Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

SoonerCare Saved for Private Counselors

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

SoonerCare Saved for Private Counselors

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY - After an outcry from parents and providers, Gov. Mary Fallin stopped a planned SoonerCare cut to behavioral health counselors because it wouldn't have saved money.

The state agencies overseeing mental health and the Medicaid program had plans to end reimbursement for private practice behavioral health counselors at a meeting last week, but chose to wait until a permanent rule could be adopted. The rule would have allowed clients on Medicaid, also known as SoonerCare, to receive counseling only through an approved agency. It would have ended payments to private-practice counselors.

Fallin's decision leaves the door open to something else being cut to make up $1.2 million needed to finish the fiscal year, said Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services spokesman Jeffrey Dismukes. It is part of the $9.8 million that the department has been forced to cut from this year's budget. The governor did not suggest an alternative.

"If we are unable to go forward with proposed changes, then ODMHSAS will be forced to make cuts to other services," he wrote in an emailed response to questions about the cut.

Oklahoma City counselor Lea Ann Garcia said that cutting her private practice would have serious consequences, particularly on the eight children she treats who pay for her services with SoonerCare. If she were to lose that support, the children would likely have to go elsewhere.

"What scares me the most is they all have separation anxiety, and a lot of people have abandoned them," she said. …

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