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
"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. …