gif

Joining forces to change lives.

Feb 23, 2024 | Community

Established in 1915, the Griffin Memorial Hospital, formerly Central State Hospital, in northeast Norman will be relocated to The Donahue in Central OKC. Photo Credit: Aden Choate/OU Daily

^ Above: Established in 1915, the Griffin Memorial Hospital, formerly Central State Hospital, in northeast Norman will be relocated to The Donahue in Central OKC. Photo Credit: Aden Choate/OU Daily

Courtney, Sarah Smith and family.

Courtney, Sarah Smith and family.

When the topic of health arises, many of us think of physical health, common conditions or access to a doctor or nurse. Increasingly, these discussions also include mental health, and much like the topic of health, mental health is a complex issue, and the people impacted vary greatly.

For Courtney, life changed in 2016 when she was 41 years old. She was at Lake Texoma with family and friends when she saw three children go under the water and not come back up. She was able to help save two – but the third child died while she was helping perform CPR. Her sister Sarah says Courtney was never the same.

Navigating Oklahoma’s mental health treatment system has been a never-ending nightmare for my sister and our family.

Sarah Smith

The trauma caused Courtney to start behaving erratically. She lost the job she’d proudly held for 21 years and her home that she lovingly cared for. Even though members of the Smith family tried multiple private, public and nonprofit mental health organizations for resources and treatment, nobody could find the right combination of services to help stabilize Courtney. She would walk away from each facility, and there was nothing her family or case managers could do to stop her.

“Navigating Oklahoma’s mental health treatment system has been a never-ending nightmare for my sister and our family,” Sarah Smith said. Sarah is the legal guardian for her sister Courtney, who has struggled with schizophrenia and homelessness since 2016.

“There is very little communication between service providers and almost all of Courtney’s worst problems have come in gaps in care,” Sarah added.

Joining Forces

OCCF & Donors

$232 K

Arnall Fam. Fund

$5.0 M

City of OKC ARPA

$1.0 M

OK County ARPA

$1.5 M

State-Allocated ARPA

$87.0 M

Kirkpatrick Fam. Fund

$300 K

Inasmuch Foundation

$1.0 M

Gaylord Foundation

$1.0 M

When we got this big influx of federal dollars, we wanted to put it into something that would last another century… and will save lives.

Julia Kirt

Senator, State of Oklahoma

We knew if we could help create some synergy…we would have an opportunity to make real changes that impact people statewide.”

Carrie Slatton-Hodges

Former Commissioner, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

This collective endeavor and commitment to fostering a society that values and supports mental well-being…is extremely important.

Sue Ann Arnall

Founder and President, Arnall Family Foundation which donated $5 million to the project.

In 2023, Oklahoma took a major step forward in addressing systemic issues related to mental health treatment. The Oklahoma City Community Foundation joined with government agencies, nonprofits, private foundations, corporate partners and individual donors to support the Healthy Minds Healthy Lives Foundation. In September, the partners announced the development of the Donahue Behavioral Health Center housed at OSU-OKC in Oklahoma County.

“We knew if we could help create some synergy – bring together state, federal, local, nonprofit and corporate entities seeking real solutions to our mental health and substance abuse crisis – we would have an opportunity to make real changes that impact people statewide,” said Carrie Slatton-Hodges, former Commissioner for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “The Donahue facility and this public/private collaboration are huge and will change the face of mental health and substance abuse treatment in Oklahoma for the next 50 years.”

Architectural rendering of the Donahue Behavioral Health Center

Architectural rendering of the Donahue Behavioral Health Center scheduled to open in 2026.

The $147 million, 200,000-plus-square-foot facility will serve 275 adults and 55 adolescents daily, increasing the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health’s operational capacity by 100 beds and includes an Urgent Recovery Center for Oklahomans experiencing a mental health crisis. In addition, it will create an estimated 250 jobs for the local economy and a training ground for quality healthcare providers through a partnership with OSU-OKC.

“Bringing people together to address key issues facing our community is at the core of what we do at OCCF,” said Trisha Finnegan, President & CEO of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. “We are honored to not only be part of this but to be part of raising awareness and encouraging others to join in. The Donahue will be a unique collaboration that improves our entire community, and this would not have been possible without many partners working with stamina and intention to contribute to this important issue.”

In 2020, the State Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse’s report ranked Oklahoma fifth in the nation with more than 25% of our population suffering from some sort of mental illness, putting numbers behind an already apparent problem and sparking a fire for change. When the city, county and state officials had the opportunity to commit funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, State Senator Julia Kirt and County Commissioner Carrie Blumert, who represent the area of OKC where the Donahue will be built, recognized it as a perfect multi-faceted financial and resource partnership opportunity.

“When we got this big influx of federal dollars, we wanted to put it into something that would last another century to help people in our communities,” Kirt said.

OCCF’s Trisha Finnegan, Kelley Barnes and Shree Ledford present a check to Oklahoma Department of Mental Health’s Heath Hayes for the Healthy Minds Healthy Lives Foundation.

OCCF’s Trisha Finnegan, Kelley Barnes and Shree Ledford present a check to Oklahoma Department of Mental Health’s Heath Hayes for the Healthy Minds Healthy Lives Foundation.

“The Donahue Behavioral Health Center will change thousands of lives for the better,” said Blumert. “My mom’s life was saved in 2004 because she had access to a mental health crisis center. Many Oklahoma families can’t say the same thing, and they tragically lose their loved one. I am so proud that we invested funds from Oklahoma County in this project, and more Oklahomans will have access to treatment.”

But as a hub for mental health treatment, the facility will do far more than serve individuals. Addressing mental health is at the core of many issues facing our community.

“Mental illness not only impacts individuals experiencing it, but it also impacts that individuals’ entire community. How we as a community treat those experiencing a crisis reflects our values,” said Sue Ann Arnall, Founder and President of the Arnall Family Foundation, which provided $5 million for the project through its fund at the Community Foundation. “This collective endeavor and commitment to fostering a society that values and supports mental well-being instead of resorting to criminalizing some of our most vulnerable citizens is extremely important.”

The Donahue is slated to open in 2026, and that day cannot come soon enough for Sarah Smith, her sister Courtney, and thousands of other individuals and their families who are hopeful that it can help fill the gaps and improve mental health care for our community.

2023 Annual Report

To see this story and more, view our 2023 Impact Report.