Feds look into treatment of mentally ill adults in Oklahoma
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A civil rights investigation into the treatment of people with mental illnesses by the state of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City and Oklahoma City police was announced Thursday by the U.S. Justice Department.
“We will determine whether the state discriminates against mentally ill adults in Oklahoma County,” where Oklahoma City is located, in violation of federal law “by relying on institutional settings to serve adults when they could be served in the community,” assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said.
Clarke, with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said the investigation in Oklahoma comes amid similar investigations that include Minneapolis; Phoenix; Louisville, Kentucky; and the states of Kentucky, Missouri and South Carolina.
Spokespeople for Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and the city police department did not immediately return phone calls by The Associated Press seeking comment. A spokesperson for the city of Oklahoma City said a statement would be issued later Thursday.
A senior Justice Department official, who is not authorized to comment publicly, said the investigation was prompted by complaints from a mental health advocacy organization but did not identify the organization.
Two of the largest mental health advocacy organizations in the state, the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Oklahoma and the Alliance of Mental Health Providers of Oklahoma, did not immediately return phone calls for comment.
The official said that the investigation does not target the troubled Oklahoma County jail or fatal police shootings in the city, but both could be involved if violations of the rights of people with mental illnesses are found.
“We will be looking at police encounters with people with mental health issues, if fatal police shootings are among those encounters, they will be investigated,” as will treatment of jail inmates with mental illnesses, the official said.
“The investigation will examine whether Oklahoma fails to provide community-based mental health services” that include treatment, housing and employment, Clarke said.
Investigators also will look into the city’s response to 911 calls regarding adults with mental disabilities and whether police comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to Clarke.
The investigation is being conducted under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination of the disabled by state and local governments, and is expected to take about a year to complete.