Why we need community behavioral health clinics

Despite the opioid crisis leading to the deaths of more than 70,000 Americans by drug overdoses, only one in 10 Americans with an addiction receives treatment.  

Over 7 million opioid pills were prescribed in Muskogee County in 2017 — enough for every man, woman, and child in the county to each receive 100 pills.  

Many Oklahomans have had personal experience with the opioid crisis.  Unfortunately, a successful pilot program in Oklahoma that has provided assistance for those in need of mental and addiction care runs out of funding at the end of the month.

In 2014, Congress enacted the bipartisan Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic Medicaid demonstration as a part of the Protecting Access to Medicare Act.  

The CCBHC pilot program was created to fill the gap of unmet needs in addiction and mental health care during a trial period for 8 states, including Oklahoma.

Since the program launched in 2017, CCBHCs have dramatically improved access to community-based opioid addiction care.  

For instance, Grand Lake Mental Health Center has electronic tablets in Grove Police Department patrol cars so that police can provide a direct, face-to-face link between a professional and a client in crisis when necessary.  

After an evaluation via tablet, police can divert the patient to a crisis center instead of an emergency room or jail. 

The accomplishments of the pilot program are incredible.  Grand Lake Mental Health Center has seen a 95 percent reduction in inpatient psychiatric admissions in its 7-county service area.  

In 2015, before the program began, there were 1,115 inpatient psychiatric admissions in the Grand Lake Mental Health Center service area. In 2018, there were only 15.

Unless Congress acts, this vital program’s funding for Oklahoma expires March 31, 2019.  

That’s why I joined U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Representative Doris Matsui (CA-06) last week to introduce the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act, which would fund and expand the program to 11 states, including Oklahoma. 

The Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic pilot program in Oklahoma has provided assistance for those battling mental illness and substance abuse disorders for the last two years.  

Now is not the time to cut funding to opioid treatment programs.  It is vitally important that the good work being done in our communities can continue so I am proud to sponsor the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act to allow exactly that.  

In the coming weeks, I will continue to work with my partners across the aisle in both the House and Senate to ensure those who need mental health and opioid addiction care in our communities have access to it.

Congressman Markwayne Mullin was first elected to serve Oklahoma’s Second Congressional District in November 2012.  He is currently serving his fourth term in office.

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