U.S. Justice Dept launches probe of Oklahoma's mental health services

The DOJ logo is pictured on a wall after a news conference in New York

(Reuters) -The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday launched a probe into whether Oklahoma, Oklahoma City and the city's police department discriminate against people who have mental health disabilities in the provision of behavioral care services.

The investigation will examine if Oklahoma violates federal law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), by relying on psychiatric institutions to serve adults with behavioral health issues rather than relying on community-based services offered to others, Assistant Attorney General Clarke said at a news conference.

The ADA requires state and local governments to provide people with disabilities equal access to programs and services.

In addition, the department will look into how Oklahoma City responds to emergency calls that involve a mental health crisis and if city police follow ADA standards on the scene of such calls.

"We will evaluate whether the state of Oklahoma’s failure to provide community-based services for people with behavioral health disabilities in Oklahoma County results in unnecessary institutionalization and unnecessary police contact," Clarke said.

The investigation came after a discrimination complaint was filed with the agency, according to a senior Justice Department official.

(Reporting by Tyler Clifford; Editing by Tim Ahmann)