Tulsa Mental Health Association Scolds Lawmakers For Failed Budget Negotiations

Thursday, October 26th 2017, 7:01 pm
By: News On 6

The Oklahoma State Senate passed a resolution Thursday calling for an increase in the tax on oil and gas production.

That has been the sticking point so far in the discussions to fill a $215 million budget hole.

The resolution doesn't mean any tax will happen but is meant as a symbolic gesture showing Democrats and Republicans are now willing to work together.

10/26/2017 Related Story: Senate Passes Resolution To Find Budget Solution

"Democrats in the House have made it clear that gross production tax is extremely important to them coming on board. We, in a very bipartisan manner, came to a compromise with our senate democrats at four percent," Senator Greg Treat said.

Right now, Republicans say they are willing to increase the tax to four percent but only for three years.

Tulsa’s Mental Health Association is scolding state lawmakers for their failed budget negotiations and the impact it’s having on some of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable.

Harold Shoup said he owes his life to the Mental Health Association, which is why he and so many others are concerned that state budget cuts could take away services they use every day.

"Without it, I'd probably be dead now," Shoup said.

He went to the Denver House for the first time in November 2014 and said it's dramatically changed his entire life.

"I had nothing to look forward to, but every time I came over to Denver House and they would help, I'd have that little spark of hope and that little seed of faith," he said.

Once homeless, Shoup will now start college in January.

"I went from getting a GED in 1995, didn't finish the seventh grade, and then through Denver House and social services, they had moved me up step by step and got me to where I'm now going to college," he said.

But if proposed budget cuts to mental health services in Oklahoma stand, services like the Denver House would have to shut down.

"We've got some great specialty court programs and diversions that keep people out of expensive incarceration when really they need treatment, and those would be gone," said Melissa Baldwin with the Mental Health Association.

Baldwin said state budget cuts would take about $900,000 away from the Mental Health Association directly.

She said state leaders need to step up and find a way to stop the cuts from taking place.

"That needed to be done yesterday. We don't have time to wait. Lives seriously hang in the balance," she said. "I can't stress enough, these aren't just programs and dollars. These are people's lives at stake, and this needs to be fixed. We deserve better in our state."