Bryan County outpatient mental health services on notice of shutdown

By Joey McWilliams

In recent years, citizens in Oklahoma have frequently awakened to the news of state budget cuts in various areas.

Financial issues involving education seem to be the issue as often as any topic. But in the last two weeks, other areas have come to the forefront.

The state has announced that budget reductions in the amount of $215 million will begin for the Oklahoma Heath Care Authority, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS).

The ODMHSAS announced plans in a release on Wednesday to eliminate all state-financed outpatient services statewide in response to the $75 million reduction to its budget. Additionally, the agency said it has no choice but to initiate these cuts in November and fully implement them in December and January.

If initiated, these cuts will impact nearly 189,000 Oklahomans currently receiving outpatient services, 700 treatment agencies in communities statewide and more than 8,500 therapists, case managers, doctors and nurses and hundreds of support staff, according to the release.

This would have a major effect on Bryan County, according to Hunter Rambo, the Director of Substance Abuse Services for the Center for Psychological Development in Durant.

Rambo, a licensed professional counselor and a national certified counselor, said this would mean shutting down drug court and all outpatient services because that would be the first thing that would have to be cut.

“There will be no outpatient counseling agencies open that provide services for their clients who bill Medicaid,” Rambo said. “Our agency would not be able to survive.”

Rambo listed agencies in Bryan County such as the Center for Psychological Development, as well as Mental Health Services – Southern Oklahoma (MHSSO), Southeastern Oklahoma Family Services, River Bend Counseling Services, and others.

Rambo also said that without these services, there would be an increase in jail occupancy and prison sentences.

“You know, a lot of people who get to avoid jail – non-violent offenders who struggle with substance abuse and mental health issues – they’re going to be forced to be put in jail or prison,” Rambo said. “And what’s going to happen when the jails or prisons become overcrowded and they’re not able to house them?

“I feel like our emergency rooms are going to be flooded when all of our clients are in crisis because they’re not going to have anywhere else to go. It’s just going to be a mess.”

ODMHSAS Commissioner Terri White said at the time of the release the hope is that a solution is found in time to keep these cuts from happening.

Oklahoma Speaker of the House, Charles McCall. Photo: okhouse.gov

“At the same time, as of now, we must move forward with plans and to allow those plans to move forward without notifying all impacted would be unfair and irresponsible,” White said.

“These cuts are unbearable and will decimate our state’s behavioral health care system.  Yet, they are the only choices the agency has left to keep from completely eliminating services for Oklahoma’s most acutely ill.”

A temporary solution is in the works as Oklahoma Speaker of the House, Charles McCall (R-Atoka), has called members of the House back to the Capitol on Monday to vote on a short-term plan to keep these agencies from having to make these immediate stoppages.

Oklahoma legislators tried to fill the gap in the budget of nearly $900 million earlier this year by passing a $1.50 tax per pack of cigarettes. However, on Aug. 10, the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected the tax, stating the fee violates a state constitutional ban on passing revenue-raising measures in the final five days of a legislative session and without a 75 percent majority vote.

The bill had been passed on the final day of the session.

9204 Comments

  1. Suzy Herron says:

    I can’t fathom how the budget has become so unbelievably unstable. To put these necessary services out of business is going to create chaos for so many people who are acutely and chronically ill. Someone in charge of the budget for this state needs to explain the misuse of money and admit accountability for this crisis. Why not tax gas or alcohol and come up with other solutions or get out of the way to stop this mess.

    • LordKel says:

      Ask your leaders how much their fight on gay marriage cost the state? Their fight to try and treat video games as pornography? Your state leaders waste tax payer money appeasing their constituents with matters that are already proven to be unconstitutional.

  2. Ferne says:

    This is so absurd.. without the help for a person struggling going to jail is not a solution. There are people hooked on prescription drugs not just street drugs. I pray for this state.. this is so wrong.

  3. Delores Chemait says:

    So my emotionally disturbed students, most of which are in State custody or foster care due to traumatic home situations will no longer be able to receive counseling on an outpatient basis??? Just how do they think this will affect their education and behavior in school?!?! But, raise those cut scores on State tests and hold the teachers accountable….unbelievable

  4. Jo says:

    Continue to vote Republican and continue to expect more of the same. They are running the state right into the ground.

    • Denise says:

      Jo, it’s really disingenuous to make this about political affiliation. One has only to look at those states that are voting Democrat to see the fallacy. Politicizing issues such as this one is very dangerous and will cost people their lives.

  5. Helen says:

    Having worked in some of these government funded offices I’m not at all surprised. I saw much abuse in the use of these funds and little results.
    Our state money is spent on illegal aliens, squandered food stamps, abortion, fixing the books, pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s mostly a business not a service. And they want the few hard working citizens to pay for it. This is not our responsibility.

  6. donna says:

    there r too many people out there that need these services and cant afford to pay for it. this is absurb.call josh brechen40555215586and dustin roberts 4055577366. maybe we can make a difference.

  7. RN says:

    We in the medical field for many years can remember the pressure of making certain that a patients pain, anxiety & other diagnosis were being treated. Then when that happened years go by & rather than being proactive during that time suddenly we have an “opioid crisis” and we are over reacting again to the point Doctors are in fear of addressing pain & comfort. The people who truly have legitimate medical or emotional health issues end up suffering while the abusers of these medications still get what they are looking for off the streets. I’ve been in the medical field approximately 23 years & I’m saddened by what I’m seeing. It is proven & I have seen it many times when you treat a patients anxiety and pain both they get much better results. Once again an over reactive. These programs are needed and you are right mental health patients & those suffering with chronic pain will be in and out with inpatient stays, Ambulance rides and of course jail. We will over react once again at some point. It’s a vicious circle. Tons of money spent on petty minute issues that could have been cut.

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