Oklahoma is second highest in the nation for rates of mental illness and substance use. We have been in the bottom four in the country in rates of funding for treatment services. We have all read of severe impending cuts in the budgets of both Medicaid and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, which would make an already serious problem all the more devastating. Urban Community Mental Health Centers are deeply concerned about the devastating effects these proposed cuts will have on their ability to provide ongoing mental health and addiction services to thousands of Oklahomans with critical needs.
According to Verna Foust, CEO of Red Rock BHS, "This is a time of true crisis in our state. We need a solution quickly. If thousands of Oklahomans lose behavioral health services, we will lose lives and it will ultimately cost more money in the long run.”
CMHCs are reimbursed for services provided in behavioral health, treating thousands of individuals across our state in dire need of immediate assistance. As nurses, psychiatrists and even the dispensing fee for prescriptions will be slashed by 25%, our ability to provide the critical medication and care desperately needed by patients in mental health centers and other settings is seriously compromised. As waiting lists increase, without access to medication, mental illness and substance use may become more acute, increasing the burden of uncompensated care upon hospital emergency rooms, or forcing the seriously mentally ill into the streets. Suicide may increase. While most mental illness does not lead to crime, there are instances in which some serious untreated mental illness will. In such cases, unmet behavioral health needs may place an additional burden on local jurisdictions, police, sheriffs, courts and jails. Convictions for crimes committed due to some untreated addiction or mental illness may add to our already excessive prison costs.
We implore our state officials to pass the Medicaid Rebalancing Act as our state’s best alternative to preserve mental health and addiction services for those Oklahomans who need it most. Failure to enact this plan will leave many thousands of Oklahomans without the help so desperately required.
Randy Tate, CEO of NorthCare, said, “The Medicaid Rebalancing Act is an excellent plan to ensure continued coverage for thousands of Oklahomans. Our state is facing a serious crisis and it must be avoided at all costs. This Act will make a difference for our state, for us all!”
The Medicaid Rebalancing Act offers hope to many thousands of Oklahomans. It will eliminate these devastating rate reductions and will restore current rates to the mental health and substance abuse treatment and safety net system, preventing further cuts for the next fiscal year. Almost every area of the behavioral health delivery system has been impacted by dramatic budget cuts. Drug courts, mental health courts, crisis centers and crisis services have been the only pieces of the behavioral health system left unscathed in the forced budget reductions. Without the Medicaid Rebalancing Act, diversion and crisis services will have to be cut next! This will only increase the costs in other systems … from emergency rooms to police departments and sheriff’s offices to the Department of Corrections.
The Medicaid Rebalancing Act will reduce the number of people currently using Medicaid. It will bring back billions of our own federal dollars to our state to use for our Oklahomans. It will allow hundreds of thousands of newly insured working families to better access a health care system without abusing the emergency room and further increasing premiums for privately insured individuals through uncompensated care.
This plan is a perfect fit for Oklahoma, exemplifying our pioneering tradition of developing creative solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems. This act allows us to create our state’s own independent healthcare plan that ensures a healthy Oklahoma.
“We are living in Oklahoma, not a poor underdeveloped Third World country. Citizens of our great state in the middle of America shouldn’t have to move elsewhere to receive essential services, which keep democracy functioning and its population well, safe and educated. We deserve more,” said Gail Lapidus, CEO of Family & Children’s Services.
NorthCare, Red Rock and Tulsa Family and Children’s Services are united in their goal to help this initiative succeed in any way possible.