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In The Know: From police custody to psychiatric care; mental health first aid; the crisis of rural and small-town Oklahoma…

by | October 19th, 2018 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

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.

In The News

Task force wants better process for getting mentally ill from police custody to psychiatric care: A task force involving psychiatrists, first responders and hospitals wants to streamline the process for getting people having a mental health emergency into proper care. Project Blue Streets Chairman Jason Beaman said the idea behind the task force is simple. “Our police officers are spending hours and hours and hours in emergency rooms, often waiting on unnecessary and nonscientific-based tests and labs instead of out patrolling our streets,” Beaman said. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Learning the skills of mental health first aid ‘could be a game changer: If you take a CPR class, that doesn’t mean you are qualified to be a cardiologist. But CPR is an important step in the first aid to a patient who may be having a heart issue. Tulsa Community College believes a first-aid course for mental health could be a similar lifesaver for those showing some warning signs of a mental health issue. [John Klein / Tulsa World]

Prosperity Policy: The crisis of rural and small-town Oklahoma: At a recent candidates’ forum in Lawton hosted by Oklahoma Watch and Together Oklahoma, Republicans and Democrats alike said access to health care is one of the top challenges facing rural and small-town Oklahomans. “Two years ago, the hospital in my district, in Frederick, closed,” said Trey Caldwell, the Republican candidate in House District 63. [David Blatt / Journal Record]

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In The Know: Low-income taxpayers pay higher rate; challenges with opioid crisis in rural areas; OCJR’s #ProjectCommutation…

by | October 18th, 2018 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

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.

In The News

New analysis: Low-income taxpayers in Oklahoma pay more than twice the tax rate paid by the richest Oklahomans: While Oklahoma has a reputation as a low tax state, poor and middle-income Oklahomans are actually paying a greater share of their income in taxes than the national average, while the richest 5 percent of households — with annual incomes of $194,500 or more — pay less. That’s why Oklahoma ranks among the ten worst states for tax inequality in the newly updated Who Pays report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). [OK Policy]

The drug Suboxone could help combat the opioid crisis, but in rural areas it can be hard to get: As Sydney Humphrey set out to launch a treatment program for people addicted to opioids in a rural Oklahoma town not far from her own, she saw an undeniable need. Many people, desperate for addiction treatment, made the journey to larger cities in search of providers. Some resorted to buying addiction-treating drugs off the street. [The Frontier]

Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform fighting for commutations for current inmates: Supporters of criminal justice reform are asking the courts to commute the sentences for several inmates. For years, criminal justice reform has been discussed at the Oklahoma State Capitol as a way to curb the state’s incarceration rate. According to a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Oklahoma was second in the nation in overall incarceration rates for 2016. [KFOR]

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SQ 793 is about corporate control of a medical profession (Guest Post: Joel Robison)

by | October 18th, 2018 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

Of the five state questions on the ballot in November, only SQ 793, which would allow optometrists and opticians to operate in retail establishments, is the subject of intense, well-funded campaigns from both supporters and opponents. We asked both campaigns on SQ 793 to submit guest posts explaining their position. This post by Joel Robison explains why his group opposes the measure.  A post in support can be found here


Joel Robison serves as executive director for the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians.

State Question 793 is a November 2018 ballot initiative that would allow big retailers like Walmart to open corporate-run optometry clinics inside their stores. It was put on the ballot after a successful signature gathering drive led by Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom, a group created by and paid for by Walmart. The “yes” campaign is being funded by Walmart, with some help from other big retailers like Costco.

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SQ 793 will expand vision care access for low-income Oklahomans (Guest Post: John Kusel)

by | October 18th, 2018 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

Of the five state questions on the ballot in November, only SQ 793, which would allow optometrists and opticians to operate in retail establishments, is the subject of intense, well-funded campaigns from both supporters and opponents. We asked both campaigns on SQ 793 to submit guest posts explaining their position. This post by John Kusel explains why his group supports the measure.  A post in opposition can be found here


John Kusel, a Ft. Cobb rancher, is an advocate for senior citizens who has served as President of the Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature and as Chair of the State Council on Aging.

While the rising costs of healthcare can often force low-income families to make difficult decisions between their health and their financial well-being, we can break down one of these financial barriers in Oklahoma by creating new options for affordable vision care. Voters in Oklahoma will have an opportunity to do this on Election Day in November by voting “Yes” on State Question 793.

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New analysis: Low-income taxpayers in Oklahoma pay more than twice the tax rate paid by the richest Oklahomans

by | October 17th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)

While Oklahoma has a reputation as a low tax state, poor and middle-income Oklahomans are actually paying a greater share of their income in taxes than the national average, while the richest 5 percent of households — with annual incomes of $194,500 or more — pay less.

That’s why Oklahoma ranks among the ten worst states for tax inequality in the newly updated Who Pays report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). The analysis evaluates major state and local taxes, including personal and corporate income taxes, property taxes, sales and other excise taxes. It finds that the poorest Oklahoma households pay 2.1 times as much of their incomes in taxes as the wealthiest 1 percent, and the middle 60 percent of households pay 1.7 times as much as the wealthiest. The poorest 20 percent of households pay the 5th highest taxes as a share of their incomes — 13.4 percent — in the country. You can read the full Who Pays report at www.whopays.org and see the fact sheet for Oklahoma here.

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In The Know: Employees union to sue Dept of Health; Medicaid rule raising concerns; OK lags in after-school suppers for kids…

by | October 17th, 2018 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

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.

In The News

Oklahoma employees union to sue Health Department over layoffs: On Dec. 8, Lana Shaffer got the message to pack up her desk at the Harper County Health Department and not come back. After 16 years of service, Shaffer was told the Oklahoma State Department of Health didn’t have the funds to pay her and most of her colleagues in the partner engagement office, which worked with communities to get grants and other help for their health-improvement projects. [NewsOK]

Medicaid work rule raising concerns over lost coverage: While Oklahoma officials work to implement Medicaid work requirements, the policy’s effect is taking shape in Arkansas. The Trump administration has given states the opportunity to apply for waivers that offer more flexibility when regulating Medicaid use. That program uses state and federal money to offer low-income residents health coverage. [Journal Record] OK Policy previously published a guest post from Joan Alker, Executive Director of the Center for Children and Families in Georgetown, on how Oklahoma’s proposed work rule would harm mothers and children here.

121 percent more at-risk kids get after-school suppers, but Oklahoma still feeds fewer than average: Maybe a dozen kids took advantage of free evening meals when the YMCA began its supper program at three Tulsa elementary schools during the spring semester. Now upward of 100 show up after every school day to eat and talk with mentors. Organizers suggest the shift in participation for the new Welcome Table program aligns with a statewide effort to provide more free dinners to children from low-income neighborhoods. [Tulsa World]

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OKPolicyCast 39: Bad Voter, Good Voter (with David Glover)

by | October 16th, 2018 | Posted in Elections, Podcast | Comments (0)

The OKPolicyCast is hosted by Gene Perry and produced by Gene Perry and Jessica Vazquez. You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre. If you have any questions for the OKPolicyCast, topics you’d like us to cover, or people you want us to interview, you can reach us at policycast@okpolicy.org.

In recent years, Oklahoma has seen some of the lowest voter turnout in the nation. Turnout was well below the nation in the 2012 and 2016 presidential races. In our last governor’s race in 2014, Oklahoma had the fewest votes cast for governor going back to 1978. But that wasn’t always true in Oklahoma. For decades before the 2010s, Oklahomans voted at rates near or above the national average.

Then in June elections this year, Oklahomans showed up at unprecedented levels for a primary race. Will that energy continue, or will it die back down now that marijuana is not longer on the ballot?

To get at some of these questions about what influences voter turnout, I spoke to David Glover, the founder of the website badvoter.org. At badvoter.org, you can look up all the information you need to get registered to vote, vote by mail, or find your polling place. And, as we’ll discuss, you can also look up the recent voting history of your friends and family to see who’s a good voter or a bad voter.

You can find more information about the upcoming Oklahoma elections, state questions, and how to vote at okpolicy.org/okvotes.

You can download the episode here, subscribe at the links above, or play it in your browser:

In The Know: Data and access to justice; OK Policy launches mental health initiative; Edmondson, Stitt clear up accusations…

by | October 16th, 2018 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

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.

In The News

Oklahoma Summit on A2J: How data deepens our understanding of access to justice: Studying civil legal data increases understanding of access to justice problems and helps lawyers and laypeople alike see how they can be part of the solution. In this On The Road episode from The Oklahoma Summit on A2J, host John Williams talks to Ryan Gentzler, director of open justice Oklahoma, and Anna Carpenter, associate clinical professor of law at the University of Tulsa College of Law. They discuss the ways data helps them advocate for fair policies and services for low-income people. [Legal Talk Network]

OK Policy adds mental health fellows and policy analyst to launch new initiative: With three new hires, Oklahoma Policy Institute has launched the Oklahoma Mental Health Policy Fellowship, a new initiative supported by the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation. The fellowship emerged out of an April 2018 report on improving mental health and wellness in Tulsa, published by the Urban Institute and developed by the University of Tulsa Oxley College of Health Sciences, as well as individuals and representatives from local agencies. The report recommended building intellectual capacity around mental health and wellness in the Tulsa community. [OK Policy]

Drew Edmondson and Kevin Stitt try to clear up accusations made in ads: Gubernatorial candidates Kevin Stitt and Drew Edmondson continued to go ‘round and ‘round last week, with each accusing the other of misleading the public on their tax policies while former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett showed up in campaign plugs for both candidates. [Tulsa World] Republican support continues to pile on for gubernatorial candidate Kevin Stitt, the latest endorsement came from U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas. [Enid News & Eagle]

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Billions of dollars for Oklahoma and health care for hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans at stake in this election (Capitol Update)

by | October 15th, 2018 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Healthcare | Comments (1)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

The new CEO of the Oklahoma Hospital Association (OHA), Patti Davis, has decided to advocate openly for Medicaid expansion to access federal health care funding under the Affordable Care Act. Oklahoma has missed out on this funding since 2012 when Governor Fallin decided to abandon any effort to claim these tax dollars Oklahoma sends to Washington D.C. In the past the OHA has been shy about using the term “Medicaid expansion,” preferring euphemisms in hopes of avoiding association with the hated “Obamacare.” The strategy hasn’t worked because die hards against the Affordable Care Act, constantly on guard against the health care funding, were not fooled.

In an article published in the Oklahoman last week, Ms. Davis pointed out that “if Oklahoma were to accept federal funds to cover the uninsured, possibly through the public/private partnership Insure Oklahoma program as we have proposed, the economic benefit would be in the billions to our state each year.” She cites an analysis by an Oklahoma State University economist in 2016, that over a 5-year period if Oklahoma had accepted federal funds for health care coverage, more than $14.5 billion would have been injected into our state’s economy and more than 24,000 health care-related jobs would have been created.

Ms. Davis goes on to say, “We’re all in this together. Injecting these dollars into health care is a win for education, corrections and mental health. The notion that expanding health care coverage would take money away from other areas, such as education, simply isn’t true. Schools and communities suffer when citizens don’t have access to vital health care services. When our citizens don’t have access to mental health coverage, our jails and prisons, unfortunately, become the default. And an injection of federal dollars into health care frees up state money for other agencies.”

In case you’re wondering where the two major candidates for governor stand on Medicaid expansion, they were both quoted directly in another Oklahoman article by Chris Casteel on June 17, 2018, as follows:

“Kevin Stitt, a Tulsa businessman, said, ‘I do not support expanding Medicaid … Obamacare is a disastrous law that Congress should repeal and replace with a solution that encourages a competitive business climate to drive down cost for all Oklahomans and increase health care options.'”

And from Drew Edmondson: “Rejecting the Medicaid expansion funds is the worst decision the governor made since taking office,” Democratic candidate Drew Edmondson said. “On my first day as governor, I’ll begin the process of reversing that harmful decision.”

In The Know: Limiting opioid prescriptions; Pauls Valley hospital closes; potential for Medicaid expansion…

by | October 15th, 2018 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

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.

In The News

Oklahomans still receive more potentially risky doses of opioids: Oklahomans who got opioid prescriptions in 2017 were still more likely to get potentially risky doses than their counterparts around the country were four years ago, before most people knew there was a crisis of overdoses. Some hope that could change soon, as a bill to limit how many pills patients receive after a surgery or injury takes effect in November. [NewsOK 🔒] New app will allow real time tracking of Oklahoma drug overdoses. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma Home and Community Education offering family mental health and opioid addiction workshop. [High Plains Journal]

With closing of Pauls Valley Hospital, a city’s ‘peace of mind’ is shaken: After years of financial struggles, the Pauls Valley Regional Medical Center has closed, with officials saying they could not secure enough funds to keep the hospital going. As a result, more than 100 hospital employees will lose their jobs and the community of 6,200 will be deprived of a nearby health center that tended to wounds, provided simple surgeries, and stabilized patients before transfer to larger, urban hospitals. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma gubernatorial candidates don’t see eye-to-eye on Medicaid expansion: If elected governor, Drew Edmondson wants to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma, embracing a part of the Affordable Care Act that would open health coverage to an additional 200,000 low-income Oklahomans. But Edmondson likely would find a Republican-controlled Legislature that would require some major convincing. [NewsOK] OK Policy wrote about why expanding Medicaid would be good for Oklahoma families, our health care system, and state finances here.

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