An interesting behavioral health report was presented last week to the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) Oversight Committee, a joint House-Senate Committee chaired by their respective Appropriations Chairs. LOFT has become a valuable tool for the legislature to get a broader view of state government, to explore ways to make it more efficient and valuable to citizens, and, unfortunately on occasion, to report areas of inefficiency and even possible fraud.
The objectives of the study reported were to:
- identify the types of mental health and substance abuse services provided by state agencies, including who provides the services, division of responsibilities for delivering services, and how outcomes are measured;
- determine if any duplication of services exists among state agencies and private providers and examine opportunities to better align expertise with delivery of services;
- identify challenges facing mental health and substance abuse providers in delivering services;
- evaluate best practices among states for the delivery of mental health and substance abuse services and identify opportunities for improved outcomes.
Recognizing the scale of coordinating mental health and substance abuse services across various agencies of state government, the LOFT report identifies the possibility of legislation creating a behavioral health coordinating council similar to what the Texas legislature established in 2017. The council could provide a roadmap for Oklahoma to develop a strategic statewide approach for delivering mental health and substance abuse services efficiently and effectively.
The Texas Statewide Behavioral Health Coordinating Council is a group of state agencies, the judiciary, and state universities that receive funding from the Texas legislature to treat or train on mental health and substance use conditions. The purpose of the council is to ensure a coordinated statewide approach to providing services. A quick look at the Texas council gives you an idea of the expansive approach that LOFT is offering for consideration.
The council has more than 20 members representing Texas state agencies including The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, The Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Office of Court Administration/Texas Indigent Defense Commission, Texas Civil Commitment Office, Texas Commission on Jail Standards, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Texas Education Agency, Texas Judicial Commission on Mental health, Texas Military Department, Texas Veterans Commission, Texas Workforce Commission, University of Texas Health Sciences Center, Texas School for the Deaf, Office of the Governor, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Health Professions Council (comprised of the State Board of Dental Examiners, Texas State Board of Pharmacy, State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, Texas Optometry Board, Texas Board of Nursing and the Texas Medical Board), Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium, Texas Juvenile Department, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.
The LOFT report says that one out of five adults in Oklahoma experience mental illness, and 657,000 have a mental health condition. Our suicide rate is 21 per 100,000 population compared with the national rate of 15 per 100,000. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services says there are currently about 100,000 Oklahomans who are eligible for state provided services but are not receiving them. The breadth of the Texas Council demonstrates that behavioral health touches communities in many different areas. It is surely a good thing that our legislative leaders are looking at ways to efficiently structure and hopefully better fund these services.