In The Know: Less than half of adult Oklahomans who need mental health services get them

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Less than half of adult Oklahomans who need mental health services get them: Thousands of low-income, uninsured Oklahomans do not receive the mental health and substance abuse treatment they need, a problem that continues to worsen over time thanks to a chronically underfunded state mental health system, a state health leader said Wednesday. Terri White, commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said at a Senate appropriations committee hearing Wednesday that her agency continues to treat only the sickest Oklahomans, leaving without care thousands of low-income residents with brain disorders who aren’t “sick enough” [NewsOK]. 

‘Good Samaritan’ law for overdose victims is expected in next Oklahoma legislative session: State health leaders will support a “Good Samaritan” law in the coming legislative session that would provide some legal protections to people who seek emergency medical help for drug overdoses. Presently in Oklahoma, a person who calls 911, for example, because they’re in a house where someone is overdosing, could face drug charges when police arrive [NewsOK].

State ranked 3rd in tobacco prevention spending: Oklahoma ranks third in the country in funding programs to prevent children from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a national report released by a coalition of public health organizations. Oklahoma is spending $25 million this year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 59.1 percent of the $42.3 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oklahoma is one of only five states that are providing at least half the CDC-recommended funding for tobacco prevention programs [Journal Record]. The report is available here

More than 40,000 Oklahomans already enrolled in marketplace insurance plans: More than 40,000 Oklahomans have already signed up for health insurance this enrollment period through the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday. A total of 40,675 had enrolled in marketplace coverage through as of Dec. 5, according to the agency [Tulsa World]. Here’s what you need to know about Open Enrollment [OK Policy].

Panhandling measure forces Curbside Chronicle to change business model: Oklahoma City’s street newspaper, The Curbside Chronicle, will undergo major changes because of a new panhandling ordinance the city council approved Tuesday. The publication’s founder and director, Ranya O’Connor, said 80 percent of the newspaper’s sales are made by vendors standing on medians. As a result, O’Connor said she’ll have to develop a new business model that allows vendors to continue their current level of sales at other locations [Red Dirt Report].

We’re looking for spring interns: We are now accepting student applicants for paid, part-time internships focusing on research or advocacy during the spring of 2016. Interns will be expected to work between 10 and 20 hours per week, depending on their schedules and availability. Research interns will be based in our Tulsa office, with occasional opportunities to work from home or school [OK Policy].

Out of balance: A bedrock principle of Oklahoma’s Constitution is that the state must balance its budget each and every year. Several constitutional provisions limit annual spending allocations to no more than the state expects to collect in revenues. Yet it is now clear to any informed and honest observer that our budget no longer balances. Year after year, the Legislature appropriates hundreds of millions of dollars more than the available revenue estimated at the start of the legislative session [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Oklahoma Improves Oversight for Charter Schools: A national charter school organization is praising Oklahoma for its strong charter school laws. The state is now ranked 10th nationally for charter school oversight, which is up from its previous ranking of 37th. A report from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers shows Oklahoma improved its rankings dramatically by passing Senate Bill 782 last legislative session. The law made it much more difficult for charters to be approved [KOSU]. You can read the report here.

Pennsylvania sues Chesapeake Energy over ‘deceptive’ leases: Pennsylvania’s attorney general sued one of the nation’s largest producers of natural gas on Wednesday over claims it cheated at least 4,000 landowners who signed drilling leases with the company. Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. tricked landowners into signing industry-friendly leases in the early years of the Marcellus Shale drilling boom and then improperly deducted post-production expenses from their royalty checks, according to the lawsuit filed in Bradford County [Journal Record].

Oklahoma Muslims, supporters respond to Trump’s call to ban Islamic immigrants: Islamic State-inspired terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernadino, California, and a proposal by presidential hopeful Donald Trump to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, have Oklahoma Muslims on edge. Trump’s proposal Monday to halt Muslim travel to the U.S. “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on” set off a global firestorm of condemnation from all corners of the political arena [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“You’re going to have tough choices. And I know this isn’t going to shock any of you — I’m not going to make it easy for you. I’m not going to just say, ‘Yep, I know it’s tough choices’ and not advocate for what I think is the best use of state dollars. So, my thought that we should all be thinking about is, ‘How much is a life in Oklahoma worth?’ “

– Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Terri White, advocating for mental health funding at a senate appropriations hearing on Wednesday. Oklahoma spends $56.22 per capita on mental health, well below the national average of $129.27 per capita (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahomans age 18-24 enrolled in college or graduate school (31.8% of men, 38.1% of women)

Source: U.S. Census 2014 American Community Survey

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

What happens when a family runs out of food stamps: Toward the end of every month, hospitals in California see a curious uptick in admissions for hypoglycemia, the kind of low blood sugar that can affect diabetics. The pattern, detected in a recent study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, is almost entirely driven by low-income patients. The non-poor don’t show much change in admissions at all. The researchers suspect this trend may point to an underlying challenge for the poor: Food stamps, given out in a lump sum at the start of each month, run out for many families before they reach the end of it [Washington Post].

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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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