Father debating leaving state to provide care for daughter after mental health cuts
TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) – The decision to cut mental health funding continues to hit close to home in Green Country. Millions of dollars in cuts will affect hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans.
The Mental Health Association of Oklahoma made the following statement regarding the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services facing a $75 million budget cut, which is 23 percent of its total budget:
These cuts are catastrophic to the most vulnerable of our citizens and are a direct result of the failure of our elected officials at the Legislature to perform their fiduciary responsibilities. These cuts will prevent the proper funding of essential core services to people effected by serious forms of mental illness, including people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression.
James Baughman is now coping with the cuts and having to make tough choices like whether or not to leave the state.
Every day he wakes up early to take care of his daughter Rebekah.
“She’s 16 now,” Baughman said. “She was diagnosed with severe intellectual disability and cerebral palsy at a very young age. Her need for 24-hour care and supervision is ongoing.”
As a single dad, he needs help.
“I have had to utilize whatever network is out there for services,” Baughman said.
The options are now growing smaller after a decision to cut funding to mental health services.
“When you see the state having to make a $212,000,000 decision as far as cutting services, a lot of times the first people to feel those cuts are people that need mental health services,” Baughman said.
He also faces his own personal battles after spending years in the military.
“It was a very eye-opening experience but also a very traumatic experience,” Baughman said. “I had PTSD, it also triggered mania from my bipolar.”
Getting help from mental health services got him past that.
Baughman surrounds himself with information working as a licensed clinical social worker in the mental health field with a challenge for our state’s decision makers.
“Oklahoma really needs to look at how it’s approaching the state budget,” he said. “Our roads, we need those. Our infrastructure, we have to take care of that. Those critical services like mental health services for the disabled, we have to have those.”
Or he fears he might have to leave the state and go home to Virginia.
“If it’s the line in the center of the road where I have to make a decision because I have no choice but to make sure her needs are met, then I’ll have to relocate,” Baughman said. “I can go there now and get services for her that are available and funded.”
A tough choice for many as the cuts continue.
Thousands are gathering at the state capitol Tuesday at 10 a.m. for a rally against the recent decision to make cuts to mental health services.
Baughman encourages anyone to make the trip or reach out to our state leaders to voice your concerns.
He also has a GoFundMe set up to help with moving costs to Virginia if he decides to leave the state.