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Oklahoma mental health sites face closures, employee layoffs

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: November 14, 2009
About 100 employees are expected to be laid off as the state Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Department closes a Norman substance abuse treatment center for adults and eliminates all of the state’s 40 mental health beds for children at another Norman facility.

Plans also call for closing a men’s treatment center in Tahlequah, as well as tightening operations at Griffin Memorial Hospital in Norman.

The $7.3 million in cuts are the result of additional 5 percent cuts in monthly state allocations the agency has to make through June. All state agencies and departments have been told to expect monthly 5 percent cuts to continue through June.

The state board governing the department approved the plans during its meeting Friday.

"We are hoping and keeping our fingers crossed that this is it,” Terri White, the state’s mental health commissioner, told board members. "It could get worse, that’s what scares me. ... This agency cannot take any more cuts without even more dire consequences.”

Legislative leaders are pushing for more cuts to make up for revenues that have come in more than 20 percent below estimates for the first third of this fiscal year.

The department’s staff will work out details on the plan, but it’s estimated 100 employees will lose their jobs, White said. The department still is identifying which positions will be cut; employees will go through a reduction-in-force process and probably will be laid off in December or January.

These most recent cuts will bring to about $16 million the budget cuts that the department has made since the start of the fiscal year.

The department’s state budget is about $200 million this fiscal year; it also receives another $100 million in mostly federal dollars. It employs about 2,200 people.

Plans call to merge the Norman Alcohol and Drug Treatment Center, a 60-resident substance abuse facility, and the Children’s Recovery Center.

The plan to cut $7.3 million from the state Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Department calls for:

• Merging the Children’s Recovery Center and the Norman Alcohol Drug Treatment Center: $3.8 million.

• Closing the Bill Willis Community Mental Health Center in Tahlequah and restructuring beds at centers in Vinita and Woodward: $1.4 million.

• Griffin Memorial Hospital modernization plan: $1 million.

• Reducing mental health provider contracts: $500,000.

• Reducing substance abuse provider contracts: $185,000.

• Reducing advocacy contracts: $410,000.

• Implementing, from January to June, one-day-a-month furloughs for the mental health commissioner and four administrators: $16,283.


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