Following are public comments made by Red River Youth Academy CEO Amy Steely at the Nov. 2, 2017 Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) rate committee hearing regarding the consequences of mental health rate and service cuts that will take place if the state legislature fails to adequately fund the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse services and OHCA before Dec. 1, 2017.

Good morning. My name is Amy Steely. I am the CEO of Red River Youth Academy. We are a 64-bed psychiatric residential treatment facility serving hundreds of children and adolescents from throughout the state each year.

The 9 percent cuts discussed today will be devastating to acute mental health facilities. What’s even more devastating is the 100 percent cut to outpatient and PRTF services that will begin in four weeks because our state legislature could not compromise on a budget.

What do we tell the DHS child welfare worker about the 14-year-old boy in their custody who is in the middle of residential treatment for severe childhood trauma? A child who has been moved from foster home to foster home for most of his life and is continually aggressive and defiant towards others.

Amy Steely 11-2-2017 SPARC meeting
Red River Youth Academy CEO Amy Steely

And what do we tell the parents of a 15-year-old girl who has been in multiple psychiatric treatment centers since age 6 and in detention centers as a teen? A child who is self-harming, being aggressive toward others, and has given up hope. With the help of her therapist and staff mentors she is just beginning to make progress and is starting to believe in herself for the first time in her life.

At Red River Youth Academy, we treat children with severe anger, aggression, and defiance issues. While society may misunderstand them as “bad kids”, we see them as children who are hurting. Who have been through painful trauma and need a higher level of treatment to start healing and adopt healthier thinking patterns and behaviors. Who will be there to help these children when all outpatient and residential resources are denied them?

Our mission is rooted in hope, second chances, and new beginnings. When the 100 percent cuts to PRTF care are implemented, there will be no hope, second chances, or new beginnings for these children. The suffering and negative outcomes will be tragic. And the ripple effect will be vast.

It is inconceivable that the status of Medicaid reimbursement for health and mental health care in our state has deteriorated to such a sad place.