Oklahoma at a Loss for Mental Health Services

mental healthOklahoma is at a loss for mental health services unless extra funding is supplied. The commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Terri White, testified before the Oklahoma Legislature, telling the members that the department was in need of $21 million in additional funding to stay within their matching funds for the Systems of Care programs.

White said that it is not just about the 7,000 clients that may go without services, but its also about the phenomenal results that have come from the Systems of Care treatments. In Systems of Care, state, county, and local agencies partner with families and communities to address the multiple needs of children and families involved in child welfare and other service systems. Oklahoma is ranked first within the Systems of Care, and Maryland displays a sign in their offices that says, “Be Oklahoma,” in honor of Oklahoma’s success. Maryland is a close number two.

The program has given mental health a good name in Oklahoma, with self-harm incidents involving adults and children reduced by 39 percent. Crime and incarceration for children has been lowered by 48 percent, and there has been a 53 percent deduction in school detentions.

Oklahoma is at a loss for mental health services money for several reasons.

Since there has been a 5.4 percent growth in medicare patients, this must be accounted for in the corrected budget. Sequestration in the court system has caused an extra $3.1 million and grants have been cut for the Bureau of Justice Assistance. All of these budgetary factors mean additional funds must be allocated to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Service.

Many of the programs are fed by matching funds through the federal government. If Oklahoma does not match the amount, then they are lacking monies from both federal grants and their own lack of resources.

The consequences for the mentally ill in Oklahoma are vast. In an already over-worked system, there are 70 percent of adults and 40 percent of juveniles who need mental health services and are not receiving them at this time. A majority of adults and children who need substance abuse services do not have access to life-saving programs.

It has also been reported that mental disorders are the third leading cause of chronic disease. Other statistics show that death by suicide increase from 567 in 2009, to 618 in 2010. Life expectancy for those with mental illness is cut short by fourteen years, and those with substance abuse problems live to an average of 43 years.

One of the main goals of Systems in Care is to have agency collaboration. The purpose of collaboration is so children and families who come to the child welfare system with multiple needs requiring the assistance of multiple agencies will be able to receive effective services, since each is related to the availability and effectiveness of the other services needed by the family.

The other reason the Systems in Care works is that they fully engage both the family and any children involved in treatment by allowing them to make choices and decisions which affect their outcomes.

Although Oklahoma is at a loss for mental health services, the legislature may be able to address these funding issues and restore the potential for further success in the programs it provides. It is of utmost importance to those who depend on the services they are currently enrolled in, as well as for new clients.

By Lisa M Pickering

Child Welfare Information Gateway

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