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Oklahoma mental health agency's budget cuts serve as launching pad for fierce debate

Amid a crowd of more than 200 people, mental health providers fiercely debated Wednesday the impact that a proposed change in Medicaid behavioral health services will have on some of the poorest children and adults in the state.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: June 11, 2014

Amid a crowd of more than 200 people Wednesday, mental health providers fiercely debated the impact that a proposed Medicaid change will have on some of the poorest children and adults in the state.

In an attempt to balance the agency’s budget, the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has proposed tightening the criteria for which adults and children can receive psychotherapy rehabilitation services, a type of mental health service that the agency’s leaders argue isn’t evidence-based for all patients.

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s medical advisory committee members discussed the proposed rule change at its Wednesday meeting, among more than 200 people in the audience, many of whom voiced their concerns for and against the proposal during the public comment segment of the meeting.

Under the proposed rule change, children and adults would only qualify for psychosocial rehabilitation if they met one of the following criteria:

has been hospitalized at a psychiatric inpatient facility;

has been admitted to a crisis center;

has been determined disabled by the Social Security Administration for mental health reasons;

(child-specific) has been identified as having emotional disturbances and has an education plan, such as an individualized education program plan, for those mental health needs.

Adults may also qualify if they live in a residential care facility.

After more than an hour of public comments and debate among board members, the board voted 18-6 to recommend that the Oklahoma Health Care Authority allow the mental health agency’s changes.

Mary Brinkley, a board member representing the Oklahoma Long Term Care Association, said every person who attended the meeting should contact their lawmakers because they developed the mental health department’s budget, not the board members.

“The passion that was shared today was huge, but we are reactive at this point because the budget has already been set,” Brinkley said.

Saving money

The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services proposed limiting mental health psychosocial rehabilitation services to a specific eligibility criteria as part of a proposal to save an estimated $24 million in state money.

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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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Upcoming meeting

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority board will discuss the proposal at a meeting 1 p.m. June 26.

Unfortunately, the services we provide are for the sickest of the sick, and for those with critical illness.”

Jeff Dismukes,
Spokesman at

Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services


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