SB 254 (Reforming Mental Health Services insurance) gets final Senate approval - From the Desk of Sen. Jessica Garvin

by Jessica Garvin

We are continuing our work in the final week of the regular legislative session. At the same time, we are also in a concurrent special session that will give us additional time should we need it to complete the 2024 budget.

The executive nomination process is almost complete. Last week, Mandy Haws, of Purcell, was approved to complete an unexpired term on the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission by the Tourism and Wildlife Committee and the full Senate. She’ll be serving an unexpired term that will end in July 2024. Jonathan Lawson, of Lexington, was also approved by the Business and Commerce Committee to serve an unexpired term on the Oklahoma Used Motor Vehicle, Dismantler and Manufactured Housing Commission. His nomination will go before the full Senate this week.

I’m thrilled that the Senate gave final approval to my SB 254 last Thursday. This is going to help greatly boost access to mental health services by requiring insurers to arrange mental and behavioral health care quickly with an out-of-network provider if such care isn’t available in-network. Typically, because of the high cost of out-of-network care, many people will simply not get the services they need, which can be detrimental to their well-being and dangerous. This will require insurers to charge the same amount whether in-network or out when an individual can’t find such services in-network. It’s imperative that those in mental crisis get services as quickly as possible and this important reform will improve access while also removing the financial barrier for out-of-network care. If signed this week, this new law will become effective Nov. 1, 2023.

It was an honor to recently receive the 2023 Prevention Pioneer Award from the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse for my work on legislation like SB 254. Our state is facing a mental health crisis with some of the nation’s highest suicide, overdose and addiction rates. Much of this can be avoided with better access to mental health care, and I will continue fighting to improve services.

Another one of my bills that may be moving forward this week will provide six weeks of maternity leave for full-time state employees who have been on the job for at least two years, and it also give non-appropriated agencies the option to provide the same. Like with teachers, this is a benefit we must provide so mothers don’t have to choose between taking care of their newborns while they heal or returning to work. Turnover costs the state several million dollars annually and after my interim study last fall, this was one of the top reasons women leave the workforce, along with not having access to affordable child care, which we’re also working on.

Congratulations to the Class of 2023! It was such a joy browsing through social media and seeing all the excited faces at graduations around the district. You all have accomplished so much, but this really is just the beginning of your journey, and I wish you all the best.

If you have any questions or concerns on legislative matters, please contact me at the Capitol. Please write to Senator Jessica Garvin, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 237, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email me at or call (405) 521-5522.