Edwin Fair to lose majority of funding

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has announced plans eliminating all state-funded outpatient services statewide. This is in response to the $75 million that was ripped from its budget due to the overturning of a cigarette tax. If additional funds are not appropriated for fiscal year 2018, the state agency will be forced to initiate these plans. A cut of this magnitude represents 23 percent of the agency budget, with an additional loss of $106 million in federal matching funds.

The agency has no choice but to announce plans for cuts that must be initiated in November, and fully implemented during December and January. It has delayed this action as long as possible; however, we must initiate processes the first week of November to meet the shortfall that begins in December. If initiated, these cuts will impact nearly 189,000 Oklahomans currently receiving outpatient services, 700 treatment agencies in communities statewide and more than 8,500 therapists, case managers, doctors and nurses, not to mention hundreds of support staff.

Edwin Fair Community Mental Health Center is one of those agencies who will lose a majority of their funding affecting almost all their services and thousands of clients.

“This proposed cuts, should they take effect, would force us to shut our doors”, said Jody Burch, Executive Director of Edwin Fair. “Outpatient Services is all we do. We are a safety help for the most needy in our community who need mental health services.” Edwin Fair sees over 3.500 clients per year in its five county service area, which includes Osage County.

The services lost will include all state-funded outpatient services statewide for indigent and behavioral health Medicaid eligible clients, as well as the elimination of residential treatment services for children. Drug courts, mental health courts and other court related programs will no longer be funded. The state’s Systems of Care program that serves vulnerable youth and their families, in addition to other state agencies and local schools, will be discontinued.

Edwin Fair has served the community for almost 60 years. Edwin Fair has close to 100 employees. Burch saids, “Contact your senator and representatives and insist they fix this problem before services are interrupted and our communities are negatively affected.”