Letter to the editor: Mental health pods at the Jail

Recently, I had the opportunity to tour the new mental health pods at the Tulsa Jail.  The facility is state of the art and should rival any other facility in the nation.  Jails today average about 33 percent of their inmate population who take psychotropic medication or are under the care of a psychiatrist or psychologist.  Tulsa County is no different.

In 2014, a tax was passed to add additional housing units to David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center.  Following that passage, the research was combed through, the homework was done and the best practices from agencies across the country were brought back and enfolded into the design of the new mental health housing units.

The housing units will operate on a progressive levels system, with each level promoting stability and mental health wellness of those individuals housed in the jail that suffer from mental illness.  From the high windows that let natural light fill the housing unit to the color of the paint, from the process criteria to the training of those individuals assigned to work in the mental health housing units, we believe that we have created an environment that will assist in a more conducive environment for treatment, stabilization and mental wellness.

For informational purposes, if needed

  • Level I – for those inmates that are actively suicidal and require eyes on 24/7.
  • Level II – for those inmates that refuse to take their medication and cannot control their behavior or are in need of higher security due to their mental impairment.
  • Level III – for those inmate who are taking their medications, can control their behavior but are not yet ready for general population
  • Level IV – those inmates that are taking their medication, controlling their behavior and would benefit from a more community type setting (open dorm style housing unit).

In addition to the new housing units, several initiatives have begun that will address not only those individuals suffering from mental illness, but also homelessness and substance abuse.

The Outside Inside Collaboration for Justice group, consisting over close to 60 various resource providers and agencies, has been working on a diversionary program that begins at the initial contact point; when the first responder responds to a 911 call, whether it be medical personnel, fire or law enforcement.

To be able to divert that individual away from jail and into the placement needed to address their priority at the time of the crisis would reduce the numbers not only a the jail, but also at the emergency rooms and crisis centers.

Included in the initiatives that are occurring, there is also the Stepping Up initiative that pertains to those individuals suffering from mental illness that are in the jail.

This initiative deals with creating a better continuum of care while being detained and will put into place a stronger discharge plan that will reduce the repeated behaviors due to those individuals having fallen through the cracks in our current process.

Under-sheriff George Brown and Chief Michelle Robinette told us they encourage anyone that is interested to join them for our quarterly stakeholders meetings, where the progress is discussed and ideas are thrown out that should be considered when it comes to building the various processes involved in the initiatives.

Tours of the new mental health and general population housing units will be offered February 17, and 21, all at 1 p.m.

Chief Robinette can be reached for questions, comments or RSVP for tours at mrobinette@tcso.org

I highly recommend if you have questions or concerns that you contact Chief Robinette.  Tulsa will likely be the model for the state and nationally on how to take care of those with mental health challenges and have had some sort of incident with law enforcement.