The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is the latest state agency to unveil details about how Oklahoma’s revenue failures will affect its bottom line.
The department announced during its March board meeting Friday morning it will trim an additional $13 million for the current fiscal year that ends June 30. That brings the total amount of cuts since January to $22.8 million, and ODMHSAS says more than 73,000 Oklahomans will notice the effects.
So what does that mean? Three things:
Contracted mental health and substance abuse services will be cut by $7 million statewide
Service level and provider networks rate cuts statewide, including inpatient care
A tighter cap on psychotherapy services
Commissioner Terri White said the current cuts will limit services to people who need them.
“It’s when they can’t get help that we have to worry about increases with the criminal justice system, increased demand on law enforcement, more people ending up in the corrections system. That’s when we have to worry about more kids in foster care. That’s when we have to worry about the increase in suicide rates and other negative consequences,” White said.
The agency said once federal matching dollars are factored in, the total reduction comes to just over $36 million.
White said the lower cap on psychotherapy services will impede mental health treatment across the state.
“People will get fewer therapy services in both rural and urban Oklahoma,” White said. “And we know that if we have providers who close their doors, especially if it happens in rural Oklahoma, it’s going to make access to any type of service even more difficult.”
Janet Cizek is the CEO of the Center for Therapeutic Interventions in Tulsa, an outpatient mental health and substance abuse facility. Cizek said that when people don’t receive the mental health and addiction services they need, people die through suicide, homicide and drug overdose.
“It’s a public safety concern when you have children who are in school who are having significant symptoms, they can’t learn. We as a state need to start doing something. We can no longer put people in prison for their behavioral problems because they have untreated mental illness and addiction,” Cizek said. “We have got to start funding mental health and addiction treatment or we are going to continue to build prisons and house people in that manner.”
Oklahoma faces a $1.3 billion shortfall in the coming fiscal year. According to White, it costs the state about $2,000 a year per person to treat a mental illness or addiction problem. Meanwhile, the state spends a minimum of $19,000 per year to incarcerate an inmate. That number spike if the inmate has a mental illness.
“What we’re asking is that the legislature, and those folks at the capitol, as they make tough decisions, we know that preserving services here will save money and will save lives,” White said. “So what we’re asking is as decisions are made, that is taken into consideration.”
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