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Department of Mental Health to eliminate state-funded outpatient services if budget deal not reached

OKLAHOMA CITY – The cuts will be “unbearable,” and they will “decimate" our mental health system.

That was the warning Wednesday afternoon at a press conference from the commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Terri White.

White was joined by health officials, law enforcement, district attorneys and even chambers of commerce - all united in their plea to lawmakers to reach a budget deal soon.

If a budget deal is not reached by November 1, White said they will be forced to begin the process of slashing $75 million from their budget, which would mean the elimination of all state-funded outpatient services.

The executive director of Hope Community Services, Inc, a treatment facility in south Oklahoma City, said that would mean their budget would be slashed by 75 percent.

“Having to tell consumers that we serve that they’re no longer going to be receiving services, other than medication only,” said Jeanette Moore.

Moore said they would have to get rid of all services but the medication program and she’s not sure where their clients would go.

“They’ll end up in jail. They could end up in prison. They could end up in emergency rooms trying to get the care that they need,” Moore said.

It would be devastating for clients like Jeffrey Osburn, who goes to Hope as part of his mental health court requirements.

“It’s a God sent blessing, because the mental health court got me here to Hope,” Osburn said. “I come up here, and I go to classes and I learn about my symptoms.”

All drug courts and mental health courts in the state would be cut, and that means people like Osburn might have to go to prison.

“Oklahomans who are leading meaningful lives right now and are going through these systems as an alternative to prison will have no other choice but to go to prison. 4,600 new intakes into an already saturated prison system,” said Richard Smotherman, head of the District Attorney’s Council.

“December first, we do not have enough money to pay all our bills. We are $6 million short," White said. "By January first, we are $17 million short. By February first, we are $30 million short."

“Compromise on both sides is a must and, if we don’t act immediately, we will be killing Oklahomans on a daily basis,” said Midwest City police chief Brandon Clabes.

White said services that will not be cut include acute and crisis care inpatient services for adults and children and medications.

Someone is considered “acute” if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others.

If a budget deal is reached soon, the cuts could be avoided.

Mental health advocates plan to rally next Tuesday at the state capitol.