Tulsa Police Say Mental Illness, Addiction, Homelessness Initiatives Are Succeeding

Mar 1, 2019

Credit Tulsa Police

Reporting to city councilors this week, Tulsa Police said community policing initiatives to address mental illness, addiction and homelessness are making a difference.

More than 200 officers have been trained to help people suffering from mental illness and keep them from entering the criminal justice system if they don’t have to. Officer Richard Meulenberg has the training but said training every officer isn’t the goal.

"People who sign up for that are excited, because they want to do more," Meulenberg said. "And we have officers that do tons of great work, but it’s just — so, we can blanket train everybody, but, really, capitalizing on someone who really wants to be involved with that is your best bet because you’re going to get a better return on your investment of time."

TPD also participates in a Community Response Team, a mental health intervention it said has helped 450 people.

A sobering center in partnership with addiction treatment organization 12 and 12 opened last year. Deputy Chief Jonathan Brooks said with state law changes and other issues, it was important the sobering center deal with more than just alcohol.

"So, we have taken other individuals to our sobering center that have other substance abuse problems, whether it be marijuana, heroin and all those other things, because getting in that treatment is a proven concept to help them become the productive citizen that they strive to be," Brooks said.

Brooks said out of 65 people who went to the sobering center in January, 11 agreed to long-term addiction treatment.

In November, TPD set out with partner agencies like the city’s Working In Neighborhoods department, Mental Health Association Oklahoma, and Family and Children’s Services on Operation Direct and Connect. Brooks said over the course of that project, they encountered 260 unsheltered homeless people.

"Through that, we interviewed 188 of those individuals and made those connections to services that wouldn’t have been there before," Brooks said.

Brooks said dozens of the people interviewed had not been contacted by service organizations before.