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TU, Zarrow reveal regional report on Tulsa’s mental health care system


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Mental health professionals and advocates, Tulsa-area elected officials, business and education leaders, and the philanthropic community gathered today to learn the results of a comprehensive study of the Tulsa region’s mental health care delivery system and a 10-year plan for improvement.

The University of Tulsa Oxley College of Health Sciences, in collaboration with numerous public and private Tulsa-based organizations, formed a steering committee in 2016 comprised of 17 Tulsa mental health care professionals, philanthropists and community leaders to work with the Urban Institute, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit research organization. The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation funded the research and report.

Key findings include:

  • Mental illness is a major driver of poor health and low life expectancy across the region.
  •  Children and youth are at increased risk of mental illness and lack a strong foundation for lifelong mental health.
  • Tulsa’s mental health services, as effective as they are, are not scaled to meet the need, and fragmented systems are difficult for users to navigate.
  • Inadequate funding and support for mental health services constrain service provision and quality of care.
  • Many mental health programs track closely to the geography of disadvantage, reflecting areas of concentrated poverty, economic underinvestment and social exclusion.

“People living with mental illness in the Tulsa region die 27 years earlier than all Oklahomans, and within TPS, a suicide note is received from a student nearly every day. But behind each of these numbers and so many other startling statistics is the personal suffering of our friends, our family, co-workers and neighbors in Tulsa,” said Dr. Gerard Clancy, president of the University of Tulsa and chair of the Tulsa Regional Mental Health Plan steering. “We must come together as a community and use this report as a blueprint to take action to correct these wrongs and make Tulsa a healthier place for all of us to live.”

Goals for Tulsa’s 10-year plan include:

  1. Reduce the gap in life expectancy between Tulsans living with mental illness and all Oklahomans.
  2. Lower the rates of suicide attempts and overdoses, and deaths from both causes.
  3. Lower the share of Tulsans who experience poor mental health.
  4. Reduce criminal justice system, first responder, and hospital emergency room costs caused by untreated or poorly treated mental illness.

Urban Institute’s research focused on individuals 0 to 65 years of age with mental illness in the seven-county Tulsa metropolitan statistical area (MSA). Researchers worked with the steering committee and TU Oxley College of Health Sciences to document Tulsa’s needs related to mental illness, assess current resources to meet those needs and identify gaps and inefficiencies in the system. The patient- and community-focused study gathered and processed information from three sources: qualitative data from patients and their caregivers, qualitative data from thought leaders across the Tulsa Region, and quantitative data from a variety of organizations, including healthcare organizations, social services and nonprofits, insurers and government agencies.

“Tulsa is a forward-thinking community that has taken on a complex topic many other communities are facing, and while the report is alarming, Tulsa has considerable strengths from which to draw,” said Laudy Aron, senior fellow at the Urban Institute. “Tulsa has cutting-edge treatment programs, strong collaborations, existing efforts to provide alternatives to incarceration, and passionate leaders ready to tackle these issues head-on.”

The Anne & Henry Zarrow Foundation announced it has committed $3.1 million to establish a three- to five-year Mental Health Action Team with staff to work as independent conveners and research coordinators for the 10-year improvement plan and measuring the progress of its four goals.

“We are standing at a critical intersection here in Tulsa,” said Bill Major, executive director of the Anne & Henry Zarrow Foundation. “On one side, disturbing data and debilitating funding cuts across the board paired with the stigma of mental illness and poverty.  On the other side, the possibility of new federal funding, the work of the state’s Opioid Commission, criminal justice reform and initiatives like Birth through Eight. Tulsa has shown its grit and determination on tough – almost impossible – issues before, and we will do it again. We must do it again.”

The full Tulsa Regional Mental Health Report is available online at TulsaMentalHealth.org.


About the Tulsa Regional Mental Health Plan Steering Committee

A steering committee of 17 Tulsa mental health care professionals, foundations and community leaders formed in 2016 to lead a regional mental health study and 10-year plan for improving Tulsa’s mental health delivery system. The steering committee selected Urban Institute to create the report.

About Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation

The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation seeks to alleviate the symptoms of poverty, enrich health and wellness, and empower and inspire community members to improve their lives. The foundation’s four priority areas for funding include alleviating and preventing homelessness; reducing hunger and supporting basic needs; improving indigent health care services, including mental health care; and supporting social services.

STEERING COMMITTEE

Steering Committee Chair
Gerard Clancy
University of Tulsa

Jeffrey Alderman
University of Tulsa Institute for Health Care
Delivery Sciences

Melissa Baldwin
Mental Health Association Oklahoma

Monica Basu
George Kaiser Family Foundation

Jason Beaman
Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences

Michael Brose
Mental Health Association Oklahoma

Sara Coffey
Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences

Tom Cooper
William K. Warren Foundation

Bryan Day
12 & 12 Inc.

Jeff Dunn
Mill Creek Lumber & Supply Company

Jan Figart
Family Safety Center

Susanna Ginsberg
SG Associates Consulting

Hank Harbaugh
Oxley Foundation

Courtney Latta Knoblock
Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation

Gail Lapidus
Family & Children’s Services

Bill Major
Zarrow Family Foundations

Beatriz Pérez
The University of Tulsa Institute for Health Care Delivery Sciences

Mark Reynolds
Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Carrie Slatton-Hodges
Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Richard Wansley
Oklahoma State University

Terri White
Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Jay G. Wohlgemuth
Quest Diagnostics Inc

 

 

 

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TU, Zarrow reveal regional report on Tulsa’s mental health care system