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Mental Health Association Gets $900K Grant For Criminal Justice Initiatives

Matt Trotter

The Hardesty Family Foundation has awarded Mental Health Association Oklahoma a $900,000 grant to keep criminal justice programs going another two years.

Funding will support initiatives like a special services docket that puts case managers in touch with people facing misdemeanor charges often related to homelessness, housing for people who were homeless because of untreated mental illness, and mental health training for law enforcement officers and others involved in the justice system.

"What this grant addresses is often the root causes of what bring people, particularly low-level offenders, initially into contact with the criminal justice system," said Association CEO Terri White.

White said there’s always been a great need for the programs, but that need has grown during the pandemic. For one, shelters had to limit capacity, leaving more people on the streets. White said that’s on top of the pandemic’s other effects.

"Isolation and upending someone’s routine can definitely exacerbate mental health and substance abuse issues for someone who was already struggling or for someone who may not have struggled before. They may be experiencing anxiety or depression or something for the first time," White said.

A Hardesty Family Foundation donation in 2019 helped the Association launch its criminal justice division.

"It is very important that the funds we invest make our community a better and safer place. Mental health and substance abuse are underlying factors in so many of the problems that plague our society," foundation Executive Director Michelle Hardesty said in a statement. "I believe we have to begin with these two fundamental issues before we can mend the other co-occurring issues like homelessness, domestic violence, incarceration, pregnancy rates, teen dropout and veteran issues."

The Hardesty Family Foundation was established in 2005 by F. Roger and Donna Hardesty, who built a fortune in aviation and construction.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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