OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Randy Randleman, R-Eufaula, secured passage Wednesday of a bill to allow for more mental health services in eastern Oklahoma.
Under rules implemented by the Oklahoma Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS), the state is divided into service areas, with each service area allowed only one community mental health center. House Bill 1637 would remove the limit of one public mental health center, as well as allow for private and nonprofit centers to operate.
Randleman, a licensed psychologist, told the House Public Health Committee he filed the bill after realizing the lengthy travel times some constituents were enduring to access mental health services. Eastern and southeastern Oklahoma is serviced by a facility in McAlester, which is a several hour drive for some constituents of Randleman’s, whose district extends as far north as Lake Tenkiller in Sequoyah County.
“These travel times are unacceptable and only prohibit people from accessing mental health services they need,” Randleman said. “Rural areas of our state have a great need for these services and it’s time we addressed this issue.”
Randleman also pointed out that the center in McAlester is only equipped to handle adults and does not have an adolescent stabilization unit, resulting in adolescents traveling about four hours one way to access services in Tulsa.
House Bill 1637 passed the House Public Health Committee and is now eligible to be considered on the House floor.