OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A restriction in a measure that involves nearly $40 million dollars from federal stimulus funds going towards a new pediatric mental health facility at OU Health is stirring up controversy. 

The money cannot be used to perform “gender reassignment medical treatment” on minors, according to House Bill 1007, also known as the “American Rescue Plan.” 

“Eventually they are going to need somebody else to attack,” said House Representative Mauree Turner, D-Oklahoma City. “If you care about the 2SLGBTQ+ community, this is an issue for you.” 

On the other hand, Representative Randy Randleman, R-Eufala said, “If you love kids, you’ll be behind this bill. If you love families, you will be behind this bill. If you do not, you do not understand the bill… It’s giving money, pandemic money for us to help people who maybe are depressed from that era.”

Meanwhile, on Tuesday OU Health confirmed in a statement that the system is “proactively planning the ceasing of certain gender medicine services” at its facilities. 

A copy of the measure shows that $39.4 million would go towards the construction and equipment needed for the facility as long as the funds are not used to perform gender reassignment medical treatment on children under the age of eighteen. 

The bill explains the term as “any health care to facilitate the transitioning of a patient’s assigned gender identity on the patient’s birth certificate, to the gender identity experienced and defined by the patient.” 

It clarifies that this includes: “interventions to suppress the development of endogenous secondary sex characteristics, interventions to align the patient’s appearance or physical body with the patient’s gender identity and medical therapies and medical intervention used to treat gender dysphoria.” 

However, according to the bill, the term does not include, “behavioral healthcare services or mental health counseling, medications to treat depression and anxiety or services provided to individuals born with ambiguous genitalia, incomplete genitalia, or both male and female anatomy, or biochemically verifiable disorder of sex development.” 

“If you had someone that was transgender and they have depression, they can get services for depression in this just like anybody else,” said Rep. Randleman. “But the bill is not going to treat anything that gives you something that you’re choosing to do.”

Critics of the measure are calling it a direct attack on the transgender community. 

“When we have a legislature that is willing to hold about $40 million in ARPA funds hostage and an institution that is overly eager to comply. This could cost lives, especially trans lives, in our state. We want to make clear that trans children in our state are not a bargaining chip,” said Cindy Nguyen, the policy director at the ACLU of Oklahoma. 

For Rep. Turner, this topic hits especially close to home. 

“I grew up in Carter County, Oklahoma. A black, Muslim, queer Oklahoman and I was one of those kids who didn’t think that they would make it through high school,” said Rep. Turner. “I don’t want folks to have to feel like taking their own life is the best course of action.”

A spokeswoman for OU Health sent KFOR the following statement: 

“ARPA provides a major opportunity for our state to invest and partner in projects which will have significant health benefits for Oklahomans. The funding will modernize our technical infrastructure, bring National Cancer Institute-level cancer care to northeast Oklahoma and allow us to deliver the most advanced inpatient and outpatient resources in the country for young people who need mental and behavioral health care. The Legislature restricted the use of the funds from benefitting facilities performing certain gender medicine services. The new mental and behavioral health facility was never intended to provide such care.   The OU Health Senior Leadership team is proactively planning the ceasing of certain gender medicine services across our facilities and that plan is already under development.

As the state’s flagship academic health system, OU Health remains committed to providing excellent, comprehensive medical care to all patients while following all state and federal laws and regulatory governing bodies.  

We appreciate our long-standing, collaborative relationship with the Legislature, and we look forward to future efforts to move our institution and our state forward.”

April Sandefer, Director of Communications, OU Health

According to Rep. Randleman lawmakers will likely vote on the bill Thursday. 

Rep. Turner also provided KFOR will a list resources for the transgender community as “a reminder that there is support out there for folks, and they don’t have to process this information alone.” 

  • Trans Lifeline (877-565-8860)
  • LGBT Hotline (888-843-4564)
  • Trevor Project (call 1-866-488-7386 or text START to 678-678)