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Oklahoma mental health providers protest proposed Medicaid changes

A group calling itself the “mental health militia” started their protest at noon Monday outside a children’s behavioral conference in Norman, which was hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: June 24, 2014 at 8:00 pm •  Published: June 23, 2014


photo - 
Teresa Atwell asks a driver to sign a petition during the protest Monday in Norman. 
  CHRIS LANDSBERGER -
Teresa Atwell asks a driver to sign a petition during the protest Monday in Norman. CHRIS LANDSBERGER -

Melissa Holt and her fellow “mental health militia” members stood on a curb Monday, complete with signs and petitions.

Holt and a group of about 10 other mental health providers and advocates, donning “Mental Health Militia” T-shirts, started their protest at noon Monday outside a children’s behavioral conference, which was hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

The group spent the next five hours protesting a proposed Medicaid policy change that would change which Oklahomans were eligible for psychosocial rehabilitation services, which Holt said includes helping teach people life skills that complement the talk therapy they receive from counselors.

Under the proposed rule change, adults and children would qualify to receive psychosocial rehab services only if they have been hospitalized at a psychiatric inpatient facility; have been admitted to a crisis center; or have been determined disabled by the Social Security Administration for mental health reasons.

Additionally under the changes, children might also qualify if they’ve been identified as having emotional disturbances and have related education plans, such as an individualized education program plan, for those mental health needs. Adults also may qualify if they live in a residential care facility.

Holt, who owns Elite Counseling in Kingston, said the proposed rule change will largely affect small private mental health agencies like the agency she runs in southern Oklahoma.

“It is going to be detrimental to children, families and individuals that need mental health counseling services,” Holt said.

The state’s mental health agency proposed the policy change after the Oklahoma Legislature did not allocate the agency all of the additional $20 million that its leaders said it needed to maintain the services it provides.

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority board will discuss and potentially approve the proposed changes at 1 p.m. Thursday at the agency’s meeting room.

Oklahoma has the second-highest rate of serious mental illness in the nation, and the majority of adults — about 70 percent — go without services, according to state and federal data.

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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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