Shaelynn Listen doesn't miss the orchestra.
It used to play nonstop in her head. It was sort of like how a person might hear voices.
The only way to make it stop was to pick up her flute.
Years of undiagnosed anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder, mixed with relentless bullying since third grade, had driven Listen to a dark place.
Music was her only escape.
“I remember certain times I would go up to my mother and say, ‘What's wrong with me? I don't like feeling like this,'” Listen said. “And once I finally got the answer to all of my questions, it was almost like a sigh of relief — that I finally have a name to explain why I'm feeling like this.”
In college, Listen started seeing a psychologist, whom she was manipulating. She would tell the doctor what needed to be heard. Meanwhile, at home, she was abusing Xanax, marijuana and any opiate that was around.
What many families don't realize is, although the psychologist can't tell them anything about their adult children, family members can tell the psychologist about what behavior they're seeing.
“I finally had to come to a place where I had to quit denying that there was something radically wrong and she needed some really intense treatment,” said Listen's mother, Eileen Morefield.
One morning, Morefield called Listen's psychologist. That afternoon, Listen was admitted into the St. Anthony outpatient treatment program.
“That does not usually happen,” Morefield said.
Many face obstacles
Morefield, who volunteers with an Edmond support group, often hears stories of people who can't get help. Either the wait is long, or they're uninsured and don't qualify for a service.
Listen was insured and already had a psychologist. She could ease into a program quickly.
Sometimes, uninsured Oklahomans who need mental health treatment can find help through community mental health centers, which receive public money.
Traci Cook regularly talks to people who don't qualify to be treated at these centers. Often, they're uninsured working adults who make too much money to qualify for state-funded services.
“To meet the requirements for that mental health center, you've got to be incredibly poor,” said Cook, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Oklahoma.
It's difficult for this group to find a psychologist or psychiatrist. It's also a challenge to pay for medication.
“If you don't have insurance to cover it and you don't qualify for state aid, those are the folks who really struggle — the folks in the middle,” Cook said.
Under the Affordable Care Act, Oklahoma had the decision of whether to expand its Medicaid program, a state and federally funded insurance program for low-income children and adults.
This meant the program would change some of its requirements and that more people would qualify for Medicaid.
Gov. Mary Fallin announced in November that Oklahoma would not expand its program, citing the high costs that she felt the state would have to pay to implement the expansion.
“Such an expansion would be unaffordable, costing the state of Oklahoma up to $475 million between now and 2020, with escalating annual expenses in subsequent years,” Fallin said in a statement in November. “It would also further Oklahoma's reliance on federal money that may or may not be available in the future given the dire fiscal problems facing the federal government.”
Experts predict nearly 60,000 Oklahomans with mental illnesses would have qualified for Medicaid under the expansion.
These are the “folks in the middle” that Cook references.
“The cost of those people without insurance to our communities is way higher than giving them Medicaid and giving them access to treatment,” Cook said.