2024 Oklahoma legislative session: Mental health policy preview

February 5, 2024

Oklahoma legislators begin their work in 2024 as the state faces record levels of suicides and unintentional drug overdoses. However, lawmakers have a unique opportunity to grow the state’s overstretched mental health workforce this legislative session, ensuring more Oklahomans can get the mental health and substance use treatment they need.

Building on momentum from last year, when lawmakers passed critical legislation to break down persistent barriers to mental health care, legislators have an opportunity this year to address longstanding challenges facing Oklahoma’s behavioral health workforce. Lawmakers will consider a $36.8 million funding package for psychiatry, psychology, social work and other behavioral health professions — a generational investment and top priority for Healthy Minds that originates from our recent research on the state of Oklahoma's behavioral health workforce.

Strengthening the state’s pipeline of behavioral health professionals, hand-in-hand with recent legislative investment in new behavioral health hospitals, will grow Oklahoma’s capacity to treat and prevent mental health and substance use conditions statewide.

Legislators will consider dozens of other proposals and bills affecting mental health and substance use treatment this year, the second session of Oklahoma’s 59th Legislature. In addition to bills filed in 2024, lawmakers may also consider bills that did not advance last year — more than 4,000 possible measures total.

Read our 2024 mental health policy guide

Healthy Minds’ legislative priorities

Investing in Oklahoma’s behavioral health workforce
Oklahoma has critical shortages of nearly every kind of behavioral health provider, especially those who can prescribe medication. With a one-time appropriation of $36.8 million to university medical authorities and a loan repayment fund authorized in last year’s legislative session, this strategic investment could create additional training opportunities for psychiatrists and psychologists, assist students pursuing behavioral health degrees with scholarships and loan repayment, draw new professionals to Oklahoma, support upskilling for early-career behavioral health workers, and incentivize retaining Oklahoma’s existing workforce.

Fact sheet: Workforce appropriation proposal 

Addressing Oklahoma’s shortage of social workers
Oklahoma’s supply of social workers meets only two-thirds of the state’s estimated need. Despite graduating more students with social work degrees, Oklahoma requires 4,000 hours of supervision, 1,000 more than the national median, creating an unnecessary hurdle for prospective social workers — and delaying their entry to the workforce. HB 3015 by Rep. Jeff Boatman (R-Tulsa) and Sen. Jessica Garvin (R-Duncan) would make Oklahoma’s required supervision hours for LCSWs more in line with other states at 3,000 hours, making Oklahoma more attractive to social workers and allowing professionals to enter the field faster.

Fact sheet: HB 3015

Developing a clearer picture of Oklahoma’s behavioral health professionals

Oklahoma lacks consistent, standardized data about the state’s behavioral health workforce. Mental health and substance use professionals are licensed by several state boards, each collecting different data from its licensees. HB 3330 by Rep. Cynthia Roe (R-Lindsay) and Sen. Paul Rosino (R-Oklahoma City) would direct state licensure boards to ask a standard set of questions on behavioral health licensure applications and renewals for more robust data collection. With better data, Oklahoma policymakers can identify targeted interventions to strengthen the state’s behavioral health workforce and meet Oklahomans’ growing mental health needs.

Fact sheet: HB 3330


Other key issues in 2024

Defining a person requiring treatment

Law enforcement officers, judges, and health professionals rely on the definition of “a person requiring treatment” in state law to make determinations about when someone can be detained, ordered into civil commitment, or given an emergency mental health assessment. Interpretation of this phrase varies, which can leave friends and family frustrated when they struggle to access emergency mental health help for a loved one. Two bills filed, HB 3451 by Rep. Jeff Boatman (R-Tulsa) and SB 1738 by Sen. Darrell Weaver (R-Moore), aim to clarify existing law by expanding the definition of “a person requiring treatment,” allowing professionals to rely on evidence of a person’s deteriorating mental health to make determinations about emergency detention or commitment.

Behavioral health workforce

Behavioral health workforce incentives
HB 3449
by Rep. Jeff Boatman (R-Tulsa) expands the scope of how funds in the Oklahoma State University Medical Authority Behavioral Health Workforce Development Fund can be used. It also establishes the University Hospitals Authority Trust and Behavioral Health Workforce Development Fund. This bill would also play a role in a portion of the $36.8 million behavioral health workforce development appropriations package.

Broader in nature than HB 3449, SB 1358 by Sen. Adam Pugh (R-Edmond) creates the Workforce Development Revolving Fund for the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and appropriates $200 million to increase the number of degrees conferred in areas of the state’s most critical workforce needs as determined by the Oklahoma Workforce Commission.

Several bills focus on providing financial incentives to attract and retain a robust behavioral health workforce. HB 3372 by Rep. Marcus McEntire (R-Duncan) would add any licensed professional counselor employed by a public school district who is a National Certified Counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors to a group of other specialized professionals eligible to receive $5,000 annual salary bonuses when funds are available.

Licensing board data
Like HB 3330, SB 1379 by Sen. Michael Bergstrom (R-Adair) and HB 3167 by Rep. Dell Kerbs (R-Shawnee) would require all boards that license health and behavioral health professionals to use the same web-based platform. While a single web-based platform could streamline data analysis, neither bill would call for licensure boards to standardize their data collection.

Expanding prescriptive authority
Psychiatrists and advanced practice psychiatric nurses are currently the only behavioral health professionals allowed to prescribe medication in Oklahoma. HB 2997 by Rep. Randy Randleman (R–Eufaula) would allow psychologists with specific training to prescribe psychotropic medication — first under a physician's supervision for two years, and then independently after completing supervision requirements.

Children and youth

Mental health and substance use education in schools
HB 3512
by Rep. Ronny Johns (R-Ada) aims to enhance substance use education, requiring each school district to provide annual research-based instruction related to fentanyl abuse prevention and drug poisoning awareness for students in 6th through 12th grade.

In 2021, SB 89 specified that health education taught in schools must include mental health and social-emotional health. SB 1676 by Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow) would remove that requirement, so that schools’ health curricula focus solely on physical health. Schools that choose to provide mental health instruction would be required to obtain parental consent and offer it outside of normal physical health education courses. The bill also directs the State Board of Education to develop a complaints process for perceived violations, which could impact a school’s accreditation status.

School safety
SB 1596
by Sen. Roger Thompson (R-Okemah) expands school resource officer eligibility. In addition to law enforcement officers, anyone who has completed the basic peace officer academy and has school-based training, or who has with a valid firearm license and completes 136 hours of a program developed by the local sheriff, could become a school resource officer. Four hours of the program must be related to mental health awareness and working with children and students.

HB 4132 by Rep. Amanda Swope (D-Tulsa) would require school resource officers to complete 40 hours of basic school resource officer course training and 12 hours of adolescent mental health training.

HB 3277 by Rep. Rhonda Baker (R-Yukon) creates the Student Digital Safety and Awareness Act, which requires school boards to create digital safety policies that monitor content students can access, including content related to self-harm and suicide; identify cyberbullying; and notify the school of any threats of violence to allow for timely intervention.

Custody, guardianship, and visitation of children
SB 1756
by Sen. Ally Seifried (R-Claremore) would require courts to consider whether someone’s custody, guardianship, or visitation rights have ever been terminated for failure to comply with court-ordered substance use or mental health treatment in a current request for determining the custody, guardianship, or visitation arrangement for a child.

Barriers to assessing students' mental health needs
The Oklahoma Prevention Needs Assessment (OPNA) surveys public school students in grades 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th about behaviors relating to drug use, mental health, academics, violence, protective factors, and health risks. Students are surveyed anonymously, their responses are aggregated, and schools use that data to provide targeted prevention and intervention where students need them most. Students can already decline to participate regardless of parental permission.

SB 1539 by Sen. John Haste (R-Broken Arrow) would require written parental consent for students to complete the OPNA. HB 3800 by Rep. Sherrie Conley (R-Newcastle) would make the OPNA optional instead of mandatory for schools to administer and require parents to opt-in instead of opt-out of participation.

Criminal justice and public safety

Prioritizing treatment over incarceration
Sens. Todd Gollihare (R-Kellyville) (SB 1702) and Brent Howard (R-Altus) (SB 1783) propose using Assisted Outpatient Treatment, a form of civil commitment, to allow those charged with non-violent crimes to be treated in the community with the possibility that their charges may be dismissed upon program completion.

Expanding good Samaritan protections and access to emergency opioid antagonists
SB 1740
by Sen. Gollihare proposes limited civil liability for “good Samaritans,” family members, and first responders who administer emergency opioid antagonists (e.g., naloxone, also known under the brand name Narcan) to those experiencing an opioid overdose. SB 1806, by Sen. Rosino, establishes the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS) as the lead agency for coordinating the distribution of emergency opioid antagonists by state agencies, including collecting data and publishing a report.

Public and private health insurance

Analyzing reimbursement rates
SB 1423
by Sen. Jessica Garvin (R-Duncan) requires certain agencies, including ODMHSAS, to conduct market surveys of their reimbursement rates. This examination would require agencies to compare their reimbursement rates to rates in other states, private payers’ rates, or the rates of other public payers. 

Funding and administration

Expanding uses of opioid abatement grants
As the Oklahoma Opioid Abatement Board prepares to distribute grant funding to address the consequences of the opioid crisis in communities across the state, SB 1453 by Sen. Rosino would expand the allowed uses for the grants and who can apply for funding, and as well as withhold some settlement funds to administer the program.

Tracking lists

Healthy Minds tracks all Oklahoma bills related to mental health policy. A bill’s appearance on a tracking list does not indicate Healthy Minds’ support or opposition; rather, it indicates the bill could impact mental health policy in Oklahoma.

Healthy Minds' bills

General mental health


Children and youth

Criminal justice

Funding and administration


Mental health in schools

Opioids and substance use

Public safety