“Mental Health Crisis and Neglect in Oklahoma Jails: Lena Corona’s Tragic Story”

By | December 17, 2023

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Accident – Death – Obituary News : Lena Corona, an 18-year-old with bipolar 1 disorder, found herself in a dire situation when police arrived at her Seminole home in the early hours of the morning. Blood was dripping from her hand as her father stood behind her, desperately trying to stop the bleeding from a wound on his chest. Corona had attacked him with a shard of glass. Her father, Freddy Corona, called 911, hoping that the police would take his daughter to the hospital for treatment. But to his dismay, they arrested her instead.

At St. Anthony Hospital, Corona informed the emergency room nurses that she had been defending herself from dark spirits. Despite her mental state, she was eventually cleared by medical staff and taken to the Seminole County jail. Hours after her booking, Corona’s sister called the jail to inform them that Corona had stopped taking her prescribed medication, which had triggered her psychosis. However, the jailer only responded by mentioning Corona’s bail amount, which the family couldn’t afford.

Tragically, after just five days in jail, Lena Corona hanged herself in her cell. This devastating incident highlights the lack of sufficient mental health care available to individuals in crisis, leading to their incarceration in jails ill-equipped to handle their needs. In Oklahoma alone, 28 jail detainees died from untreated mental health or substance use conditions last year.

The laws guiding mental health and addiction care in jails in Oklahoma are vague, leaving jail officials to determine how often to check on sick or suicidal detainees, or when to seek emergency treatment. This lack of clarity and oversight contributes to the neglect, abuse, and deaths of individuals with mental health conditions while in custody.

Accountability for the mistreatment and deaths of detainees is minimal in Oklahoma. The state agency responsible for inspecting jails has limited enforcement power, and not every jail complies with reporting detainee deaths and suicide attempts. Incomplete data and inconsistent labeling of deaths by the State Medical Examiner’s Office further hinder efforts to understand the extent of the problem.

Recognizing the urgency of the issue, Oklahoma Watch launched an investigation into jail deaths in the state in 2022. The goal is to determine who died in Oklahoma jails, how they ended up there, and what caused their deaths. This information is crucial for preventing future deaths and advocating for better care for individuals with mental health and addiction issues.

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The prevalence of mental illness and substance abuse in Oklahoma is alarming, with high rates of childhood trauma, domestic violence, and incarceration. Many individuals do not receive adequate help until they reach a crisis point, leading to a response from law enforcement that often results in incarceration rather than proper care. The reality is that county jails in Oklahoma are ill-equipped to provide the necessary mental health or addiction treatment. They can only offer temporary triage until individuals can be processed through the court system.

Oklahoma police departments are overwhelmed with emergency calls related to mental health crises. While crisis intervention training is offered to help officers identify signs of mental illness and addiction, it is not mandatory, and not all officers are equipped to respond appropriately. Co-response programs and crisis hotlines provide some alternatives, but law enforcement remains the default option for mental health emergencies due to the lack of available resources.

After responding to a crisis call, police have limited options for individuals in crisis. They can take them to crisis centers or emergency rooms, but without an emergency detention order from a judge, they cannot force the person to stay for treatment. As a result, individuals are often either released or taken to jail, neither of which is an ideal solution. Jails are ill-equipped to provide the necessary care, but there are currently no alternative facilities available.

The tragic death of Lena Corona highlights the urgent need for better mental health care and resources in Oklahoma jails. Without proper treatment and support, individuals with serious mental health conditions or addiction issues will continue to suffer and deteriorate while in custody. It is imperative that the state takes action to address this crisis and provide the necessary care and support to those in need..