“We need help,” Oklahomans rally at state capitol to protest Department of Mental Health cuts amid budget deal

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OKLAHOMA CITY – It was a sea of green Tuesday morning in the Oklahoma State Capitol.

Many people dressed from head-to-toe with one message: “Save Our Services.”

“I’m here for all the ones that have a mental health or a substance abuse problem,” said Nanette Hazelwood.

Mental health and substance abuse services are facing a proposed $75 million cut.

It’s a slash in revenue families said they can’t handle.

“It’s affected our family because my nephew, Marshall Dent, he was murdered about four years ago,” Hazelwood said.

Hazelwood said her nephew was addicted to meth when he was murdered by another addict.

It’s something she doesn’t wish on her worst enemy.

“I used to work at Mabel Bassett prison so I seen that one end of the road is prison, and the other end of the road could be death,” she said.

It’s a scary thought even for some of the youngest protesters.

“He has been in the hospital for suicidal thoughts,” said 14-year-old Ysabella Lougy.

Lougy is advocating for her younger brother.

“He’s 12, and he’s a high functioning autistic but he had all other problems with it too,” she said.

Lougy said, without funding, her brother would be lost.

“He relies on our counselor, which is someone he can talk to about personal stuff,” Lougy said.

Some of the rally-goers have their own ideas to bring in dollars.

“What we need to do is provide reliable funding rather than pushing this down the road and borrowing money,” said Sue Storts, a Tulsa psychiatrist.

Because, if not, they said thousands of services will disappear and so would many lives.

“People are going to die if this doesn’t change,” said Cindy Stober with Getaway Prevention and Recovery.

Just last week, House Speaker Charles McCall sent this statement:

“The state has available cash that the House could appropriate to protect healthcare services impacted by the recent Supreme Court decision. These monies would delay the cuts into 2018 or until a strategic budget solution is reached. It is important to note that the House Republicans will not allow these three agencies to absorb a $215 million cut. The reality is, we could avoid cuts altogether and provide consistent funding for healthcare if House Democrats would simply bring 22 votes to match our 54 votes for the cigarette tax.”

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