January 26, 2013
The Tulsa World
By World's Editorials Writers
Gov. Mary Fallin since taking office has demonstrated an understanding of and commitment to the importance of mental-health treatment, and she did so again this week in announcing plans for increasing funding for such care.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shootings, a number of governors across the country, including some Republicans, are focusing more on mental-health treatment improvements. That is a hopeful sign.
"If we just look at the recent tragedy of the Sandy Hook school shootings, it reminds us of what can happen when mental health issues go unaddressed in a state or undiagnosed or frankly ignored," Fallin said.
Fallin said she will seek an additional $16 million in the coming legislative session for mental-health needs. Of that sum, $8 million would go toward existing programs and $8 million for new services.
Among objectives targeted is a third crisis center in the state, a type of facility which can help stabilize individuals suffering from a psychiatric emergency.
Last year, funding was approved to build two new crisis centers, one in Tulsa and another in Ardmore. It has not yet been determined where the third site would be built.
"Those centers can offer hope and certainly help to people that are on the brink of succumbing to mental health challenges and problems," Fallin said.
The governor also wants more funding for children's mental-health services, an area that professionals say desperately needs to be addressed. Mental-health experts say that early intervention, when children are just beginning to show signs of mental problems, can keep these conditions from becoming so serious they lead to tragedy.
Fallin also is targeting other areas for which funding has been chronically inadequate: treatment for depression, suicide and substance abuse.
In addition, Fallin wants to direct $40 million in new funding to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which would provide coverage for Oklahomans who are Medicaid-eligible but have not enrolled.
While the proposed new funding certainly is not a cure-all, these proposals nonetheless represent important steps in the right direction. Fallin ought to be commended for taking action on this front.