Relief Funding for Mental Health

by Rep. Marcus McEntire

Published in print edition Oct. 6, 2022

Relief Funding for Mental Health

The state Legislature reconvened in special session this week to continue distributing American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to areas of need in Oklahoma.

One specific target for funding was to expand mental health care services in the state. To accomplish this, I presented, and the Legislature passed, House Bill 1013, which appropriates $125 million to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuses Services. Of this money, $87 million will go to construct a replacement facility for Griffin Memorial Hospital of Norman, and $38 million to increase capacity at the Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health.

The Griffin Memorial project will fully replace the 100-year-old structure and adds 100 psychiatric hospital beds to address needs that became more pronounced during the pandemic. The replacement facility will be near the original site but is to remain within a 30-mile radius of the state Capitol. An extra 50 psychiatric beds will be added to the Tulsa center. This is space that has been desperately needed in Oklahoma for some time.

This is the largest one-time investment in mental health in the state of Oklahoma, increasing capacity for high-level mental health treatment at two of the state's most populated areas. I'm grateful the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding, based on the recommendation of its Health and Human Services Working Group, saw the need for this funding.

In addition to this bill, several other pieces of legislation addressed mental health care needs as well.

The University Hospitals Authority Trust will receive $39.4 million or as much of that amount as they need to construct and equip facilities designed to expand the capacity of behavioral health care for children in the state. This is a huge problem for the state because we have limited mental health beds for minors. This means minors are put on waiting lists or sent to facilities out-of-state at higher costs. No monies are to be spent by the authority for gender reassignment medical treatment for minors.

An appropriation of $2.5 million will equip mobile wellness units for first responders, and $42.05 million will go to the Oklahoma Military Department to build a holistic fitness center for service members and first responders; and to make improvements to Thunderbird Youth Academy, a residential military school in Pryor that helps struggling Oklahoma students; and to construct a National Guard Operations Center.

An additional $6 million was appropriated to the J.D. McCarty Center for Children with Developmental Disabilities in Norman to provide medical care for children with developmental disabilities who are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

We also funded other health care needs as well as training programs to increase the state's health care workforce.

God Bless!

Marcus or (405) 557-7327.

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