Dept. Of Mental Health Worried About More Budget Cuts

Friday, February 24th 2017, 6:33 pm
By: News 9

The state's latest revenue failure has state agencies scrambling to figure out where they can possibly make more cuts, and also worrying even more about next year's budget.

Commissioner Terri White is an outspoken advocate for those with mental illness and-or in need of substance abuse services.

News 9 has spoken with her many times over the years, and despite routinely being underfunded, she doesn't engage in hyperbole. News 9 has never heard her say the sky is falling, until maybe now.

White said there are as many as 950,000 Oklahomans struggling with mental illness and-or addiction. That's one in four of us. But, the resources state leaders allocate to White's department only allow one in three of those seeking help to get it.

White said last year's revenue failure cuts affected treatment for 73,000 Oklahomans.

This latest failure means the loss of another $2.1-million in funding.

White is desperately trying to get lawmakers to understand the efficiency of funding mental health and substance abuse treatment, which costs anywhere from a fifth to a tenth as much as incarcerating them or foster care.

She said more and more people are losing their services all together.

“And when that happens we know that unfortunately and tragically we will see an increase in suicides, we will see an increase in overdose deaths, we will see more families who are torn apart.”

She's urging lawmakers to pass a tobacco tax increase to fund more services. She said, as tight as revenues are right now, they simply can't wait until oil and gas or other revenues turn around.