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Bill supporting mental, behavioral healthcare coverage heads to Gov. Stitt’s desk

The full Senate gave final approval to legislation on Thursday that would ensure Oklahomans have access to mental and behavioral healthcare in a timely and more affordable manner.

Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, authored Senate Bill (SB) 254, which requires insurers to arrange such care quickly with an out-of-network provider if such care is unavailable in-network.

“In a mental health crisis, getting proper care can be a matter of life and death. This will require insurers to help patients arrange mental health care when they can’t find timely services on their own,” Garvin said. “This reform will make sure Oklahomans can get the help they need quickly and without the higher costs associated with out-of-network care. This will make Oklahoma a leader in mental health care.”

Under SB 254, should a patient not be able to find the necessary in-network mental and behavioral healthcare, the insurer will be required to arrange the necessary care out-of-network. The bill prohibits costs for out-of-network care from being passed onto the patient outside of their normal deductible and copay. Each health plan will also be required to have a documented procedure to assist a plan member in accessing out-of-network behavioral healthcare.

SB 254 also allows the Oklahoma Insurance Department to see the procedure if they have to investigate an instance of a failure to ensure coverage. Lastly, the bill will also allow telehealth services to be used when deemed medically appropriate.

Rep. Jeff Boatman, R-Tulsa, authored the bill while in the House.

“When mental health services are unavailable in a reasonable timeframe, Oklahomans suffer,” Boatman said. “By requiring a matching rate for in-network providers when care is provided out-of-network in these situations, Oklahomans across the state can receive the assistance they need without worrying about the cost

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How School Health Clinics Help Students and Families Access Care

An Hispanic teenage girl sits on an examination table as her little sister tenderly leans against her arm.

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland Takes Innovative Approach to Physical and Mental Health in Historically Underserved Areas

By

Lorna Fernandes

At the center of the McClymonds High School quad in West Oakland is a door surrounded by a red “McClymonds Warriors” banner. A sign reads “Chappell Hayes Health Center,” and the door opens to couches in a warm and spacious waiting room. On the wall is a large portrait of Chappell Hayes, a local political activist and the clinic’s namesake. Down the hallway are fully equipped medical exam rooms.

This is not your typical “school nurse’s office.” This health clinic is one of two located at Oakland high schools that are staffed by UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland (BCH Oakland) physicians, nurses, social workers and therapists. The McClymonds clinic and the Youth UpRising Castlemont health clinic, located across town in East Oakland next to Castlemont High, are part of an innovative initiative to provide comprehensive primary and mental health care to historically underserved students and neighbors in the surrounding communities.

“Students schedule appointments or come in for same-day needs for services ranging from well care to sports physicals, vaccinations, reproductive health care like condoms and birth control, health education sessions and behavioral health therapy,” said Celeste Allen, MD, the attending physician who has worked at the clinic since 2006. “These young people have after-school jobs, responsibilities to care for siblings and other commitments that often make it difficult for them to take care of their health needs on their own time, but fitting appointments in between classes only a short walk away, is absolutely doable.”

The clinics are open weekdays for mental health appointments from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. either in person or via telehealth. Seven BCH Oakland physicians rotate days at the clinics,

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The microbiome thread: From farm to food to h

Deep within our bodies, millions of microbes help digest our food and provide nutrients to keep us healthy.

It’s a symbiotic relationship that dates back millennia, when the first bacteria appeared on Earth 3.5 billion years ago. Ubiquitous in the soil and environment, these microbes tagged along as more complex plants and animals evolved and became an essential part of human function. In fact, the human microbiome contains more bacterial cells than actual human cells.

“Even though they’re not part of our genetics, they exist in and on us,” said Dr. Davendra Ramkumar, a Champaign gastroenterologist and Associate Professor at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine (COM).

Ramkumar and his wife, Dr. Japhia Ramkumar, internist and Associate Professor at the Carle Illinois COM, have key roles in a project seed-funded by the Illinois Regenerative Agriculture Initiative (IRAI) to explore the microbiome connection from farm to food to human health. “Regenerative Agriculture and the Human Health Nexus in the Age of Climate Change” is an initiative of Basil’s Harvest, an Illinois nonprofit promoting regenerative ag and human health. The project will shed light on how regenerative farming practices lead to healthier soils and plants, which produce healthier food, which in turn influences gut health and, ultimately, overall human health. The collaboration, which includes researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the Illinois Water Resources Center, and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, has received a second year of IRAI seed funding.

“There’s a movement emerging that envisions transforming our agriculture systems in order to transform our health. Regenerative agriculture is a cornerstone in this movement,” the proposal states.

How does it all connect? Bacteria in our gut microbiome survive by extracting nutrients from what we eat. In return, they provide us with vitamins, help produce hormones, and modulate our immune

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7 ways to support a loved one’s mental health

7 ways to support a loved one’s mental health

You’ve likely been there – or could be in the future – where a friend or family member shares with you what’s troubling them, but you’re not sure what to say.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 in 5 U.S. adults live with a mental illness. When someone you know is struggling with their mental mindset, it’s best to create space for them to talk openly and honestly about how they’re feeling.

Dr. Gene Carroccia, clinical psychologist and vice president of ambulatory behavioral health services for Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care, offers seven ways to better support a loved one with a mental health concern:

1. Become more comfortable talking about mental health

“The topic of mental health is often taboo, so it can be easier to avoid or minimize it,” Dr. Carroccia says. “While it takes courage to start a conversation with a loved one about their mental health, if it’s done in a caring and non-threatening manner, it may open new doors for them. We are in a national mental health crisis together now, and we are challenged to stretch our comfort zones.”

2. Learn more about mental health challenges

Dr. Carroccia recommends researching your loved one’s mental health symptoms and issues. Learning more about the topic can also increase comfort level. You can visit helpful online resources like the National Alliance on Mental Health’s website to become more knowledgeable. The more comfortable you are with the subject matter, the better you can be there for a struggling loved one.

3. Listen to convey empathy and concern

“Sometimes your loved one just wants you to listen while they vent about what is troubling them,” Dr. Carroccia says. “While they may need professional assistance, not everyone needs this during difficult

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Brandon Act aims to improve mental health support | Health Fitness

Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr., undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, signed a policy on May 5, 2023 to initiate implementation of the Brandon Act and improve the process for service members seeking mental health support.

The Brandon Act aims at improving the referral process for service members seeking a mental health evaluation and allowing them to seek help confidentially, Cisneros said.

The Brandon Act is named after Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Caserta who died by suicide in 2018. The legislation was signed into law by President Joe Biden on Dec. 27, 2021, as part of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.

“Our greatest strength is our people, and we are committed to their well-being,” Cisneros said. “Therefore, I firmly believe that seeking mental health treatment is a sign of strength and resilience. This policy, spurred by the passage of the Brandon Act, is an important step in ensuring that our service members are able to seek mental health treatment when and how they need it. We honor Petty Officer Brandon Caserta’s memory by ensuring that our military services have procedures and processes in place that allow service members to seek help confidentially, for any reason, at any time and in any environment, and aim to reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health care.”

The Defense Department policy directs the services to establish policy, assign responsibilities, and provide procedures for service members to request a referral for a mental health evaluation through a commanding officer or supervisor. The process allows service members to seek help confidentially for any reason, at any time, and in any environment, thereby reducing the stigma associated with seeking mental health care, Cisneros said.

Implementation of the policy will occur in two phases. In phase one, which should be implemented within 45 days,

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