OKLAHOMA CITY -- A mental healthcare advocate claims she was blocked by her state representative on Facebook after messaging him with concerns about funding cuts to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
"If I had not found Northcare, there's no way I would be able to handle the day-to-day stress of existing," Emily Sanders told News 4.
In October of 2015, Sanders tried to take her own life. Thankfully, she survived, and after a lengthy stay in the hospital, she found the help she needed.
"I was going to Northcare four days a week. Flash forward two years later, I go once a week and once every other month for my medication and stuff like that," Sanders said.
However with mental health services in jeopardy right now, Sanders is worried. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services recently announced they'll be forced to cut outpatient services if lawmakers don't act to replace $75 million in lost revenue.
Sanders decided to contact her district state representative and budget chair, Rep. Kevin Wallace, to share her personal story about how outpatient care saved her.
In part, the message said, "I am writing you because without the funding to the department of mental health and it's services, I am not going to survive."
Sanders said she emailed him several times.
She told News 4 she also emailed several state representatives from other districts and they responded.
She also messaged Wallace on Facebook, and said he blocked her.
"I was always taught to stand up for what I believe in and to find a cause and you know, serve others. If the budget cuts go through, I know all of the people I go to Northcare with are totally in huge trouble," Sanders said.
We contacted Wallace for comment and he claimed he responded to Sanders through email. He released this statement:
“I use Facebook to provide information to my constituents. I don’t utilize it as a public debate forum. I responded via email to Ms. Sanders, and I welcome any citizen who has concerns about issues at the Capitol to contact or visit my office to discuss those concerns. Regarding funding for mental health programs, I cannot be more clear: I am not for cuts to these agencies. I authored and presented on the floor House Bill 1035X, which would have raised more than enough revenue to fill the entire $215 million budget shortfall and ensure that those health agencies would have their full funding to provide services and programs to Oklahoma citizens. That bill required a three-fourths majority to pass. Seventy-five percent of House Republicans, including myself, voted yes for that bill. Not one House Democrat supported that bill. I certainly empathize with citizens who are fearful that their access to care is going to be cut without funding, but I cannot force House Democrats to empathize with me.”
Wallace returned Sanders' emails Wednesday; the same day News 4 was in touch with Sanders for the story.