Oklahoma City Treatment Center Helps Women Tackle Substance Abuse

Article excerpt

Every day, Mari Mullens is held accountable for the choices she made - the drug use that nearly landed her in prison and the life that she saw spiral out of control.

And every day, she gets back a little piece of herself during her treatment for substance abuse.

Mullens is among the residents at Jordan's Crossing, a treatment center for women in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma leads the nation in incarceration of women, but the majority of those sentences are linked to drug use. Recent efforts across the state have sought to pave the way for more women to find their way to treatment instead of prison, where they can tackle the issues that led them to start using drugs in the first place.

But with the state's budget woes still devastating the Oklahoma Department of Mental and Substance Abuse Services, the outlook is grim.

"When a woman commits a nonviolent crime, it is often related to substance abuse," said Karen Walker, executive director of Jordan's Crossing. "It is much more beneficial to them and to society to get them into treatment rather than incarcerate them. There are very few programs in prison. It is also costs much more to incarcerate women than it does to provide treatment, even long-term treatment. And that's just the actual costs. It doesn't include the emotional costs of having a mother and her child separated and families broken apart. I think it's really important for the Legislature to look at the total cost, not just the cost you can look at in a nutshell. You have to look at the overall problem."

In the meantime, Walker and her staff are bracing for the possibility of more cuts. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has already trimmed more than $17 million from its budget since July. More may be coming, Walker said, and those cuts may be passed along to its contractors. Jordan's Crossing receives the majority of its funding from the state, so a cut would mean fewer people could receive treatment, she said.

The center already has a waiting list of about 35 people, she said, so a cut would mean a longer wait. To stay afloat, Walker has been working to diversify her funding. A few months ago, the center launched Jordan's Landing - 20 additional beds for the private-pay sector. She researched similar programs across the state and kept her costs as low as possible -- $3,900 for 30 days of treatment - which she believes to be among the lowest in the state. …

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