Federal Waiver ‘Big Step’ To Improve Oklahomans’ Access To Mental Health Services

Monday, January 4th 2021, 6:29 pm
By: Matt Rahn

State health leaders are calling a recent federal waiver a big step to getting more Oklahomans access to important mental health and addiction services.

They say it could help nearly 8,000 people who wouldn't otherwise get help.

"This is one of the most amazing days. For years, we never thought that this would happen," said Edie Nayfa, CEO of Catalyst Behavorial Services in Oklahoma City. She said a recent waiver for the Institute of Mental Disease Rule is a big win for people struggling with mental health issues in our state.

"The basic concept here is that we're going to be able to serve more Oklahomans," said Nayfa.

The IMD Rule is an exclusion that doesn't allow for Medicaid payment of mental health services for people 21 to 65 years old outside of a general hospital setting unless that facility has less than 16 beds.

That means facilities like Catalyst were limited in how many people they could help.

“It is one of the most horrible things to get a phone call from anybody in the state that is seeking help and we don't have the ability to do that, and this has just opened the door for that," said Nayfa.

With Medicaid expansion coming this July, Commissioner Carrie Slatton-Hodges with Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said the waiver couldn't have come at a better time.

"While the number of persons with addiction disorder who have Medicaid coverage currently is not high, that will change July 1 and now with the waiver, Oklahoma will be ready," said Slatton-Hodges. 

Slatton-Hodges said the waiver will give the state authority to use federal money for things like substance abuse treatment and crisis stabilization. It will also allow for coverage of other services like halfway houses and supervised medical detox that have been reduced due to budget cuts.

"I think the outcomes that the state of Oklahoma is going to see within a year is going to be astounding," said Nayfa.

The waiver also provides Medicaid funding to large free-standing psychiatric hospitals like Parkside in Tulsa.

Oklahoma is one of only seven states to get the waiver.