2019 Legislative Priorities
Mental Health Association Oklahoma has identified and will continue to advocate for the following legislative priorities in 2019.
Restore and Sustain Funding for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS)
According to a report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 630,000 Oklahomans suffer from some form of mental illness ranking Oklahoma behind only West Virginia for the percentage of residents with a severe mental illness and behind only Utah in the percentage of residents suffering from mental illness of any kind. In a 2017 report, Oklahoma ranked 46th in the nation in mental health expenditures as a percentage of total state expenditures at 1%. Between 2014 and 2018, ODMHSAS lost $52.6 million, resulting in a loss of $80.4 million in matching funds from the federal government. Understanding the dire need for improved and accessible mental health services, the Association will continue to advocate for funding to support community-based mental health services, early detection and referral services, and crisis response services.
Expand Access to Health Insurance in Oklahoma
By expanding access to health insurance in Oklahoma, over 150,000 Oklahomans would gain access to healthcare, including nearly 97,000 individuals experiencing mental illness who do not have health insurance. States that have expanded health insuarnce have cut the number of mental health hospital stays nearly in halfcompared to states that have not. In addition, expanding health insurance reduces deaths due to suicide and substance abuse, which commonly co-occur with a mental health diagnosis. Expanding access to health insurance would benefit people serviced by the Association and bring additional Federal dollars to the state to support access to health coverage for more Oklahomans.
Support Criminal Justice Reform
In 2018, Oklahoma acquired the title of first in the nation in overall incarcerations. It’s past time to reform Oklahoma’s criminal justice system. Mental Health Association Oklahoma will continue to monitor criminal justice legislation and advocate for legislation that seeks to reduce the prison population, divert non-violent offenders to current and to-be established diversion programs, and promote equal opportunities for people with criminal backgrounds to successfully reintegrate in the community. The Association supports Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform’s (OCJR) 2019 Legislative Agenda that includes legislation relating to bail reform, cite and release, possession with intent to distribute (PWID) reform, failure to protect, verdict and sentencing, and sentencing retroactivity.
Increase Workforce Training Programs and Strategies
Increase the number of providers (psychiatrists, psychologists, LPCs, MSWs, etc.) and incentivize their practice in geographic areas and/or for populations where there are shortages of available mental health professionals. Stimulate innovative practices and programs in the healthcare delivery and payment systems to better integrate medical and mental health services in primary care settings. The Association will specifically support awarded and sustained funding for the University of Oklahoma’s and Oklahoma State University’s health care practitioner programs, which lost federal funding.