Mental Health Executives Launch 501(c)(6)

The mission of the Alliance of Mental Health Providers of Oklahoma is to advocate for better mental health and substance abuse treatment in Oklahoma.

OKLAHOMA CITY, February 10, 2021 – Oklahoma’s top, private non-profit mental health executives have launched the Alliance of Mental Health Providers of Oklahoma, a 501(c)(6) to advocate for better mental health and substance abuse treatment in Oklahoma.

The organization’s inaugural officers are President Verna Foust, MS, LPC, NBCC CEO of Red Rock Behavioral Health; Vice-President Gail Lapidus, LCSW, CEO of Family & Children’s Services; Secretary Joy Sloan, LCSW, CEO of Green Country Behavioral Health, and Treasurer Jeanette Moore, LCSW, CEO of HOPE Community Services, Inc.

Other founding members include Dr. Bryan Blankenship, Executive Director, Counseling and Recovery Services of Oklahoma; Brent Black, CEO, CREOKS Health Services; Larry Smith, CEO, Grand Lake Mental Health Center; Jessica Pfau, Executive Director, Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers, and Bryan Day, CEO, 12&12.

SAFETY NET

The members represent eight of Oklahoma’s Community Mental Health Centers (CMHC’s) or Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs), and one Comprehensive Community Addiction Recovery Center (CCARC). These agencies are certified by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and nationally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) or Council on Accreditation (COA).  Together, they form a large safety net for the state’s most vulnerable youth and adults who fall at or below the poverty level, and who struggle with serious mental illness, emotional disorders and/or addiction.

This safety-net organizes and delivers comprehensive mental health care and substance abuse treatment services in 57 of the state’s 77 counties. These areas are depicted below in light blue. The counties in dark blue are covered by state-run facilities.

WHOLE-PERSON CARE

Every day nearly 5,000 employees who work for these safety-net providers answer the call to heal and strengthen Oklahoma families and communities by providing mental health and substance abuse services for persons with serious mental illness. In addition, they also now coordinate whole person integrated medical care to improve overall health outcomes for adults and youth. 

According to Foust, these providers employ a workforce of highly skilled clinical professionals including Psychiatrists; Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC); Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT); Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW); Psychiatric Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN); Registered Nurses (RNs); Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs); Recover Support Specialists; Job Coaches; Wellness Coaches; Family Support Providers; Care Managers and more.

“With our help, our patients get much more than mental health treatment,” Foust said. “We help coordinate medical care and we make sure clients get their medicine. We link them to all community resources including job assistance.”

STATEWIDE MEMBERSHIP

The Alliance is a statewide membership association, funded in part by a grant from the Tulsa Community Foundation. “We want to strengthen services for those suffering from mental illness and substance abuse,” Foust said. “We are aligned and united in an effort to reinforce mental health as a central component in Oklahoma’s health care system.”

The work of the Alliance includes public policy and legislative advocacy; public awareness and outreach; stakeholder coordination; product and service development; member support; networking opportunities; training, and education. 

ADMIRED NATIONWIDE

According to Foust, Oklahoma’s safety-net providers operate within a very sophisticated system that is effective, efficient, and frequently admired by other states and heralded by the federal government. “Our CEOs and Executive Directors, with nearly 300 years of experience in mental health, collectively, helped build this envied system with the help of many state partners including legislators,” she said. “The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have repeatedly recognized Oklahoma for having a high quality and efficient system, that produces excellent outcomes for persons being treated. We are proud of the work we are able to do because of the leadership of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and our partnership with them.”

CARE is MANAGED

According to Foust, Oklahoma’s safety net providers have been venerated for their enhanced use of data. They understand and support measures to manage costs, and yet still produce effective outcomes utilizing evidence-based practices. In this regard, Oklahoma has had a system of “managed care” in place. This system works very well when people have access to it.

ADVOCACY

The organization plans to launch a membership campaign in early summer. Meanwhile, we have launched a website that will serve as an important tool for grassroots advocacy. “We are in the process of ramping up our online advocacy center,” Foust said. “As providers, we have been on the frontlines in the battle to improve mental health in Oklahoma for decades. Going forward, we are poised to build a stronger, statewide grassroots advocacy effort.”

Advocacy efforts will include increased communication with local, state, and federal officials, including, but not limited to legislators. “We are excited about working closely with them to improve mental health in our state,” Lapidus said.

For more information about the Alliance of Mental Health Providers of Oklahoma, visit www.allianceok.com.