Mark Costello murder shining spotlight on mental health issue in Oklahoma

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- A statement released on behalf of the Costello family on Monday read, in part, “Christian, like thousands of Oklahomans, struggles with a mental disease and like many families we did our best to support him.”

Costello is being held in what’s called 'administrative segregation' at the Oklahoma County jail.

It’s not complete isolation, but it’s a higher level of security.

He is there both because of the severity of the crime he’s accused of, and for his own safety, because of the high profile nature of his victim and father, Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Mark Costello.

Christian Costello is just one of many inmates at the jail suffering from mental illness.

Corporal Greg McGowen is part of the mental health team at the Oklahoma County jail. He said Christian Costello underwent a mental health evaluation when he was booked into the jail.

That is standard with every inmate.

“Certain questions as far as suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, certain medications they’re on,” said Cpl. McGowen.

McGowen says inmates can either get an urgent or routine referral to the psychiatrist, depending on the outcome of that evaluation.

But there is only one psychiatrist for the entire population at a single jail.

“It’s a tough job for him because we have such a high mental health mental illness population,” said Cpl. McGowen.

And at any given time, he says it can be up to 75 percent of the inmates who suffer from a mental illness.

Traci Cook is the executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of NAMI, The National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“We know that there are people, probably hundreds, I don’t know how many, hundreds of people across the state that are sitting in jail cells waiting for treatment,” said Cook.

Cook says, despite the high numbers of mental illness in jails, a new study released in May showed mental illness does not equal crime.

“It actually proved again that people that have mental illness are less likely to commit a violent crime than the general public.  We just don’t hear about them.  They’re not as exciting.  They’re not as dramatic,” said Cook.

And as our state’s advocate for the mentally ill, she says she and the entire NAMI family was heartbroken to hear of the brutal attack Sunday night.

Jail officials say Christian Costello will remain segregated from the main jail population for now.

He is not under suicide watch.

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