In The Know: Oklahoma ranks 49th for adult mental health

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today In The News

State of Oklahoma adult mental health ranks a disturbing 49th in the nation: Substance abuse, prison systems and education have one thing in common in Oklahoma: they are leading factors in Oklahoma’s poor mental health status. Oklahoma ranks 45th nationally in behavioral mental health — adults nearly leading at 49th nationally and children at 43rd, according to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “We’ve been a state that basically funds downstream,” Mental Health Association of Oklahoma Executive Director Mike Brose said. “What I mean by that is, it’s been said many times, many ways, that our mental health treatment and institutions have become our jails and prisons here in Oklahoma,” he said [OU Daily].

Mental health center files civil rights complaint against OKC school district: After 10 years of providing education services to children being treated for psychiatric problems at Positive Changes, the district abruptly declined to renew the contract last summer. Positive Changes officials filed a retaliation complaint with the school district, claiming district officials took the action as retribution for them having reported three incidents of possible child abuse or neglect involving Oklahoma City teachers to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services Office of Client Advocacy. Oklahoma City school officials deny the allegations [NewsOK].

Oklahoma DHS may have to reimburse fathers millions in paternity cases: A judge has ruled against the Oklahoma Department of Human Services in a class-action lawsuit — a decision that could cost the state millions of dollars if upheld on appeal. Four men filed the lawsuit in 2011, complaining they were wrongfully charged 10 percent interest on back child support rather than a fluctuating rate determined by the prime rate set by banks [NewsOK].

Lawsuit brewing: School districts shorted by state for two decades want back pay: Leaders of as many as 60 school districts are reportedly contemplating legal action to force the Oklahoma State Department of Education to recoup state aid funds that were erroneously paid to other school districts since 1992. Ponca City Superintendent David Pennington said the total impact of the state aid calculation error on his district alone is $13 million and that the statewide total could be upward of $300 million. Pennington is the one who discovered the state’s error, and state education officials acknowledged it in December 2014 [Tulsa World].

Four-day school week is a consequence of unwillingness to fund public schools: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has taken a quick, strong stand against a 4-day school week that is being considered by some school districts. The legislature passed a bill a few years ago to allow for longer, fewer days, mainly to make it easier for schools to make up “bad weather” days toward the end of the school year. But now some schools are considering going to a 4-day week as a recruitment tool for teachers and to save money on such things as transportation and utilities [OK Policy].

Oklahoma County sheriff: Early childhood education helps to fight crime: I began my law enforcement career in 1967. I served 24 years with the Choctaw Police Department before being elected sheriff 19 years ago. I’ve dedicated my life to making Oklahoma County a safe place to live. Now I find myself continuing these efforts through a different approach — advocating for high-quality early learning opportunities for our children [The Oklahoman].

Fact sheet: Hunger in Oklahoma: The holiday season is a time when many of use will share feasts with our loved ones. Yet hundreds of thousands of Oklahoma still don’t always know where their next meal will come from. Not having enough to eat impacts Oklahomans of all ages, but it especially affects children. In addition, thousands of Oklahomans rely on the food security safety net, including SNAP, WIC, school meals, and other programs [OK Policy].

State officials question private contractor’s health savings claims: Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services Employee Group Insurance Department Administrator Frank Wilson said he doesn’t agree with a new analysis conducted by a company MedEncentive hired. MedEncentive CEO Jeff Greene said the first year’s results show $1.7 million of net savings in health care costs. An analysis from OMES’ contract actuary, Aon Hewitt, showed health care costs rose by $2.4 million. The three-year study aims to reduce health care costs by improving health literacy [Journal Record].

$10 million Tar Creek settlement proposed: Two companies with ties to abandoned lead and zinc mining operations in northern Ottawa County have agreed to pay over $10 million to resolve claims related to the government’s cleanup efforts. The money would be paid to the federal government to defray some costs associated with cleanup and monitoring efforts in the area designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as Tar Creek, an EPA Superfund site primarily located in northern Ottawa County [Tulsa World].

Dept. of Veterans Affairs wants permission to hire an attorney: The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs wants to hire its own attorney. Legislation filed in November would let the agency end its contract with the attorney general’s office and bring its own lawyer onto the payroll. ODVA Deputy Director Doug Elliot said the agency has wanted for some time to cut ties with the AG’s office and hire in-house counsel who could more efficiently handle 2,200 employees and hundreds of thousands in delinquent payments [Journal Record].

Quote of the Day

“My reasoning is simple: 90 percent of brain development occurs in the first five years, impacting cognitive and emotional skills and making children far more likely to start school ready to learn so they don’t fall behind, drop out and get involved in crime. If we invest in children early, the effects are lifelong, lowering dropout rates and involvement in crime.”

– Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel, on why he is working with a nonprofit that advocates investment in early childhood education (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of professionally active dentists in Oklahoma in October 2015

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Most of What You Learned in Econ 101 Is Wrong: Harvard’s Greg Mankiw, author of the most popular college introductory economics textbook, is often regarded as America’s econ teacher. He famously refers to his “Principles of Economics” as “my favorite textbook,” and I must admit that it’s also my favorite. It’s written in a clear, explanatory style and covers the basics of most important theories in modern economics. But Mankiw’s book, like every introductory econ textbook I know of, has a big problem. Most of what’s in it is probably wrong [BloombergView].

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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