Oklahoma is in crisis. While need for mental health care climbs, Oklahomans overwhelmingly lack access to the care needed to address these sometimes preventable, always treatable conditions. This has serious consequences: untreated mental illness can mean increased risk for other health problems, incarceration, difficulty keeping a job and keeping up with financial responsibilities, and homelessness. Many people experiencing a mental illness enter our criminal justice system because of their illness: in 2017, 10,000 individuals with a mental illness passed through the county jail in Tulsa alone. Other outcomes are more tragic: our suicide rate increased 45 percent between 2009 and 2016. Oklahoma ranks 8th in the nation for incidence of suicide according to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Accepting federal funds for Medicaid expansion is the most practical way to address this crisis. Expanding Medicaid allows states to provide access to care to adults who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($16,753 per year for an individual). More than 150,000 Oklahomans will gain access to health care through Medicaid expansion. This includes some of the 97,000 uninsured Oklahomans with a mental health diagnosis, roughly the entire population of Broken Arrow. Increased access to health care through Medicaid expansion reduces costs for states and helps people with mental illness return to the workforce.
continue reading Want to improve the mental health of Oklahomans? Expand Medicaid.