Mental health center in Lawton bracing for possible cuts

Mental health center in Lawton bracing for possible cuts

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - Mental Health facilities across the state are preparing for the worst after Wednesday's announcement of a possible $75 million cut to funding for mental health in Oklahoma.

The Jim Taliaferro Community Mental Health Center has been in Lawton since 1975, and currently serves just under 3,000 people through its outpatient center.

Executive director Brenda Ototivo said she doesn't know where people will go for help if that part of the center is closed.

"I wish I had an answer but I don't know," she said. "They'll end up in ER's and jails or dead. Once again that's not being overdramatic that's being real."

She's had current patients come in crying wondering what's going to happen to the center. Ototivo said she tries to be optimistic but knows she won't have much to offer if it the cuts goes through.

"We just try to reassure all of our consumers that they're still here to talk to them, we're still going to get them their medication," Ototivo said. "Maybe not so much on everything else but we can reassure them that they'll see a doctor and get a prescription."

If the cuts happen, she said all eleven services on the outpatient side of the facility will go away.

Ototivo is counting her blessings that the cuts aren't even more than the proposed 75 million.

"We're still going to have our inpatient unit," Ototivo said. "We only have 14 beds. If they do not have a resolution that number of beds is going to need to increase but it won't because the money is not going to be there. We already know that."

Hearing about the possible cuts have been devastating and disheartening for Ototivo, but she's hopeful legislators will find a resolution.

"I still believe that our elected officials are going to be able to come to some resolution. They have the ability. If they do it or not is up to them," she said.
If the cuts go through Ototivo said she'll have to lay off between 65 and 70 employees with the notices starting in November and December.

She said they have seven federal grants, but without their outpatient services, she's waiting to see if the center will get to keep those grants.

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