The Mental Health Advocate Hub
Did you know anyone can advocate for better mental health and substance abuse treatment in Oklahoma? The Alliance of Mental Health Providers of Oklahoma provides tools and training that help regular citizens become seasoned mental health advocates. Our online Advocate Hub is still under construction, however, once it is completed, it will help you get involved and start advocating for better mental health and substance abuse treatment in Oklahoma.
Very soon the following resources will be available to help you become a better mental health advocate. Thank you for your patience and support!
- Click here to read our letter to lawmakers opposing commercial managed care.
- Click here to read news stories and blog posts about opposition to managed care
The following “Mental Health Opportunities” in the 58th Legislature (2021) have been identified by the Healthy Minds Policy Initiative, a nonpartisan, dedicated team of policy and mental health experts who collaborate with state and local leaders to develop and advance innovative, data-informed policies and capacity-building approaches in the prevention and treatment of mental illness and substance use disorders for Oklahomans.
Telehealth expansion and reimbursement: SB 674 by Sen. McCortney expands access to telehealth services by ensuring medically-appropriate health and mental health care delivered by telehealth is reimbursed and treated equally. The bill covers key recommendations made by Healthy Minds as critical next steps for cementing Oklahoma’s status as a telehealth leader in the COVID-19 era and beyond.
Spending and Strategy: SB 295 by Sens. Simpson and Haste calls for an analysis of mental health spending across state agencies and requires inter-agency strategic collaboration on mental health services across state government making more efficient of use of funding already allocated to mental health services across the state.
School-based data collection: HB 1103 by Rep. Mark Vancuren expands use of the evidence-based Oklahoma Prevention and Needs Assessment (OPNA), providing a critically-needed glimpse of children’s trauma, mental health and social-emotional learning needs in the wake of COVID-19. A voluntary survey administered to a sample-size of students with parental consent and no cost to schools, the OPNA will support long-term strategies to better integrate community mental health services with school-level needs. It also allows districts to work immediately with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health on specific interventions informed by their data.
Harm reduction: HB 1005 by Rep. Bush and SB 511 by Sen. Montgomery improve access to evidence-based services that reduce the proliferation of used syringes in Oklahoma communities while connecting individuals with addiction to appropriate care. The bill, intended to support first-responders and empower medical professionals, includes data-collection and accountability requirements ensuring programs achieve the desired results.
Reinvesting ODMHSAS savings: Amid a difficult year for Oklahoma’s budget but a time of critical need for mental health services, the State has a unique opportunity to reinvest in mental health services with no new funding. Savings generated by the pending increase in the federal government’s share of Medicaid expansion have created the potential to reinvest up to $29 million in mental health by holding ODMHSAS’ budget level with previous-year appropriations. This reinvestment could go toward improving crisis services and criminal justice diversion efforts just at the right time, as Oklahoma grapples with a rise in pandemic-related mental health and addiction issues. This would ultimately save costs by preventing crises from escalating to costlier, poor-outcome alternatives such as inpatient hospitalization or criminal justice involvement.
Other Key Issues, 2021
Medicaid and managed care: Oklahoma voters in 2020 elected to expand Medicaid, bringing health care coverage to an additional 200,000 Oklahomans with a 9-to-1 federal match. The Legislature will need to appropriate $164 million this fiscal year to cover the 10% state match. In addition, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority is moving forward with privatizing the state’s Medicaid program by hiring commercial Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) to operate the program, and legislators will debate funding for this proposal.
- Find Healthy Minds’ analysis of the impacts of commercial managed care on mental health care
- Read a November 2020 Government Accountability Office report on the effectiveness of MCOs
Children’s mental health: Recognizing the elevated childhood mental health needs caused by COVID-19, legislators have filed numerous pieces of legislation addressing children’s mental health in schools. Key bills include data collection through HB 1103; teacher training through HB 1773; school-based trainings and education through SB 21, SB 89, HB 1027, HB 1686, and HB 1568; and other proposals that focus on mental health personnel in schools.
Police and first responders: Supporting first responders is an important goal in 2021, with positive implications for mental health. One proposal likely to appear in multiple bills would shift responsibility for mental health transports from police to a contractor, alleviating strain on systems (SB 3). Public safety districts, HB 1970 and SB 838, could boost local resources for police and mental health diversion, while SB 87 highlights police-led diversion programs. Several bills also address officer training.
Breaking barriers: Numerous bills seek to improve access to mental health or addiction treatment via telehealth or other methods. SB 674, for example, extends temporary COVID-19 telehealth innovations, while HB 1005 and SB 511 increase access to addiction treatment. HB 1740 would allow more access to substance use disorder treatment information in hospital emergency rooms, and SB 902 would help ensure health coverage for people re-entering society from prison.
Click here to see a snapshot of these legislative opportunities from Healthy Minds.
Text Still To Come
The Oklahoma Legislature provides an online tool to help you identify your legislators.
Resources Still To Come
Oklahomans died from a drug overdose between 1999-2016.
Number of Oklahoma Adults with Substance Use Disorder in the Past Year
Number of Oklahoma Adults with Any Mental Illness
A Word From Our Board President
In 2020, I joined leaders in mental health and substance abuse treatment across our state to create the Alliance of Mental Health Providers of Oklahoma. We did this for one reason: To advocate for better mental health and substance abuse treatment in Oklahoma. Although together, we represent nearly 500 years of collective experience in this field, we need more than experience to care for Oklahomans. We need grassroots advocates like you to ensure local, state, and federal officials, including, but not limited to our elected leaders, provide adequate support and funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment in Oklahoma.
We are tired of being at the bottom of all those lists. What they ultimately tell us is that things are getting worse, not better, and what that means is more people are hurting in Oklahoma than ever before. We can and will change that with your support.
Thank you for your interest in the Alliance of Mental Health Providers of Oklahoma. There are four things you can do today to get started:
- Sign up for our newsletter via Substack. (You’re going to love it!)
- Sign up for our posts via Mailchimp.
- Follow us on Twitter.
- Follow us on Facebook.
Very soon, you’ll be able to join the Alliance and make donations to support our efforts. I look forward to engaging with you in person in the future!
Verna Foust, MS, LPC, LBP
CEO, Red Rock Behavioral Health Services
Oklahoma ranks among the worst states (45th out of 50) for a higher prevalence of mental illness and lower rates of access to care for adults. (Source)
Oklahoma ranks among the worst states (45th out of 50) for a higher prevalence of mental illness and lower rates of access to care for youth. (Source)
Oklahoma ranks 38 out of 50 states for access to mental health care within the state. This statistic takes into account access to insurance and treatment, quality and cost of insurance, access to special education, and workforce availability.
1.5 Million ↑
Even before COVID-19, the prevalence of mental illness among adults was increasing. In 2017-2018, 19 percent of adults experienced a mental illness, an increase of 1.5 million people over last year’s dataset. (Source)
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This land is my land."
Woody Guthrie, 1940
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4400 N. Lincoln Boulevard
Oklahoma City, OK 73105