In The Know: 1.4 billion opioid pills prescribed in Oklahoma; Oklahoma County seeks to prosecute opioid manufacturers; Lawmaker has questions for State Superintendent

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.

New from OK Policy

Smaller state agencies get a bigger piece of the budget, but there’s still a ways to go: Large state agencies and the big problems they address, including education, health care, and mental illness, naturally get most of the attention – and the money – at budget time. Smaller agencies, too, provide services that are equally important to our state’s people and future. [OK Policy]

Prosperity Policy: Talk about it: Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experience mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. For one-quarter of this population, mental illness will be serious enough to substantially interfere with or limit major life activities. [David Blatt / OK Policy]

In The News

1.4 billion opioid pills prescribed in Oklahoma: In Jefferson County, an annual average of 92 pain pills per person was pumped into the rural county near the Texas border between the years of 2006 and 2012, one of the highest rates in the region during a time when the opioid epidemic spread across the country. During that same period more than 1.4 billion pills were prescribed across the state, enough each year for 54 pills per Oklahoman, the sixth-highest rate in the nation. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma County seeks to prosecute opioid manufacturers: Oklahoma County has joined over 50 other cities and counties in Oklahoma to prosecute opioid manufacturers for damages caused by the opioid epidemic. All three Oklahoma County Commissioners voted Wednesday morning to approve a contract between the county and the Fulmer Sill law firm for the “prosecution and trial of claims against various opioid manufacturers, distributors, and others,” according to the contract. [The Oklahoman]

As trial ends, state urges judge to make Johnson & Johnson pay for drug epidemic: Lawyers for the state of Oklahoma urged a judge Monday to find health-care conglomerate Johnson & Johnson culpable for the consequences of the state’s opioid epidemic and assess the company as much as $17.5 billion to help clean up the damage. [Washington Post]

In wake of criminal investigation into Epic Charter Schools, lawmaker has questions for State Superintendent: A day after Oklahoma Superintendent of Schools Joy Hofmeister said she would “work with any criminal investigation” conducted into Epic Charter Schools, one state lawmaker said she plans to ask Hofmeister if that cooperation is even possible. [The Frontier] A day after embezzlement allegations surfaced against Epic Charter Schools, Gov. Kevin Stitt has requested a briefing from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation on its inquiry into “ghost students” enriching Oklahoma’s largest virtual charter school system. [The Oklahoman]

Chris Bernard of Hunger Free Oklahoma: ‘Hunger costs Oklahoma $1.4 billion a year’: Hunger costs Oklahoma $1.4 billion a year in things like medical costs, loss of workforce productivity and loss of educational opportunities. We know if we met national benchmarks, Oklahoma would bring back an additional $400 million annually to address hunger. [Tulsa World]

Joe Dorman: Summer nutrition programs are key to fighting hunger: It should go without saying, but every Oklahoma child should have access to nutritious meals. No child should go hungry, nor should they have to eat unhealthy foods – which can stunt their physical and mental development – simply because those foods are cheap and readily available. [Joe Dorman / The Ada News]

Rains named DHS chief operating officer: Oklahoma Department of Human Services Director Justin Brown has named Traylor Rains chief operating officer for the agency. As chief operating officer, Rains serves in a leadership role guiding agency programs including Child Welfare, Child Support Services, Child Care Licensing, Adult Protective Services, Aging Services and Developmental Disability Services. [Journal Record????]

New website announced by Oklahoma DEQ: The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality announced the launch of the new DEQ website. “As part of DEQ’s ongoing commitment to provide customers easy access to agency information, DEQ has created a website designed for a better user experience,” stated the announcement. [OK Energy Today]

Tulsa resident turns life around with help from Women in Recovery: Julie Biedekapp is a Tulsa native that experienced years of drug addiction and she says a program called Women in Recovery saved her life. “As a child, there was trauma. Childhood trauma and I saw what addiction did. Both of my parents struggled with addiction,” Biedekapp said. [KJRH]

Nehemiah D. Frank: 80 percent of Oklahoma’s incarcerated women are mothers: I remember receiving a phone call from my grandmother years ago. It was one of those distressing calls about a family emergency that was unfolding in real time. Immediately, I was emotionally swept and overcome by the feeling of helplessness. [Nehemiah D. Frank / Black Wall St Times]

One Oklahoma town’s ordinance shuts out marijuana businesses. How are other cities regulating businesses and patients?: Dozens of municipalities across the state have put in place local ordinances that would regulate medical marijuana in the months since State Question 788 passed with 57 percent support. [Tulsa World]

Mayes County deputy testifies that the man he killed was ‘a friend,’ but had fired a gun at him before being shot: A Mayes County deputy who is being sued by the widow of a man he fatally shot in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2014 told jurors on Tuesday that he knew the man and had considered him a friend, and only opened fire only after the man began shooting at him. [The Frontier]

Low wages in OKC area attributed to cost of living and education: Workers here are paid 9% less than the national average hourly wage, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey updated Wednesday. In May 2018, the city’s average hourly wage was $22.65, compared to the national average of $24.98. [Journal Record????]

Oklahoma City’s General Fund tax collections up, but below projections: The July sales tax report shows General Fund collections in Oklahoma City were up 1.8 percent compared to the same month last year, below the monthly projection by 1.3 percent. The July report includes collections for the last half of May and estimated collections in the first half of June, which total about $22.1 million for the General Fund. [CapitolBeatOK]

Mayors Behind MAPS: Past mayors reflect on the program that transformed downtown Oklahoma City: A program that has continued to transform Oklahoma City may soon be up for another vote. It all started with the campaign ‘Believe in our Future” in the early 1990s. That future is now the past, and these are the men reflecting on how it turned out. [KFOR]

Meeting focuses on how Equality Indicators numbers were derived, how to build trust between police and African American Tulsans: Wednesday night’s City Council special meeting on police use of force did not put an end to the disagreement over what the numbers actually are. The Tulsa Police Department has its numbers and stands by them, and the organization that calculated the figures presented in the city’s Equality Indicators reports stands by its math. [Tulsa World]

Less than a year into the job, TPS director of high school design leaves for superintendent position in Arizona: The high-profile Oklahoma City principal whom Tulsa Public Schools hired last year to lead Tulsa Beyond left the district this summer for a superintendent position in Arizona. Aspasia Angelou resigned as director of high school design in June. [Tulsa World]

Education, migration will be challenges for Tulsa’s economy: An assessment for the Tulsa Regional Chamber is showing some potential challenges for Tulsa’s economic future. The area’s population has grown 3.3% over the last five years, but mostly from an uptick in births. Tulsa Regional Chamber Vice President of Economic Development Bill Murphy said the problem is more people are leaving Tulsa than are staying. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Council, mayor agree on final Improve Our Tulsa project list: The final draft version of the Improve Our Tulsa renewal package will include $2 million for improvements to the city’s Animal Welfare Shelter, Mayor G.T. Bynum and city councilors determined Wednesday. [Tulsa World]

Mayor Breea Clark outlines initiatives, goals for term: Clark was sworn into office July 2 as the 60th mayor for the City of Norman, and since then is beginning several initiatives and goals mentioned during her campaign. From working on the 1/8 percent sales tax to engaging the community and council more, Clark said she plans to continue to move the city forward. [Norman Transcript]

Update: City ponders public transit with potential sales tax: The Norman City Council leaned toward using the 1/8 percent sales tax for public transit only at a study session Tuesday night. This 1/8 percent sales tax would come from Cleveland County’s 1/4 percent sales tax that is slated to end around March of 2020, said Cleveland County Sheriff Todd Gibson. [Norman Transcript]

OU keeps Norman tuition flat, delivers raises in latest budget: The University of Oklahoma will keep tuition and fees for Norman campus students flat for a second year in a row after the Board of Regents approved the new budget Tuesday. The Fiscal Year 2020 budget, which was passed during a meeting at a regents’ summit in Sulphur, is $2.02 billion. [Norman Transcript]

Quote of the Day

“Hunger costs Oklahoma $1.4 billion a year in things like medical costs, loss of workforce productivity and loss of educational opportunities. We know if we met national benchmarks, Oklahoma would bring back an additional $400 million annually to address hunger.”

– Chris Bernard, Executive Director of Hunger Free Oklahoma, on the economic impact of hunger on the state [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahomans age 18 and older who went without health care because of cost in 2017

[Source: The Commonwealth Fund]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Federal Grants Restricted To Fighting Opioids Miss The Mark, States Say: Crowe says his organization has received just over $327,300 from key federal grants designed to curb the opioid epidemic. While the money was a godsend for his county, he says methamphetamine remains a major problem. And here’s the hitch: Crawford County, which lies south of Lake Erie, on the Ohio state line, can’t use the federal opioid grants to treat meth addiction. [NPR]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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