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Hillcrest Emergency Room Psychiatrist weighs in on mental health services

Posted at 9:44 PM, Sep 29, 2022

TULSA, Okla. — “I want you to talk with a psychiatrist. I want you to talk with an Emergency Room doctor," Tulsa County District Attorney, Steve Kunzweiler said at a news conference Tuesday.

This was Kunzweiler's call to action to Oklahoma lawmakers. 2 News Oklahoma talked with one of those experts.

Dr. Rod Purdie works in the Emergency Room at Hillcrest Medical Center. He specializes in behavioral medication.

“We see people who have had recent suicide thoughts, or maybe a recent suicide attempt every day," Purdie said.

He said he sees patients with a wide spectrum of mental health problems.

“People who are hallucinating, people who are dealing with drug, or addiction, or alcoholism…even homicidal thoughts," Purdie said.

His job is to asses their biological and social situations to figure out what kind of care they need. But he said assessing their needs is only the first step, finding care can be an even bigger challenge.

Purdie said the recent closure of psychiatric facilities slashed bed capacity.

“There was a psychiatric unit at Hillcrest where I work, that closed. St. John closed I think 10 years ago, and Shadow Mountain closed about four years ago, so we do feel the impact of not having local beds, especially when we’re dealing with people with pediatrics who are in need of psychiatric help," he said.

Purdie said even less-intensive treatments, like talk therapy, are limited, too.

"I think it’s also extremely difficult to get plugged in to the outpatient services often times. There’s a limited number of therapists in Green Country that can provide the necessary treatment," he said.

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said this week, these gaps in the healthcare system need to be fixed. Adding, he wants lawmakers to talk to patients, first-responders and doctors, like Purdie, to find a solution.

“The elected leaders of the state legislature need to make this a priority. Protecting our citizens is your job. Providing adequate infrastructure to safeguard all mentally ill citizens is your job," Steve Kunzweiler, Tulsa County District Attorney said.

Purdie said expanding medicaid would help lower the barriers for mental health services and help keep psychiatric hospitals open and running to help Oklahomans.

Purdie says expanding Medicaid would help lower the barriers for mental health services.

“If people are not able to keep the lights on, and paid to keep their offices, unless they are getting and adequate reimbursement," Purdie said.

Purdie said if you know someone who may need some help, listen to them and offer to work together to get them the help they need to get to a better state of mind.

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