Mixed emotions about City Council decision on mental health faci

Mixed emotions about City Council decision on mental health facility

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma City City Council has approved a special permit for a mental health facility to house adults. The decision however, comes with mixed emotions. People who live near the Cedar Ridge facility are against the permit, others say the decision will save lives.

Cedar Ridge is located on NE 50th. It houses adults as well as adolescents, but up until now it has been doing so without the proper permit.

"They were never zoned for adults. They were always zoned, the special permit dealt with youth," said city councilman John Pettis.

In an 8-1 vote, city council decided to allow Cedar Ridge to house adults. The facility had been housing them since 2003, but recently realized it wasn't permitted to do so. Councilman Pettis was the lone "no" vote on Tuesday. His constituents live near the facility.

"I will not support an entity that refuses to treat the people who I represent with respect," said Pettis.

"We're trying to establish a quarterly meeting with all the neighbors so that there's an ongoing dialogue," said Cedar Ridge's attorney David Box.

Box says the facility is working to improve security by installing new fences and security cameras, at neighbors' request. Neighbors say they also want to be notified when residents escape, but Cedar Ridge says that would violate patients' privacy.

Mental health advocates say the bottom line is, those adult beds needed to stay open. Oklahoma is facing a critical bed shortage. States are supposed to have 50 beds per 100,000 people, Oklahoma only has eleven.

"It's a real burden on our patrol officers because they'll transport almost on a daily basis. On average I think we're up to 150-160 maybe this year," said John George, the president of the OKC Fraternal Order of Police.

Every mental health patient that police encounter, who hasn't committed a crime, has to be transported to a facility. Most facilities in the state are full, including Cedar Ridge. Officers are being pulled off daily duties to take patients across the state.

"It takes two officers for every transport and they transport them to places like Ada, Ardmore, Muskogee and Fort Supply," said George.

That makes Cedar Ridge's 36 beds, all that more valuable.

"Those adults would have had to find another place," said Box. "They would have had to be transported again by the police somewhere else."

People who live near Cedar Ridge are concerned about escapes and many say they live in fear. Cedar Ridge says there have been eleven escapes in the last year, most were youth and none of them posed any violent risk.

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