Your (Unofficial) Guide to State-Sponsored Therapy in Oklahoma
There’s a way to get affordable mental health care that you might not know about. That’s Oklahoma’s mental health system.
If you qualify, you can get mental health care at a community mental health center for a small co-pay or a low sliding-scale fee. But even if you don’t qualify for services at a state-funded provider, Oklahoma’s system can still give you information, referrals to affordable providers, and other essential help for free.
If you’re in a hurry and want to get the most important information about what’s available in the Oklahoma mental health system and who it’s for, you can read our quick start guide below.
To learn more about public mental health services in Oklahoma, keep reading. We’ve done the research to uncover essential facts about who’s eligible, what services you can get, when to go, where to call, and how it works so you can decide if Oklahoma’s mental health system might be right for you.
Who Is Eligible?
You should consider looking into the Oklahoma mental health system if you (or a loved one) are having a mental health crisis, have a severe mental health condition, have Medicaid, or have a limited income.
Everyone in Oklahoma can use the state-funded mental health emergency response system. If you or someone you love is in crisis, you can call a state or local crisis line to get the help you need, quickly.
Use the State System When You're in Crisis
Public mental health services are usually the best option if you’re having a mental health crisis and need help right away.
State mental health programs are required to provide mental health crisis response services and are one of the fastest ways to get care when you’re having a mental health emergency.
The people who answer state and local crisis lines can provide caring attention and support as they help you determine the best response to a crisis, whether it’s inpatient treatment or an appointment with a counselor.
Even if you’re not in crisis, you can call a mental health hotline for information about affordable mental health services in your area. When you call, you can find out whether you might qualify for state-funded mental health services, schedule an assessment, or get free information about other affordable local providers.
Other parts of the system have stricter eligibility requirements. You need to have a serious mental health condition (a diagnosable condition that affects your daily functioning) to qualify for most public outpatient mental health services at an Oklahoma community mental health center.
However, more people have a qualifying condition than realize it. Don’t assume you’re not eligible!
Fast Facts About Eligibility in Oklahoma
Consider reaching out to a community mental health center if you:
- Are having a mental health emergency;
- Have Medicaid or don’t have insurance;
- Need to get information about affordable providers in your area;
- Have a significantly limited income (200 percent of the federal poverty level or less);
- Have a serious mental health condition like major depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia; or
- Need specialty mental health care like day treatment, case management, or home-based services.
Sometimes, CMHCs can admit people who don’t have severe conditions when they have enough funding, so it’s worth calling to confirm even if you’re not sure whether your mental health condition is severe. You can find the number for your CMHC in the directory below.
Due to budget constrictions, programs in Oklahoma’s public mental health system are usually only able to serve Oklahomans with the most severe levels of mental illness.
Oklahoma CMHCs determine eligibility using a four-tier priority system. While CMHCs can admit people outside of the highest priority groups when they have enough funding, this is rare. In most cases, to be eligible for public outpatient mental health services in Oklahoma, you must:
- Be diagnosed with a serious mental illness (SMI) like schizophrenia, major depressive disorder with psychotic features, or bipolar disorder
- Experience severe functional impairment, such as being unable to maintain employment or stable housing, as a result of this mental health condition
- Be at risk of psychiatric hospitalization, incarceration, or homelessness because of this mental health condition
In addition to illness severity criteria, Oklahoma limits public mental health services using income criteria. To qualify for public mental health services in Oklahoma, you need to have an income that is 200 percent of the federal poverty level or less and be uninsured or underinsured.
What Is Serious Mental Illness?
While there are some exceptions, you generally have to have a serious mental illness (SMI) to get services at an Oklahoma CMHC.
Serious mental illness is usually defined as a condition that causes you severe distress, limits your ability to function, makes it hard for you to live independently without support, or puts you at risk of hospitalization. Conditions that can qualify as SMI include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression.
In general, community mental health centers aren’t the best place to go if you have mild mental health issues and are covered by a private insurance plan.
If all you’re looking for is basic outpatient services like therapy and medication, you may want to focus your search on local non-profits. You can still call your CMHC to help with this, however, as most of them have referral information for people who aren’t eligible for their services.
If you’ve recently been hospitalized for mental health reasons or are unemployed or homeless because of a mental health condition, you should definitely call your local CMHC. Their specialized services are designed to help you address these challenges and get the support you need to regain stability while living at home in your local community.
Check Out the State System If You Need Specialized Services
Community mental health centers in Oklahoma are great places to find specialized and intensive mental health services like case management and day treatment that can be hard to find anywhere else. These specialty programs can give you extra help when you’re dealing with severe symptoms.
You can also usually find affordable therapy and other basic outpatient mental health services like medication management at Oklahoma’s community mental health centers.
If you’re eligible, you can get services at an Oklahoma CMHC for a low co-pay or sliding-scale fee. Most CMHCs accept Medicaid, Medicare, and a range of private and commercial insurance plans. They’ll assign you a sliding-scale fee if you don’t have insurance or don’t have an insurance plan they accept.
While Oklahoma’s mental health system gives you priority if you have a severe mental health condition, they sometimes admit people with moderate conditions depending on their staffing and funding at the time. So, if you have mental health symptoms that are affecting your ability to function, consider calling a CMHC to see if they’re the right fit.
Check If You're Eligible for Medicaid
SoonerCare, Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, is a great way to access the public mental health system in Oklahoma. Most CMHCs accept it and you can also use it to get services at other medical and mental health providers.
Oklahoma accepted federal Medicaid expansion in 2020, so you’re eligible for SoonerCare if your income is 138 percent of the federal poverty level or less. You may also qualify based on a combination of your income, your medical history, and your mental health condition.
If you’re not sure whether you’re eligible, it’s worth looking into. You can apply for SoonerCere in person, by phone, or online. To learn more, you can go to your local Human Services office or fill out an online application on the Oklahoma Medicaid page or Healthcare.gov.
You can find the number for your local CMHC in the directory below. We encourage you to call even if you think you might not be eligible.
Even if you’re not eligible, or if the program doesn’t offer the service you want, they can probably still help you. Community mental health workers are knowledgeable about local resources and will often give you free information or even referrals to other affordable providers nearby, including local non-profits that provide free or low-cost counseling.
Where Do You Call to Get Started?
The easiest way to learn more about state mental health services in Oklahoma is to call your local program directly. They can help you figure out whether you might be eligible and can refer you to other local resources if you’re not. You can find contact information for all Oklahoma CMHCs, as well as the numbers for local crisis lines, in the directory in the next section.
There are also many numbers you can call for help no matter where you are in Oklahoma. You can find the numbers for statewide helplines and hotlines in the information box directly below.
Important Numbers in Oklahoma
You can contact the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services by calling (405) 248-9200.
Public mental health services in Oklahoma are managed on the state level by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. For general information about Oklahoma’s system, you can contact ODMHSAS by calling (405) 248-9200.
However, you’ll probably get the best results by calling your local program directly. You can find the number for your region’s CMHC in the directory below, as well as the contact information for many Native American mental health services and programs.
Oklahoma CMHC Directory
Public outpatient mental health services in Oklahoma are provided by community mental health centers. Many CMHCs have been around for decades and specialize in outpatient as well as intensive community-based mental health services.
There are 77 counties in Oklahoma and 13 community mental health centers that serve those counties. Each CMHC has a main phone number you can call to get information about mental health services as well as a crisis line you can call to get help in a crisis.
You can find the website and contact numbers for your CMHC in the directory below. You can also find contact information for behavioral health programs and services provided by tribal governments and other Native American organizations.
If you need information after hours or aren’t sure whether you’re experiencing a mental health crisis, it’s okay to call a crisis line for help. The staff who answer are trained to quickly figure out what you need and can tell you what steps you need to take to connect with the right services.
Also Consider: Federally Qualified Health Centers
Federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) are another great way to get affordable publicly-funded mental health services in Oklahoma.
These federally-funded programs provide cutting-edge care in places where good primary healthcare was once hard to find. Most provide integrated care so you can get primary medical and mental health services at the same location.
Each FQHC accepts Medicaid and Medicare and offers low sliding-scale fees if you don’t have insurance. Their eligibility requirements are generally less strict than the requirements for the state-funded system.
You can search for FQHCs near you by using the online search tool on the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration website.
The state mental health system is complicated and can be confusing to navigate. If you’re having any issues, we’re here to help. Here are some of our solutions to common problems you might experience.
If you’ve run into a problem that we haven’t addressed, don’t give up. Call someone at the program (or a state or local mental health hotline) and tell them what’s going on.
You’re much more likely to get the help you need when you advocate for yourself and are persistent. Tell the person you talk to what you need or what problem you’re having.
If they don’t help the first time, call them back and tell them. If you keep calling and keep calm and focused, you should eventually get through to someone who can help you.
Deep Dive: How Does the System Work?
To understand Oklahoma’s mental health system, it helps to understand how it started and how it’s changed since then.
Public mental health services have been around for a surprisingly long time. But for over a hundred years in America, the only way to get them was in a psychiatric hospital.
In the 1960s, Americans started thinking differently about mental health care. Conditions in psychiatric hospitals were getting worse and new medications made it possible to provide mental health treatment on an outpatient basis.
In response, new laws were passed that required state and local governments to establish community mental health programs as alternatives to institutionalization for people with serious mental illness. The most important was the Community Mental Health Act, which President John F. Kennedy signed into law in 1963.
For More Information
To learn more about what the public mental health system was like in the early days—and how psychiatric inpatient care has evolved since then—you can read our article “Do Insane Asylums Still Exist? The Surprising Past and Present.”
To learn more about what inpatient mental health treatment is like now, and the differences between how it works in general hospitals and specialized psychiatric facilities, you can read our article “How Inpatient Mental Health Treatment Works.”
Many state mental health programs trace their origins back to the 1960s when these important changes started to happen. Oklahoma was a little ahead of the curve.
The Oklahoma state mental health department was established in 1953, and the state’s history of mental health care traces even further back to the late 1800s.
Oklahoma’s system focused almost exclusively on providing institutional care until President John F. Kennedy signed the federal Community Mental Health Act in 1963, however.
The state adapted to the new system quickly. Oklahoma was the first state to build a CMHC using funds from the Community Mental Health Act. After six years of planning and building, the Central Oklahoma Community Mental Health Center in Norman opened in 1969.
What Is the Structure of the Oklahoma Mental Health System?
Public mental health services in Oklahoma are overseen on the state level by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS).
The mental health system in Oklahoma is centralized rather than county-based and is divided into several multi-county service regions. Outpatient mental health services are provided by a network of 13 community mental health centers.
Some CMHCs are directly operated by the state, while most are independent nonprofits that the state contracts with to provide state-funded services.
In addition, ODMHSAS operates five inpatient psychiatric hospitals and oversees a statewide network of crisis units and mobile crisis teams.
Native Americans in Oklahoma can also choose to receive mental health services at tribal facilities and programs where they are available.
For decades, Oklahoma’s mental health system has been among the most poorly funded in the nation. The state’s limited mental health funding was reduced even further after the 2008 national recession. In response to the state’s worsening budget crisis, cuts in public services escalated to a point in 2017 that state officials said they were considering cutting all public outpatient mental health services.
Though a resolution was reached in 2018 that allowed Oklahoma CMHCs to continue providing outpatient services, the system continues to teeter on the edge of crisis and is only able to serve Oklahomans with the most severe levels of mental illness.
However, mental health advocates in Oklahoma continue to fight for a better system, and in 2019, ODMHSAS funding was increased for the first time in years. Oklahoma has continued to increase mental health funding in the years since.
Native American Mental Health Services in Oklahoma
In addition to the Oklahoma mental health system, Native Americans in Oklahoma are served by the mental health programs run by their own nations.
There are 39 federally recognized tribal nations in Oklahoma. Members of tribal nations are served by three types of healthcare programs: Indian Health Service facilities, Urban Indian Health Programs, and clinics and other facilities and programs directly managed and run by tribal governments.
You can find listings for a wide range of Native American mental health programs in all three of these categories in the directory above, including tribal behavioral health programs for many different sovereign tribal nations.
In response to a 2022 Justice Department lawsuit alleging that Oklahoma fails to provide enough community-based mental health services, the state has stepped up efforts to expand and improve its mental health system.
Many improvements the state has made focus on the crisis response system. These updates include launching the statewide 988 mental health crisis hotline and opening 22 mental health urgent care and crisis centers across the state.
A new mental health hospital and mental health urgent care is opening in Oklahoma City, which will significantly expand statewide inpatient treatment capacity. New laws aim to increase access to care through improved insurance coverage and mental health workforce retention.
While issues with access continue, rates of access to care are improving. The care itself is improving as well. People who get help from the Oklahoma mental health system receive innovative care driven by state-funded research and have good outcomes.
So, if you need help, reach out to your local CMHC or call a state or local crisis line. The help you get could make a big difference—it could maybe even change your life.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, only 43 percent of people in Oklahoma who have mental health conditions get treatment for them. Many of them qualify for public mental health services but don’t know about them.
You can make a difference by reaching out and connecting with local mental health resources to get the care you need. If you’re not sure whether you qualify for Oklahoma state mental health services, call your local program or a state or local crisis line. You may find out you can get mental health services at a community mental health center or that there’s another affordable option nearby.
The most important thing is to get started—the help you need may be only a call or click away.