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Open Door Policy - August 31, 2015

 Oklahoma lost a good man last week with the death of Labor Commissioner Mark Costello. Though Mark and I were in different parties and only knew each other through his time in office over the past five years, I respected him a great deal.
            My favorite memory comes from two years ago when we both appeared at a civic engagement in Duncan. I invited him to stop by Rush Springs so I could send some watermelon back to his office; instead of following me, he hopped in my car and let his staffer drive his. We debated workplace policies the entire 30-minute drive and walked away better friends with a greater respect for each other. I found he was like me in that we both had the attitude that there are two kinds of people in the world: people who are our friends, and people we have not yet won over as our friends.
            After that, I had no doubt Mark was a friend.
            I had several opportunities to visit with Mark through the years and enjoyed his wit, his humor and his perspective, along with his blunt attitude. 
            I learned quite a bit personally about Mark after his death – his charitable acts of kindness, his personal sacrifices – which is too often the case when we lose someone. 
            At his public tribute at the State Capitol, the words shared by many point to a need that should be addressed by our elected officials. The necessity for improved mental health services in our state was the primary topic on how to honor Mark’s memory.
            Mental health assistance has languished in recent years, with only one true increase in funds given recently, but even that was reduced the next year. Far too many people in our state suffer some type of mental health issue, and resources should be dedicated to help offer aid, especially in the workplace. Mark’s family has called upon those wishing to show support to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and make a donation in his honor. The link is: http://www.namioklahoma.org/ or you can call for help at 1-800-583-1264.
            I mention the workplace because of the second well-publicized tragedy which occurred last week. Millions of people saw the footage of two journalists who were executed on live television and a third person was seriously wounded. It was later shown that the perpetrator was a disgruntled employee who had been terminated. His writings showed he was unstable and proved he was in need of mental health treatment. We saw a similar situation when a mentally ill man beheaded a former co-worker at Vaughan Foods in Moore and injured others during his rampage.
            Something serious must be done to aid employers and individual Oklahomans with increased assistance for mental health treatment before something occurs, not after. Our jails should not be the top facilities for mental health treatment in this state. Insurance policies need to include programs to better assist people. Other avenues should be explored to provide treatment to those in need, both privately and with public programs. If there were more opportunities to spot and treat mental health issues, the likelihood of these attacks would certainly decrease.
            I hope we take away from this discussion the increased awareness of issues in mental health and the action to help those who need assistance. Report to workplace superiors any issues which might cause concern, and be involved in the lives of those around us. Write to your elected officials and ask them to get serious about mental health assistance. I also encourage you to join with me and personally support greater opportunities for providing mental health treatment to Oklahomans who are in need.

 

Joe Dorman served House District 65 as a State Representative for twelve years and was the 2014 Democratic Nominee for Governor of Oklahoma.  Dorman is currently the Community Development Director for Heart Mobile.