Oklahoma’s mental services suffer cuts

State financial troubles leave care for some patients in limbo
By Sonya Colberg

A huge question looms for Susan Boehrer. And she figures she has particular insight, because mental illness plunged her daughter into more than 400 days of hospitalization and a violent conduct disorder made her son a ward of the juvenile justice system.

“Do you really want to be driving down the road, looking at the car next to you, wondering if that’s one of the folks who, because of the cuts to mental health, aren’t receiving the services they need?” Boehrer said.

It’s a question she said more people likely will be asking as budget cuts — about $17 million and counting — deplete the state Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Department. Already almost half of the 400 available beds have been cut. More cuts are on the way.

The impact will be wide-ranging, Boehrer, of Washington, OK, said.

“If my child is in class with your child and my child isn’t receiving the mental health services that they need, then my child is still going to be in your child’s class,” she said. “Except for now, it’s going to take more resources to serve my child and more of the teacher’s time. Which means it’s going to take away from someone else’s child.”

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