Oklahoma lawmaker introduces bill to address mental health needs

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — An Oklahoma legislator has tabled a measure she says can help improve mental health services in the Sooner State.

Senate Bill 1314, introduced by Senator Jessica Garvin, would require the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to provide Medicaid reimbursement to providers who screen children and adults for negative childhood experiences.

The bill would also require providers to refer patients to services such as mental health counseling, if necessary.

Garvin says the measure is a step to increasing the number of participants in preventive mental health services.

“I believe that unmet mental health needs lead to generational well-being, overcrowding in our prisons, student failure in our schools, and increased numbers of foster children” , said Garvin. “We need to start addressing these issues if we’re going to improve outcomes in this state, produce more successful, independent adults, and keep Oklahoma families together.”

Joe Dorman, CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, says increased testing will help the state better meet mental health needs.

“Oklahomans who are negatively impacted by high ACEs[adverse childhood experiences] scores are often underserved because we don’t know they are suffering. Our First Lady, Sarah Stitt, has been active in educating community leaders about early intervention and bringing hope to Oklahomans who are impacted by childhood trauma,” Dorman said. “I knew that Jessica and her husband, Stephen, a Child Protection Supervisor for the Department of Social Services, had taken these trainings at Duncan and were passionate about this issue. Senator Garvin jumped at the chance to increase testing and data collection so we have a better understanding of how to help serve some of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable people.

If approved, the measure will come into effect on July 1.

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