FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: State Rep. Thad Balkman Contact: State
Sen. Tom Adelson
Capitol: (405) 557-7386 Capitol: (405)
Norman: (405) 229-9822
Health and Human Services Subcommittee Chairmen Appalled at OFC
OKLAHOMA CITY (May 8, 2006) - A recent situation in which Ottawa County
sheriff's deputies handcuffed a women to a motorized gate outside the
Oklahoma Forensic Center is "inexcusable," said the respective chairmen
of the legislative Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.
"It is beyond comprehension that something of this nature could
occur in this day and age," said Sen. Tom Adelson, D-Tulsa. "There was
blatant disregard for the individual's rights, safety and well-being. It
was cruel and inhumane, and there is no justification for this type of
Rep. Thad Balkman, R-Norman, said he was appalled at the action
reportedly taken by the Ottawa County sheriff's office, and that all
steps necessary must be taken to ensure that nothing like this ever
Mental health officials said that, on May 2, the Ottawa County
Sheriff's Department transported a woman to the Oklahoma Forensic Center
(OFC) in Vinita for admission for competency treatment.
Sheriff's deputies were informed that OFC did not have a court
order committing her to the facility and would not have a bed available
until the next morning. OFC cannot legally take custody of an individual
without a court order of commitment. The Deputies then left the
facility, but returned after hours and handcuffed the individual to a
chain-linked fence's movable gate outside the maximum security unit at
the facility, and then left the facility, said officials.
The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is
referring the matter to the Department of Justice and appropriate state
and federal authorities to investigate possible civil rights and
consumer abuse violations as a result of the deputies' actions.
Balkman said the incident, fortunately, "appears to be an
isolated incident and is not indicative of Oklahoma law enforcement in
However, that the situation even occurred is troubling.
"Other law enforcement agencies understand the requirements for
transferring custody to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and
Substance Abuse Services," he noted.
Typically, there is an excellent relationship between the
state's mental health services and law enforcement, said Adelson.
"ODMHSAS works closely with law enforcement to provide specialized
training related to understanding mental illness and with law
enforcement and the court system concerning transfer and commitment
"This, however, was an act predicated by prejudice and
ignorance," he added. "Apparently, deputies deemed this person unworthy
of respect because of the fact she might have a mental illness."
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