Senate approves bill aimed at helping mentally ill needing assisted treatment

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Senate approved a bill that aims at helping families with adult relatives who need treatment for a mental illness.

House Bill 1697, “The Labor Commissioner Mark Costello Act,”  allows courts to order individuals to take part in an assisted outpatient treatment program if requested by immediate individuals involved with the person’s treatment.  For this to happen, the individual must be:

  • 18-years-old
  • Under the care of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse
  • Unlikely to live safely without supervision

The bill was named after former Labor Commissioner Mark Costello. Costello had been an advocate for mental health treatment resources in Oklahoma.  He was killed in 2015 by his adult son, Christian, who struggled with mental illness.

The primary authors of the bill, Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing and Sen. AJ Griffin, R-Guthrie, wrote in a joint statement they were hopeful the bill would give families a resource to help those dealing with mental illness.

” Unfortunately, by the time that happens, it may be too late to avoid a crisis,” Griffin said. “It’s especially  difficult for families who’ve tried to help children with mental illness, but learn once their child turns 18, their hands are often tied when they attempt to get their son or daughter the treatment they need to be able to function safely at home and in the community.”

Cathy Costello, the widow of Mark Costello, watched from the Senate gallery as the bill was approved Tuesday. She spoke in approval of the bill when it went before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee in February.

It’s heartbreaking for families who struggle to get help for their adult children or other relatives only to hit a wall because current law doesn’t allow for intervention until they’re a danger to themselves or others—and by then it may be too late,” Costello said.  “I believe this bill can help Oklahoma families before they face a tragedy like our family experienced.”

The bill returns to the House for consideration of the Senate’s amendments.