OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma lawmaker has filed a measure that she says can help improve mental health services in the Sooner State.

Senate Bill 1314, filed by Sen. Jessica Garvin, would require the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to provide Medicaid reimbursement for providers who screen children and adults for adverse childhood experiences.

The bill also would require providers to refer patients to services like mental health counseling, if needed.

Garvin says the measure is a step to increase the number of participants in preventative mental health services.

“I believe unaddressed mental health needs lead to generational welfare, overcrowding in our prisons, failing students in our schools, and increases the number of kids in foster care,” Garvin said. “We have to start addressing these issues if we want to improve outcomes in this state, produce more successful and independent adults, and keep Oklahoma families together.”

Joe Dorman, the CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, says increasing screenings will help the state better address mental health needs.

“Oklahomans who are negatively impacted by high ACEs[adverse childhood experiences] scores are often underserved because we don’t know they are suffering. Our First Lady, Sarah Stitt, has been active in educating community leaders about early intervention and providing hope to Oklahomans who are impacted by childhood trauma,” Dorman said. “I knew Jessica and her husband, Stephen, a child welfare supervisor for the Department of Human Services, had attended those trainings in Duncan and were passionate about this issue. Senator Garvin jumped on the opportunity to increase screening and data collection so that we have a better understanding of how to help serve some of the most vulnerable people in Oklahoma.”     

If approved, the measure would go into effect on July 1.