On Oct. 18, Commissioner Terri White of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services announced that SoonerCare reimbursement for all psychiatric residential treatment facility (PRTF) services and outpatient services will end on Dec. 1, 2017 if the legislature does not find funding to make up for the significant budget hole that was created when the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled the $1.50 cigarette fee unconstitutional. If members of the legislature choose to put politics over people by failing to find a solution, the result will be devastating to the many children in critical need of mental health treatment in our state.

We must ensure that every member of the Oklahoma Legislature understands the serious toll these cuts would have on some of the most vulnerable children in our state. We encourage you to share this urgent message with legislators and fellow community members about this important issue. Together, we can ensure our friends, family and neighbors continue to have access to the treatment they need to survive and thrive.

Why Action Is Necessary

In 2016, 100,813 children younger than 21 received behavioral health care services through SoonerCare. Of those children, 3,923 of them had conditions so severe that they sought care at a psychiatric residential treatment center, and 74,537 children received outpatient behavioral care.

Cutting reimbursement for residential and outpatient treatment would have a devastating impact on the future of our kids, families and communities throughout Oklahoma.

If lawmakers fail to act and allow these cuts to go into effect, the impact will result in:

  • Closure of residential behavioral health treatment facilities – eliminating access to needed care.
  • Overcrowding in our hospital emergency rooms due to behavioral health treatment being sought there – decreasing much-needed access to acute care.
  • Increases in suicide rates, self-harm rates, substance abuse, assault and battery, child abuse and homelessness.
  • Overcrowding and dangerous conditions in detention centers and jails costing local governments and taxpayers millions of dollars.
  • Lack of safe resources and treatments for child welfare to provide parents and children, including residential and outpatient mental health treatment and abuse prevention programs.
  • There will be higher demand for, and less access to, acute psychiatric beds.
  • With these critical services at risk, the burden for caring for children and adults with mental illness will be shifted to schools, police departments, hospital emergency rooms, detention centers, DHS, Office of Juvenile Affairs, and courts – resulting in a drain on their staffs and resources at a time when there is no new funding available.
  • Oklahoma families will have to pay out of pocket to send their children to other states for treatment.

About Our Services & the Youth We Serve

At Red River Youth Academy, we treat children and adolescents with severe anger, aggression, and defiance. These children are often misunderstood because of their behavior, when they really need help processing trauma. Some of our youth are unable to trust or respect adults and authority figures because they were the source of their trauma and pain, or they never had a chance to bond with a parental figure in a healthy way.

Severe abuse and neglect changes the chemistry and structure of the developing brain. Research indicates we have until age 22 to structurally change that damage. Treatment helps develop patterns and habits that cause pathways in the brain to be stronger than the aggressive, frontal cortex pathways. Habits cannot be fixed in 7 days of acute care. Children need time to process their past and rebuild bonds, and the positive role models they work with in residential treatment helps do that.

Parents also receive counseling to rebuild parenting skills.

How You Can Help: Join Our Efforts Today!

Oklahoma mental health providers, hospitals, advocates, consumers, law enforcement, district attorneys, and others have come together to educate lawmakers on the importance of mental health funding and treatment. This coalition is demanding legislators find a solution to this crisis – one that puts people over politics and ensures access to needed mental health services.

State legislators need to hear from you! Make calls, send emails, attend the Save Our Services rally at the Capitol on October 24, from 10 a.m. to noon, and share our messages with others.

To find your Representative or Senator, please visit: http://www.oklegislature.gov/ and enter your address in the “Find My Legislator” box at the bottom of the homepage.

About Red River Youth Academy: In 2016, Red River Youth Academy treated approximately 250 children from 82 cities and 43 counties across Oklahoma – from Beaver to Locust Grove, Hobart to Antlers. We employ more than 65 staff who have special training to work with children with behavioral health conditions and a history of trauma. Red River Youth Academy is dedicated to advocating on behalf of the children and families we serve to ensure they have access to the services and support they need.