Governor Mary Fallin's mental health proposal would aid Tulsa Systems of Care group

TULSA - In her State of the State Monday, Gov. Mary Fallin proposed a $16 million increase in funding for mental health services, and at least one Tulsa Systems of Care program believes it will benefit from it.

"... Help those who are suffering from mental health illnesses, whatever their age, and we're going to get them the help they need," Fallin said in her address as she described a suicide at Coweta Intermediate High School that occurred earlier that day.

If lawmakers can agree to the increase in funding for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, half of the money will go towards the state's Medicaid match program for next year.

The rest of the breakdown:

-- $3.5 million for crisis prevention centers

-- $2.3 million for Systems of Care

-- $1.2 million for prescription abuse prevention

-- $500,000 for suicide prevention

-- $300,000 to annualize a jail screening program to determine if an inmate has a mental issue or substance abuse problem and what kind of risk he or she is

Wraparound Tulsa is one of the Systems of Care organizations in Tulsa that expects to benefit from a potential increase. Systems of Care organizations like Wraparound Tulsa focus on diagnosing children's behavioral disorders so that parents can better understand and treat them.

"We work with children with severe emotional disturbances and we help them," said Wraparound Tulsa program director Carl Haws. "We empower the parents to learn what disability their children has and how to connect with their children and how to parent in an effective way."

Terri White, commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, called expansion of the state's Systems of Care a big step because of its success in treating mental illness in youth.

"Mental illness and addiction are diseases of the young. Half of all mental illnesses emerge by age 14, three-quarters by age 24," she said. "So we know the earlier we intervene, the more likely we are to be able to avoid a lifetime or even decades- if not a lifetime of negative consequences."

White said Oklahoma leads the way in Systems of Care programs and other states turn to Oklahoma for implementation and ideas in their own states.

According to Haws, six months of treatment at Wraparound Tulsa will decrease a young person's chances of being arrested by 48 percent, decrease school detentions by 53 percent, decrease out-of-home placement of children by 30 percent and decrease the chances of self-harm by 39 percent.

White said the $500,000 allotted for suicide prevention, if achieved, would be the first instance in which state funds were appropriated for suicide prevention.

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