa Police said Platzer randomly walked up to an EMSA worker Tuesday and punched the worker through the open window, then ran away.

"If they're at that point where they're not willing to participate then we're kind of forced to go with a criminal approach to prosecution," said Stephanie Younis. "It's not like that individual is thrown away. It's just that they have to, you know, serve some time for that offense and then we'd try to outreach them again for treatment."

Family & Children's Services offers a re-entry program towards the end of an individual's sentence.

Younis said fewer than 25 percent of the people in the program end up committing more crimes. But the vast majority of them do succeed with their outpatient plan.

Those who don't succeed in the diversion program end up in the competency program, or even criminal mental health court.

People are admitted into the program in one of three ways.

Younis said about 40 percent of the time, the person starts in jail and is later taken to the hospital, and another 40 percent are taken directly to a psychiatric facility by law enforcement. She said the remaining 20 percent are people who were referred by a family member.

Immediate family can go to the second floor of the courthouse and request a petition be filed; deputies would then go to that individuals house and the person can be picked up for an evaluation.

The suspect is first taken to a psychiatric hospital like the Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health, where they stay until they are stabilized which can take anywhere from 48 hours to nine months.

Their outpatient plan includes checking in with a medical provider at least once a month, taking psychiatric meds, and staying away from drugs and alcohol.

This program not only helps people in need, but also saves taxpayer dollars.

"We looked at data and there's individuals that are booking into the ERs you know 20, 30 times a year, sometimes more, for mental health stuff, and you know, national data shows that each ER visit costs $3,000 on average if they're admitted to the hospital, right? And so that's adding up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in money that a lot of times these individuals they're either not insured or if they are insured it's with Sooner Care, so all those costs are actually being paid by the tax payers," said Younis. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You know it's better to identify folks on the front end and really just kind of treat them in a wholestic way rather than just like ignoring the problem and then just paying for those individuals to be in jail. Paying for them to be in the ER. Dealing with accidents."

Before anyone goes into the program, the victim has to agree, including Platzer's December victims.

"Those victims actually reached out to us and requested treatment before we even asked them," said Younis.

Younis said this program helps try to keep folks suffering with Alzhiemer's, intellectual disabilites, and traumatic brain injuries from ending up in jail.

About 250 people have been through the program in Tulsa County in the last two years.

The DA's Office is looking at additional funding opportunities and made a proposal to continue the program and even expand.


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