MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

March 28, 2013

Cuts loom for mental health clinic

— One of Muskogee’s mental health service organizations faces budget cuts after Congress’ sequestration that could reduce much-needed services.

National mental health advocates predict the impact of sequestration budget cuts will be dire on community mental health services such as Green Country Behavior Health Services.

Nationally, Mental Health America predicts budget cuts of 7.5 percent to 12 percent for discretionary funding across the board to state agencies.

GCBHS is largely funded through the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, which has suffered enormous cuts in the last few years.

GCBHS Chief Executive Officer Joy Sloan said, “We haven’t really devised a plan right now, but we’re thinking it’s possible we’ll have a 5 percent cut.”

Sloan said Green Country doesn’t want to reduce the number of people it’s able to serve.

“We already have trouble serving everyone with the funding we have now. The demand is tremendous,” she said. “What we are talking about is instead of eliminating a service we will minimize the services we are providing.”

As a nonprofit organization, GCBHS also depends on private donations and grants.

“Unfortunately, mental health issues aren’t on the forefront for those making donations,” Sloan said.

Cutting transportation costs or reducing the length of services could be the answer to some of the funding loss, she said.

“But in honesty we are planning for the worst and hoping for the best,” Sloan said. “Our main targeted group are people who could not access services some other way. We are the last resort for some folks, and that’s the group we don’t want to take services away from.”

Mental Health America is predicting a higher cut for mental health services — at least 10 percent, which means sequestration has the potential to prevent nearly 500 professionals across the nation from working with vulnerable children.

The homeless also will be affected, according to MHA, with 18,000 fewer homeless people nationally able to receive outreach services, and 9,000 fewer individuals enrolled in homelessness assistance programs.

The Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant that many mental health providers use also will suffer, with a loss of $114 million nationally.

That loss means 169,000 fewer individuals able to be admitted to substance abuse treatment programs.

GCBHS offers medication management, individual, family and group therapy, psycho-social rehabilitation, adult crisis stabilization and many other programs at its clinic at Main and Martin Luther King streets.

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or wburton@muskogeephoenix.com.

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