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Senator Backs Mental Health Officials in Parkside Dispute

The State Department of Mental Health is getting legislative support in its ongoing dispute with Parkside Hospital in Tulsa. The Tulsa mental health facility is planning to turn mental patients into the street unless the state agency agrees to give it more money for its services.

State Senator Ben Robinson, who helped monitor the closing of Eastern State Hospital in Vinita and the transfer of its patients to community treatment centers, said Friday that he fully supports the way State Mental Health Commissioner Terry Cline has handled the latest dispute with Parkside. The Muskogee legislator noted that Cline's top priority throughout the discussions has been the welfare of the mentally ill and their families.

"Dr. Cline is doing the very difficult job of delivering the best possible care to the mentally ill with limited resources. Throughout this process, his overriding concern has been the health and welfare of the patients and their families. He's been fair to everyone involved, bending over backward to try to accommodate Parkside's requests as long as they were consistent with his top priority of protecting the mentally ill. You can't ask for anything more than that," said Senator Robinson, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Social Services.

The state lawmaker noted that Governor Keating and the Legislature increased the state's financial commitment to mental health services this year, approving a budget hike. Approximately $3 million was specifically earmarked for mental health services in eastern Oklahoma. The state mental health agency was given the task of dividing up the money among a number of treatment facilities in the area, including Parkside.

"I think Dr. Cline has made all the right decisions, allocating the money in the best way possible. He has rightly recognized that Parkside isn't the only facility providing care to the mentally ill and that state funds must be distributed to other centers as well," said Senator Robinson.

Even though Parkside officials are threatening to stop treating patients in a matter of days, Senator Robinson remains hopeful that an agreement can be reached.

"I'm hoping that cooler heads will prevail and that Parkside will not make good on its threat to turn mental patients out into the street. Dr. Cline and the State Department of Mental Health have made a good faith effort to resolve this dispute in a manner that both protects the patients and provides Parkside with adequate compensation for their services."

"I think Dr. Cline, his staff and the frontline workers at Parkside and the other community mental health centers deserve a pat on the back for their good work. They have done and continue to do an incredible job in assisting the mentally ill and their families," said Senator Robinson.

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Senate Communications Division - (405) 521-5605