Access to mental health care in Oklahoma falls short, but innovation promises improvement | KOKH

Access to mental health care is not what it should be.

A groundbreaking new report finds big gaps for Oklahomans in need, especially those with private insurance. But despite the alarming numbers, the data also show what our state is doing right.

It’s a reality that many Oklahomans have experienced—it’s much easier to treat a physical health problem than a mental health problem.

“We’ve heard a lot of stories about people not getting the care they desperately need, but we haven’t had the data to show how broad and deep the problem was,” said Angela Kimball, director of Inseparables Advocacy. Public policy.

According to an Access report by advocacy group Inseparable, only a quarter of privately insured Oklahomans with a mental health diagnosis receive specialty care.

The surprising catch is that with Medicaid, Oklahomans fare much better when it comes to care.

“In Oklahoma, it’s 46 percent, so that’s a huge difference,” Kimball said.

Our state has recently made tremendous efforts to reach all Oklahomans, regardless of insurance or ability to pay.

“Our facilities don’t have a false door policy. So if you come in, we’re going to find a way to get help and do it in a manageable way,” said Bonnie Campo, who works for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health. and substance abuse services.

ODMHSAS has opened 20 new emergency mental health centers in the past year across the state, with more to come. And two new hospitals will provide an additional 200 beds for acute needs.

Transportation services for those caught in the crisis have now been expanded.

And the new 9-8-8 mental health lifeline connects anyone to care 24/7.

“Month after month, we’re just seeing more calls, and people are wondering, ‘Is it because there’s more of a crisis?'” Sometimes it’s just education and awareness,” Campo said. “We want people to call.”

According to Inseparable’s Access report, Oklahoma ranks among the nation’s leading states in enacting laws that improve access to mental health care.

“Oklahoma actually has elected officials who care about this,” Kimball said. “And they’re starting to adopt smart policies to help people who are really struggling.”

These “smart insurance” include SB254, which requires insurance to cover out-of-network providers when an in-network provider is not readily available. This affects two million Oklahomans who have commercial insurance. The driving force behind the Oklahoma legislation is the Healthy Minds Policy Initiative.

“We find that people with commercial health insurance often face barriers to care that don’t exist on the physical health care side,” said Zack Stoycoff of Healthy Minds.

One big problem, he says, are so-called “ghost networks,” which is the list of providers your insurance gives you of the supposed health professionals they cover. Sane minds found that most were unreachable, and some were not even alive.

“These are networks that look strong,” said Stoycoff. “These are lists of providers that appear to exist in your community and offer services. But they’re not really in your community. They don’t provide services and they don’t take your insurance.”

Stigma also remains a barrier to a problem that affects so many. One in five Oklahomans struggles with mental illness. And our state is ninth worst for suicides.

“We are truly losing too many of our children, parents, friends and neighbors to mental health and addiction,” Kimball said. “And we can do something about it, starting with improving access to mental health care.”

Inseparable tells us that nine out of 10 Oklahomans polled say they want expanding mental health coverage to be a priority for lawmakers, and they’ve outlined more potential laws that couldhelp with your report.

ODMHSAS say transparency and care are their biggest goals and all their information is available to the public. They do not have information from private or tribal providers.

Additional resources can be found below:

Mental health dashboard

Substance abuse dashboard

Treatment dashboard

988 dashboard

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