Thursday, March 18, 2021
As we close out the week of legislative spring break, Healthy Minds Policy Initiative continues to track legislative opportunities for improving mental health and addiction in the 2021 session. The four “key opportunities” identified by Healthy Minds at the start of the 2021 legislative session have survived past the halfway mark of the process, marking a major milestone for these bills.
The following pieces of legislation have passed off the floor of their chamber of origin, and will now be considered in committee of the opposite chamber. Full passage of these key opportunities would build toward a more effective and efficient healthcare system in the state that appropriately addresses the needs of all Oklahomans producing better health, economic and education outcomes.
SB 674, authored by Sen. McCortney (R- Ada) and Rep. McEntire (R- Duncan), passed on the Senate floor on March with overwhelming support. This bill expands telehealth access by ensuring that medically-appropriate telehealth visits are covered in the same way as similar in-person visits, with no greater patient costs or limitations and with equal provider reimbursement. These measures have already helped Oklahomans through the COVID-19 era on a temporary basis. If made permanent, they have the potential to transform access to care, especially in rural areas.
HB 1103, coauthored by Rep. Mark Vancuren (R- Owasso) and Sen. Haste (R- Broken Arrow), passed on the House floor March 9, 78-19. This bill would greatly expand the use of the Oklahoma Prevention Needs Assessment (OPNA) in Oklahoma schools. Already used by about half of schools at the 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th grade levels, the OPNA helps schools and families understand school climate and how to better anticipate and respond to the needs of students. It is a critical best practice for informing prevention programs.
SB 511, authored by Sen. John Michael Montgomery (R- Lawton) and Rep. Carol Bush (R- Tulsa), passed off of the Senate floor on March 3, 28-18. This bill would allow medical practitioners, law enforcement, tribes and registered social service entities to administer harm reduction syringe exchange programs with careful oversight by the State Department of Health. Other States have seen benefits from such programs improved treatment admissions and substance abuse rates, fewer law enforcement officers with needle stick injuries from used syringes, and lower transmission rates of infectious disease.
SB 295, coauthored by Sen. Simpson (R- Ardmore) and Sen. Haste (R- Broken Arrow) passed off of the Senate floor unanimously on March 9. With a focus on aligning mental health spending and strategies, this bill identifies and breaks down siloes in state government and improves access to care by: analyzing all spending and funding associated with mental health in 11 agencies; building a multi-agency strategy for aligning these resources and improving care; and linking future budget requests to the multi-agency strategy.
Legislators considered a myriad of other bills related to mental health and addiction. For an updated tracking list of all mental health and addiction bills, see below:
All mental health-related bills: