State agencies across the board are dealing with a three percent budget cut. One of the areas that will be affected is Medicaid, and the services it provides to children.
These cuts will apply to all children covered by Medicaid who need mental health services. Thursday afternoon, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority held a meeting giving anyone two minutes each to speak up about the cuts. Most of them were health care professionals and those in the foster care community.
“Right now, we have between 700 and 900 thousand Oklahomans who need help, and, yet, due to lack of resources our funding is limited to serving only 195 thousand people.” Terri White, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner said. “So we have to determine who is in most need to get through that very narrow door.”
And there are a lot of Oklahoma children trying to get through it. Many people are speaking up about the cuts, but most of the parents speaking up are foster parents. Even though they make up only 10 percent of the families affected, they have the loudest voice. The other 90 percent of families are paralyzed. Their voices are muffled or silenced by financial or other reasons.
"If they have to go to an agency, they won't come. They don't have a car. They won't get there,” Staci Cochran of Myriad Counseling said.
The agency's budget is already underfunded, but now they are having to rip away another 9.8 million - something they don't want to do but have to do.
“There are families that are upset that they’re the ones being narrowed, but the fact is the data shows that we’re preserving the services for those most in need,” White said.
It's hard to imagine any story could be worse than those of sexual and physical abuse heard in the meeting, but according to the state there are. What money is available must be reserved for the worst of the worst.
“The children who are not being cut have even more complex health issues,” White said. “The consequences would be even worse if we didn’t cut here, and we cut somewhere else.”