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5 life-threatening emergencies due to Oklahoma mental health cuts

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In the seemingly neverending string of bad news to come out of Oklahoma's budget woes, the latest packs a deafening blow to the state's mental health programs.

The Oklahoman's health reporter, Meg Wingerter, reports the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services announced Wednesday that it will cut all state funding for outpatient services if the Legislature doesn't act to replace $75 million in lost revenue.

Here are just 5 life-threatening emergencies that are possible due to these mental health cuts.

5. Therapy

The end of therapy at community health centers is certain to be on the list of programs that will end, according to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

4. Drop-in centers

Unless the legislature figures out a way to close the budget hole, Oklahoma can expect the end of drop-in center programs. Drop-in centers serve as a way for those in need to find help.

3. Courts no more

One of the biggest emergencies to come out of the Wednesday announcement is the possibility of closure for all drug and alcohol courts. Agency Commissioner Terri White said the cuts would eliminate every state-funded outpatient service except medication management.

2. Children are impacted, too

Another emergency to come out of this would be the ending of "payments to children's psychiatric residential treatment facilities, which are for children who are too ill to stay at home, but don't necessarily need to be in a psychiatric hospital."

1. Life threatening

No doubt these programs help many Oklahomans in many ways, and one of the concerns regarding these cuts is the possible increase in suicides due to overdose from self-medication:

Janet Cizek, CEO at the Center for Therapeutic Interventions in Tulsa, said her facility receives grants and bills insurance when clients have it, but that won't be enough to run the center if the cuts go through. If that happens, she'll have to lay off staff and shut down, possibly leaving clients with nowhere to turn for treatment.

Cizek said the cuts would deprive patients of care that could keep them from needing more intensive services, like a hospital bed. She and others who spoke at a news conference Wednesday also raised the specter of people who will die by suicide or overdoses when they can't get treatment.

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