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Mental health care pros feel economic pressure

Lawton_Oklahoma State mental health care professionals are feeling the pressure from the economic decline.  They find themselves also paying more for fuel and energy costs, and they say that the price of everything is rising - except for their budgets.  They have been forced to trim their services, and those who will feel it the most will be their patients. 

Mental health care services have already been stripped to bare bones, but they say they couldn't have predicted just how bad it could get.  "Nobody expected we would be in the position we are in," says Taliaferro Center Executive Director Jim Regan.  He says that with the soaring costs of medicine, fuel, and energy this year, medical facilities across the state are focusing on ways to skim costs now that they are facing a standstill budget.  "With the same amount of money, it's going to make it a very, very difficult year for us," says Regan.  "Next year it's going to be very thin.  We're going to be very creative in how we do the services."

The Taliaferro Center in Lawton provides care to eight Oklahoma counties in rural Southwest Oklahoma, and with physicians on the road battling high fuel costs, Regan says the dollars and cents add up quickly.  "That's something we'll have to take a look at to see what areas we can cut back...all things connected with fuel."  He says the center is already utilizing a program called "Telemedicine" which allows a physician to talk to a patient who is miles away.  He says follow ups can now be conducted via video conference, and it not only saves time, more importantly, it saves gas.

As with everything else, the need for mental health care is increasing, and Regan says they can only do so much until changes are made.  "The legislature will look very closely in the years to come, but it also causes us to look at ourselves and how we do business," he says.  until then, Regan says the only way mental health care facilities will get through this rough patch is to pull together.  "It's going to take all of us - from food service workers, to the counselors and physicians, to make it through this next year.  It will be very difficult."

Currently, Taliaferro offers three children's programs which they say they might downsize and combine into two in order to cut costs.

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