ARPA funding to be distributed to mental, behavioral health needs

September 19, 2022 | Headlines

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Legislature will consider several projects geared toward the state’s mental and behavioral health when reconvening the Second Extraordinary Session this fall. 

The Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding recently approved four projects, totaling $195 million, requested by the Oklahoma Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS), Oklahoma State Dept. of Health (OSDH) and OU Health. 

Rep. Jeff Boatman, a member of the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding, said legislators have serious concerns about how the pandemic affected Oklahomans’ mental and behavioral health.

“The pandemic exposed an increased need that our facilities were unfortunately not prepared for,” Boatman said. “We’re continuing to see rising needs from the profound effect the pandemic had on people’s mental health and addiction issues. These four projects are a stepping stone to begin helping Oklahomans recover.” 

One project, approved at $87 million, would build a replacement facility for Griffin Memorial Hospital in Norman and add an additional 100 beds to the new build. Currently, there are not enough psychiatric hospital beds to address the need, and ODMHSAS said this need will become more pronounced as Oklahomans experience the pandemic’s aftereffects. 

The second approved project requested by ODMHSAS would also add more beds for psychiatric patients in Tulsa. The Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health is already being replaced, and an extra 50 beds would be added to the facility with $38 million in ARPA funding. 

Another project to improve sharing of electronic health records with clients, staff and external providers was approved for $26 million. Requested by OSDH, the system would also allow the department to bill insurance for certain services. 

The fourth project would modernize the technology infrastructure of OU Health to help providers and patients share electronic health records. The project was approved at $44 million. 

Oklahoma has more than $1.8 billion in ARPA funding to distribute. Projects approved by the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding are then sent to the Legislature, where they will be considered when members reconvene the Second Extraordinary Session.