Gov. Fallin, today, announced the necessity for a special session to appropriate funding for several key health related agencies. Of those agencies, the Department addressing public mental health is set to shut down operations in November, unless funding is moved to the agency's operations.
The governor's announcement said;
My comments are my own and I do not claim to represent the policy of NAMI Tulsa or NAMI Oklahoma by any statement in this article. - DVR
My personal involvement with this...
A strategic decision was made by lawmakers to take away about 1/4 of the general revenue funding to ODMHSAS and instead, earmark about the same amount to come from the controversial new tobacco tax hike. I was repeatedly asked to advocate for this new tax. That pressure came from lawmakers, lobbyists, Contracted mental health providers, and other citizen advocates. But that earmarked money would only apply to the current fiscal year. After that, ODMHSAS would have to fight for sustaining capital from other means... perhaps some other new tax.
It's a way to get passionate advocates to do the work of activism for free. It's also a way to get the public to insist on the new funding because of the dire predictions of what the consequences would otherwise be.
Teachers in our public schools are very aware of this, because they have been played in much the same way. Remember how our education problem would be fixed, if only we'd approve of:
- Para-mutual betting
- Indian Bingo
- State Lottery
- Casino Gambling
- The Boren Education sales Tax
I continually said 'No' to those who asked me to advocate for the new tobacco tax. The truth is that the existing tobacco tax and TSET settlement money is sitting in the banks and the state will not let that $1Billion+ fund be used for addiction related care. Instead that trust is wasting it on frivolous ad campaigns about drinking enough water and other 'feel good' initiatives. I advocated a change in state code and policy so that TSET money could be accessed in a more responsible manner. Lawmakers ignored that idea.
I'll speak for myself. I am insulted that lawmakers, lobbyists, and corporate contractors would exploit the many families who care for loved ones with chronic mental illness. Public mental health is a constitutional role of the state and it's equitable funding is mandated in our state constitution. If you think it's more than you want to pay, then consider the high cost of not paying. When the state abdicates it's constitutional role, the counties are forced to get them off the streets through criminalizing their disoriented behavior and spending way more through county and municipal agencies. It is abject inhumanity.
Making these heroic families and individuals help push new taxes so the politicians can divert them to other programs, is highly unethical and indicates a lack of compassion for the suffering among us. This is a public safety mandate and we need to count on all govt. officials to understand that a sensible treatment hospital is far more essential to the state than a Pops Museum or High Speed Rail venture.
- David Van Risseghem