Access failure leads to tragedy in Oklahoma

Untreated illness leads to crime in Oklahoma

In yet another instance of our U.S. “mental health system” failing to provide accessible care, Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Mark Costello was killed by his 26-year old son on a Sunday evening in August.

Family members issued a statement saying they couldn’t adequately express their “shock and sadness.” They said that the Commissioner’s son has a mental illness which, without treatment, has caused “many difficulties over the past several years.”

The young man in 2012 told a judge he was taking prescribed psychotropic medications. But in 2014, he was cited for “outraging public decency,” after he allegedly stood outside an elementary school with his pajama pants down, “chewing on two bird feathers and what appeared to be dandelions and other weeds.”

A neighbor reported that he frequently saw him talking to himself or dancing alone. “He’d walk around half the time with hardly any clothes on.”

There were many warning signs of serious illness. Police, courts, family, and neighbors all were aware that he was ill and not receiving appropriate help–the treatment that might have prevented this tragedy.

It’s not clear from the news articles where the access problem occurred. There are four possible access issues implied by this story:

  • Treatment isn’t offered anywhere in the Oklahoma City area — not likely
  • Neither the family nor the courts were able to find treatment — possible
  • Treatment was available for him but he, his family, and others were rebuffed by waiting lists, fee or insurance issues, rigid appointment schedules, or other administrative barriers — likely
  • The young man resisted treatment and treatment providers were unable or unwilling to use an assertive approach that would have been adequate to engage him — very likely

To read more about this story, click here.

To read more about the relationship of untreated mental illness and violence, click here.