Monday, April 26, 2021
As the Oklahoma Legislature reaches the final stretch of the 2021 session, Healthy Minds Policy Initiative continues to track legislative opportunities for improving mental health and addiction in the state. The four “key opportunities” identified by Healthy Minds at the start of the 2021 legislative session have survived the deadline for passage by both House and Senate and remain alive. One bill – harm reduction (SB 511) has already been signed by the governor.
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:
Telehealth Parity (SB 674), authored by Sen. McCortney (R- Ada) and Rep. McEntire (R- Duncan), passed on the House floor last week with unanimous support. Several changes made in the House must now be approved in the Senate. 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.
School mental health data (HB 1103), authored by Rep. Mark Vancuren (R- Owasso) and Sen. Haste (R- Broken Arrow), passed on the Senate floor April 13, 40-7. Minor changes made in the Senate must now be approved in the House. 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.
Harm reduction (SB 511), authored by Sen. John Michael Montgomery (R- Lawton) and Rep. Carol Bush (R- Tulsa), was signed into law by Governor Stitt on April 20 and is effective immediately. This bill allows 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.
Aligning Agency Mental Health Spending (SB 295), authored by Sen. Simpson (R- Ardmore) and Sen. Haste (R- Broken Arrow) passed off of the House floor 66-7 on April 21. Changes made in the House must now be worked out. 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: