Durant family pleads for resolution in Oklahoma mental health crisis

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DURANT, Okla. (KXII) -- Tens of thousands of Oklahomans who receive help from the state with mental health services are still in jeopardy of losing those services due to a budget cut crisis. News 12 spoke with a family who relies on those services and how the state is taking steps to save mental health programs.

"It hurts to think about it," said Durant resident Rhonda Cassell.

Cassell grew up in southern Oklahoma. She was hit by a car in Calera when she was seven. The accident put her in a coma for three months and left her physically and mentally disabled.

The family reached out to News 12 after Oklahoma went into a special session to resolve a $215 million dollar budget gap by cutting funding to outpatient mental health services.

The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services said that could directly affect 189,000 Oklahomans who receive mental health services from the state, including Cassell.

"The state of Oklahoma has been hit very hard with benefits," said Cassell's relative Janis Harris.

Last week, House Speaker and former Atoka mayor Charles McCall said the House of Representatives passed a series of bills to cover 70 percent of the overall gap by taking money from the Rainy Day Fund and revenues to pay for services. And will raise the Gross Production Tax from four percent to seven on legacy wells for one year.

If the state can't fix the budget crisis by December first, the cuts to mental health will take effect.

Cassell's family said that would mean they'd have to spend nearly 2,800 a month for outpatient services or face having to move to another state to get the help they need.

"If i have to go to Texas to get the help, if we have to go anywhere to get help," said Cassell. "Then it would split us up."

"I don't know what people are thinking in that capital building what's gonna have to be done," said Harris. "But I want people to reach out and hear this. This will be a terrible issue for the state of Oklahoma."

All that's left is for the Senate and Governor Mary Fallin to approve the bills.

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