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Thousands of Oklahomans could be affected by major cuts, mental health patients hardest hit

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OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is faced with a major budget crisis.

After finding a $20 million hole in next year’s budget, the department is forced to cut millions worth of services.

The cuts could affect thousands of adults and kids in our state, like 6-year-old Gregory Douglas.

He's been in therapy to work on his behavioral problems for nearly two years, building strong relationships with his mentors.

Gregory’s mom, Stephanie Douglas, said, "He gets in trouble less at school, he listens more at home, [he's] even more mindful of stuff, like keeping his room cleaned."

The proposed cuts for rehab could mean Gregory could lose these guidance services.

Carrie Slatton-Hodges, deputy commissioner of treatment and recovery, said, "That's an area where we're supplying that service to a wider array of people than it was designed to be."

Department heads said the legislature did not provide the funding to maintain behavioral health services.

Slatton-Hodges said, "We tried to keep categories where those most in need, or who it’s dramatically interfering with their lives, continue to get rehab."

The department said they're not trying to eliminate any services, but are tightening up the criteria for those who qualify.

The cuts could hurt businesses, like Life Resources Family & Children Resources and their patients, like Gregory.

Hunter-Wilson said, "These services are prime services for people that have social issues, communication issues, problems in the homes, in the schools."

A meeting about the proposed changes to rehabilitation services will be held on Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

The public can voice their opinions about the possible effects.

A final decision on the cuts is set for June 26.

If passed, changes could go into effect as early as July 1.