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#FeaturedFour: Inmate Mental Illness, Quake Concerns, Mental Health Cuts, Oklahoma City Water

Debbie Chastain holds her the hand of her grandson Justus Sklyer Cobbs at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center, Saturday, March 12, 2016, in Lexington, Okla.
Sarah Phipps
The Oklahoman

Four stories that were trending or generated discussion online or on KGOU’s social media platforms during the past week.

Oklahoma’s prison system is operating at 122 percent capacity. The Department of Corrections says the $27 million in supplemental funding from the state’s Rainy Day Fund will help offset expected cuts, but it’s still just a drop in the bucket. A majority of Oklahoma’s inmates deal with some form of mental illness, and critics argue state-run or private prisons are no place for someone who should be in a psychiatric facility. In an audio version of her longer piece in The Oklahoman, reporter Jaclyn Cosgrove spent time with a man who’s been in and out of the corrections system for more than a quarter of his life.

Reader Brian G. Davies-Jones wrote on Facebook: “now i get it, the gov cuts mental health spending to increase private prison profits in turn leading to greater lobbying handouts to the state senate. gotcha.”

Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services commissioner Terri White discusses mid-year fiscal cuts on March 25, 2016.
Credit Jacob McCleland / KGOU
Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services commissioner Terri White discusses mid-year fiscal cuts on March 25, 2016.

Late last week the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Services outlined $13 million in cuts between now and June 30. The agency says 73,000 people will see diminished services, provider rate cuts, and more restrictions on psychotherapy services. Commissioner Terri White said the cuts go hand-in-hand with the steady increase in Oklahoma’s incarceration rate, and there’s also a risk for more children ending up in the state’s foster care system, or people taking their own life.
Reader Erick Church writes on Facebook: “Terri White is the commissioner, and she spoke at the metro employer council meeting I attended this week. She certainly changed some of my thinking regarding persons with mental health and addiction challenges. Oklahoma prefers not to help these people, but to leave them to their own devices. This usually results in death or imprisonment. Mental illness is no different than cancer, heart disease or any other illness in how it can be treated.”

Credit U.S. Geological Survey

Oklahoma tops the list of a new U.S. Geological Survey study of areas of the country with the highest risk for man-made earthquakes. Monday’s report concentrated on six southwest and Plains states that have seen a sharp spike in human-caused seismic activity since 2009. The USGS says the area it studied (which has about 7 million residents) has a 5 to 12 percent chance of an earthquake with a magnitude greater than 6.0.
Reader Danny Smith wrote on Facebook: “When someone is eventually killed or seriously injured, I expect the oil and gas industries wlll hightail it outta here.”

Algae grow on the floor of the pipe room in the Hugo water plant because water leaks constantly, as shown in this late July photo.
Credit Sarah Terry-Cobo / The Journal Record
The Journal Record

On Tuesday, the Oklahoma City Council went ahead with a deal with the company responsible for water treatment issues in Hugo. Severn Trent Services just settled its dispute with the southeast Oklahoma community, which included a nearly $1 million fine to the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality. Both City Manager Jim Couch and Councilman Pete White said they’d extensively researched Severn Trent’s proposal to handle Oklahoma City’s wastewater facilities, and they didn’t see any issues. But Councilman Ed Shadid said he was more concerned about the management and record-keeping, rather than the actual water practices.
Reader Amy Hanselman wrote on Facebook: “I am from Hugo. Big mistake OKC.”

That’s a look at four stories that audiences appreciated on KGOU’s social media and online platforms this week. We’re always interested in your comments, feel free to write to us at news@kgou.org.

KGOU is a community-supported news organization and relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.

Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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