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House Bill aims to fix Oklahoma mental health care crisis

NAMI Tulsa
Posted at 5:52 PM, May 17, 2024

TULSA, Okla — House Bill 3449 was signed to create programs to invest funds into the mental health workforce in Oklahoma.

The funds will support behavioral health professionals and improve access to their services.

Dayana Arteaga is a psychiatrist in Tulsa.

She’s had problems with the influx of people needing her services.

"We're seeing a large number of patients that are lacking treatment because they can't get into a psychiatrist for several months due to there being a shortage,” said Arteaga.

Representative Jeff Boatman said there's not just a lack of mental health care, but the state is in a critical shortage. Oklahoma ranks fifth in the nation for mental illness, according to the state's mental health department.

Arteaga thinks this is a huge push in the right direction.

"It's definitely a step in the right direction, and I think it's important that we continue to focus on allowing more access to our communities, “said Arteaga.

Lesa Clark with NAMI Tulsa, a mental health advocacy nonprofit, says she thinks this is a great push to fix the problem, too.

"The need for mental health services has skyrocketed. It's just more than ever before, and I don't see that going to decrease on its own, so definitely, these services are going to be needed,” said Clark.

Clark said that the bill's plan to improve access to a mental health professional can also have a major impact.

"I do think it’s going to help some of the people suffering most in the world,” Clark said.

Arteaga thinks this makes the future look brighter for Oklahoma’s Mental health care crisis.

"Whenever we are taking care of our patients that are suffering and that don't have access to mental health then our communities will grow,” said Arteaga.

The bill requires mental health institutions to report results to the legislature after the first year.

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