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Okla. Mental Health Dept. Asking For Millions In 2018 Budget

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The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is asking the legislature for tens of millions of dollars more that the agency budgeted last year. The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is asking the legislature for tens of millions of dollars more that the agency budgeted last year.
OKLAHOMA CITY -

The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is asking the legislature for tens of millions of dollars more that the agency budgeted last year. 

The agency director says the state has to spend money to save money. This is the time of year when state agencies begin presenting their budgets to lawmakers. It’s also the time when lawmakers are bracing for budget shortfalls.

This year they expect to be around $700-million short. Still, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is asking for at least $40-million more next year, on top of the $20-million more the agency needs this year.

“If we do not have this addressed by May 1, in May and June there will be no outpatient services in the state of Oklahoma, with the exception of medication,” said Agency Director, Terri White.

White showed lawmakers the cuts she’s made, but insists, only one-third of Oklahomans that need help actually get it. She says the agency needs an additional $40-million next year just to maintain the current level of services; and needs millions more to expand services like drug court and mental health screenings.

“That investment could be as much as $96-million and save four to five times that amount in the criminal justice system,” said White.

White points out, state prisons are bursting at the seams with roughly half of inmates suffering with some form of mental illness.

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