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Oklahoma mental health services could see drastic cuts due to budget shortfall

  • Updated
  • 4
Oklahoma state capitol

A crowd gathers outside of the Oklahoma State Capitol March 4. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has announced plans to end all state-funded outpatient services due to severe budget cuts.

 

The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has announced plans to end all state-funded outpatient services due to severe budget cuts.

The department faces a $75 million deficit in its fiscal year 2018 budget due to the overturning of a contested cigarette tax. If no additional funds are appropriated, these cuts would be initiated the first week of November and fully implemented during December and January, according to a press release.

The cuts will impact nearly 189,000 Oklahomans currently receiving outpatient services, 700 treatment agencies and 8,500 therapists, doctors, nurses and case managers, according to the release.

Impacted programs include state-funded outpatient services for indigent and behavioral health Medicaid eligible clients, residential treatment services for children, drug courts, mental health courts and the System of Care program that serves vulnerable youth and schools, according to the press release.

The department's commissioner Terri White said the organization’s hope is to find a solution in time to keep the cuts from happening, according to the release.

“These cuts are unbearable and will decimate our state’s behavioral health care system,” White said in the press release. “Yet, they are the only choices the agency has left to keep from completely eliminating services for Oklahoma’s most acutely ill.”

Cutting these programs is predicted to cause an uptick in jail population, crime, suicide, drug overdoses, significant loss of jobs to Oklahoma communities and increased demand on local hospital emergency rooms, all of which White said will be more costly than funding the original services, according to the release.

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