Advocates like you across the state help initiate and support public policies that promote mental health, prevent mental disorders, and provide access to a full array of quality, integrated, community-based mental health services for all persons in need of them.
You can make a difference by supporting the following Association legislative priorities! For a full list of our priorities with bill details, click here!
Improve Access to Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS) has taken major funding cuts in recent years due to revenue failures and reduced budgets for all Oklahoma agencies. Over the past four years, the agency has lost a combined $133 million in state and federal matching funds for mental health and substance abuse treatment.
The Department has asked lawmakers for $197 million for fiscal year 2019. The agency’s first priority is maintaining current service levels. That will take $40 million. Commissioner Terri White said that number could end up being less if Congress fully reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
The current fiscal year funding challenge is a $21.5 million budget hole that exists in the current fiscal year budget. It must be addressed prior to April 2018 in order for the agency to avoid devastating service cuts in May and June of this year.
With this mind, the Association supports:
1. Increased — and sustainable — funding to ODMHSAS, focusing particularly on funding that directly expands services through community mental health centers as well as providers in private practice.
2. Making best use of all federal funds available for Oklahomans who are currently uninsured or underinsured by whatever means, including expansion of Insure Oklahoma.
3. Increased workforce training programs and strategies that increase the number of providers (psychiatrists, psychologists, LPCs, MSWs, and so forth) and incentivizes their practice in geographic areas and/or for populations where there are shortages of available mental health professionals.
4. Stimulating innovative practices and programs in the health care delivery and the payment system which better integrates medical and mental health services into the primary care setting.
5. Expand the Insure Oklahoma program, which would include state dollars to be matched with significant additional dollars from the federal government. This expansion of Insure Oklahoma should increase access to critical mental health services.
Support Mental Health Treatment for Older Oklahomans
We support the removal of any legal or regulatory obstacle that serves as a barrier for older adults with a mental illness with or without other chronic medical disorders to secure high quality, medically appropriate care in a residential facility should the need arise for long-term care services whether publicly funded or not.
We have recommended language for HB3124 authored by Rep. Meloyde Blancett and Rep. Carol Bush. It creates the Oklahoma Commission on Aging with Serious Mental Illness. The purpose of the Commission shall be to study, evaluate and make recommendations for any changes to state policy, rules or statutes to more efficiently and effectively serve the health and mental health needs of Oklahomans who are aging with serious mental illness.
Support Criminal Justice Reform that Includes Alternatives to Incarceration
Oklahoma remains second in the nation in overall incarceration and could be ranked No. 1 by the end of 2018. It’s past time to reform our criminal justice system.
Of the dozen criminal justice reform bills legislators considered in 2017, Governor Fallin signed three into law. Eight bills failed to advance but remain alive. Among those bills is SB793 by Sen. Greg Treat, Rep. Terry O’Donnell, and Rep. Tim Downing. It creates the Corrections and Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force. It will track implementation and assess outcomes from the governor’s Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force recommendations. If implemented fully, these reforms would offset the need for $1.9 billion in new corrections spending over 10 years, with a 25 percent increase in prison population expected. The reforms would actually reduce our state prison population by more than 9,000 beds.
Revisit State Question 640
“State Question 640, enacted in 1992, requires that all revenue bills receive three-quarters legislative support or be approved by a majority at the next general election,” according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute. “This year SQ 640 allowed a small minority of holdouts to block budget solutions favored by a large majority of legislators and Oklahomans. Oklahoma’s tax restriction is the most stringent in the country, and it has contributed to our chronic budget shortfalls and inability to respond to fiscal emergencies. Oklahoma lawmakers should put a new measure on the ballot to repeal or reform SQ 640 and give the majority the tools they need to govern.”
Public Funding, Tax Incentives, & Measures Positively Impacting Affordable Housing
Oklahoma policymakers have attempted to find revenue by eliminating the vast number of tax incentives which have made their way into law over a great many years.
While we favor a substantive review of the value of each incentive and, likely, would support doing away with or reducing many which serve no or little useful economic purpose for our state, we oppose wholesale elimination.
We are in favor of continuing or expanding the Affordable Housing Tax Credit which encourages private developers to build affordable housing in Oklahoma, a need for the many with low incomes, often due to mental illness or other disabilities. This can reduce homelessness and create jobs at the same time.
Rep. Regina Goodwin’s HB3394 creates an act prohibiting the issuance of a building permit or certificate of occupancy under certain conditions in accordance with the Fair Housing Act.
Sen. Anastasia Pittman’s SB1554 creates the Homeless Housing Coordination and Planning Act. The Committee will encourage, assist and strengthen communities to reduce poverty, homelessness and improve the quality of life for medium-income and low-income Oklahomans.
Senator Rader’s SB886 introduces an act to amend the Oklahoma Affordable Housing Act to not allocate state tax credits on or after November 1, 2018. This would completely eliminate the state subsidy which has funded affordable housing in Oklahoma Since 2015, having a negative impact on affordable housing production and economic development.
Senator A.J. Griffin’s SB953 proposes to amend the definition of “qualified project” to include counties with a population of less than 300,000, according to the latest Federal Decennial Census. Also, it adjusts credits claimed but not used in or after January 2, 2019 may be carried forward to each of the three subsequent taxable years. This bill is of interest to us because it allows for allocation of the credit to more densely populated areas of the state.
We’ll closely monitor SB1052 on involuntary commitment. Senator AJ Griffin posted this on Facebook about her bill: “Currently when a court orders a mental health evaluation one evaluation must be conducted by a psychiatrist. With our significant shortage of psychiatrists, this is proving to be extremely expensive and creates long waits for appropriate treatment. We are eliminating the requirement for the psychiatrist and replacing with two mental health evaluations by licensed mental health professionals. That allows psychologists and other professional therapists to conduct the evaluations. This is a collaborative request for both the Department of Mental Health and the courts.
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