State Agencies Told To Cut Millions

Wednesday, October 11th 2017, 6:22 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

Budget negotiations are again at a standstill, so agencies that serve the state’s most vulnerable can expect deep cuts. 

"We've gotta figure out how we're going to provide the revenue to provide basic essential services for the state of Oklahoma,” said Senator Ron Sharp (R) Shawnee. “And right now, we cannot come up with any consensus."

Lawmakers are frustrated. They were called back into special session after the state supreme court ruled a tobacco tax passed in the final hours of the regular session was unconstitutional, leaving the state $215 million in the hole. Since then, legislative leaders and the governor have not been able to agree on a solution. So three agencies that serve the state's most vulnerable are bracing for cuts.

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which administers Medicaid, has to cut $70 million.

The Department of Human Services faces $69 million in cuts.

And, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services will be cut $75 million.

NorthCare is one of the mental health agencies that contracts with the state and works with about 8,000 adults with serious mental illnesses. They say those who need treatment may not get it.

"Symptoms that have been managed from psychosis and major depression would likely not be well managed without the medications, so you're going to see more problems in the community," Said NorthCare CEO Randy Tate.

Tate says that means jails and prisons will fill up, costing taxpayers more. And he says there will be an economic ripple effect. 

"These kinds of cuts would result in tens of thousands of jobs lost across the state, and those individuals have mortgages, car loans, credit card debt, all of those things which could result in lots of defaults."

The capitol will be closed for renovations next week so, at best, we can hope for an agreement October 23rd.