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More than 7,000 Oklahomans could lose mental health services, agency leaders warn

Oklahoma's mental health system faces a shrinking amount of federal dollars, putting further stress on the need for state dollars at a time when there isn't much money to go around.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: January 22, 2014

More than 7,000 Oklahomans could be without mental health services if the Legislature doesn't allocate an additional $21 million to the state's mental health and substance abuse agency, leaders warned Wednesday.

To a room full of lawmakers, lobbyists and private mental health providers, Terry White, the commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, addressed the potentially dismal future some Oklahomans might face without additional funding to the agency.

“If our agency and these providers don't receive an additional $21 million, we are going to have to cut services,” White said. “Every single dollar we don't receive is a cut. ... I don't know why the perfect storm came the way that it did this year, the year that there is no money, but we have $21 million in additional bills next year that we are going to be required to pay, or cut people out of services.”

The potential cut to services only further threatens an overworked state mental health system.

An estimated 70 percent of adult Oklahomans and 40 percent of Oklahoma youth who need mental health treatment do not receive that treatment, according to the state's mental health agency. Additionally, a majority of adults and children who need substance abuse treatment don't have access to that either.

During the 2012 fiscal year, the agency provided services to about 80,000 people. Meanwhile, between 700,000 and 950,000 Oklahomans are in need of mental health or substance abuse services.

White told lawmakers Wednesday at an Oklahoma Senate subcommittee on health and human services why the agency will request an additional $21 million, on top of the $155 million budget request it already has made.

The $21 million request in additional funding includes:

• A Systems of Care grant match: $1.6 million

• A 5.4 percent increase in Medicaid program growth: $8.2 million

• Medicaid federal medical assistance percentage decrease: $5.4 million

• Loss of federal funds from sequestration: $3.1 million

• Bureau of Justice Assistance grant expiration: $645,975

• Increased Medicaid enrollment and eligibility: $1.7 million

Oklahoma is a national leader in Systems of Care, an evidence-based program that serves children in 58 counties who have complex mental health and substance abuse issues.

Oklahoma receives a Systems of Care grant from the federal government. However, to receive the federal money, the state must provide matching funds.

Systems of Care programs address the needs of children who are being served by multiple systems, including children in Oklahoma Department of Human Services or Office of Juvenile Affairs custody. Systems of Care programs also address the needs of those children's families.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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