By Associated Press - Friday, April 29, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma Health Care Authority board has approved cuts that could potentially trim care for thousands of low-income residents with mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

The cuts approved by the board Thursday limit how much therapy Medicaid members can receive, The Oklahoman ( ) reported. The board also approved provider rate cuts to behavioral health professionals.

The move is an attempt to balance the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services’ budget during the state budget crisis.

The agency has cut almost $23 million from its budget over the past few months as a result of two state revenue failures. Agency leaders don’t know if the department will see budget cuts for the next fiscal year or how big those cuts would be.

Oklahoma has some of the highest rates of addiction and mental illness in the country, but it ranks among the last five states for money spent on state-funded services.

“I wish that I was here because we were presenting an increase to behavioral health services in the state of Oklahoma,” said Terri White, state mental health commissioner, during the board meeting. “The fact is - before these cuts, we could only serve one out of every three individuals that needed help. This widens that gap, which is tragic. These aren’t cuts that any of us want to put in place.”

Independent counselors and therapists expressed concerns during public comment about the proposed 30 percent provider rate cut, saying that independent practitioners were being targeted.

Commissioner White said that’s incorrect because community mental health centers have been the victim of recent cuts, whereas independent practitioners have largely seen no rate cuts.


Information from: The Oklahoman,

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