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Mental health officials: Cuts mean thousands of Oklahomans will lose services

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OKLAHOMA CITY - $9.8 million will be slashed from mental health services in our state by June.

That means millions will be pulled out of treatment centers.

This year’s budget shortfall only makes matters worse.

In Governor Fallin’s State of the State address, she proposed cuts for every agency, including a 3 percent cut for mental health.

That means another $10 million in cuts.

Now, state officials said they’ll be forced to only treat the most severe cases, leaving many patients without treatment.

Right now, Oklahoma is only funded to serve about 200,000 patients for mental health treatment, when state officials say up to 950,000 need it.

Terri White is the commissioner for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Wednesday, she briefed a group of senators on how they’re cutting $9.8 million from their budget.

Since their administrative costs account for only 3 percent of that, now they have to cut services.

“We push our dollars out into the community to provide treatment to Oklahomans, so these are people who are accessing services because of their mental illness," White said. "They need medication. They need therapy, and those services are at risk."

The agency will roll out of the cuts through June.

White said about 1,600 Oklahomans will lose the services they’re getting now and, with Fallin’s budget proposal, you can multiply that number by 10.

“Another three percent is another 10 million dollars out of an already underfunded system and will affect at least, at least 16,000 Oklahomans,” White said.

Cathy Costello is urging the legislature to keep more cuts from happening.

You’ll remember, her son, Christian Costello, who suffers with mental illness, is accused of murdering his father, Labor Commissioner Mark Costello, back in August.

“You’re spending the money somewhere. You’ll spend it on mental health, or you’ll spend it in the jails and prisons, because over 57 percent of people in prison who are there long-term suffer with mental illness,” Costello said.

White said cutting services will also likely lead to a spike in suicides, school dropout rates and crime.

The senate sub-committee is expected to meet again in the next few weeks.

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