In The Know: Children’s mental health worsened during pandemic | Study: Vaccines reduced COVID deaths | First execution since 2015 scheduled

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. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma kids’ mental health worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, new report shows: The mental health of children in Oklahoma suffered significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report finds. The pandemic accelerated a crisis in children’s mental health and revealed gaps in the treatment system for kids, according to the report released last week by Tulsa-based Healthy Minds Policy Initiative. [The Oklahoman]

John Grant denied clemency, scheduled for first execution in Oklahoma since 2015: The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-2 today to deny clemency to John Grant, who is scheduled to be executed on Oct. 28. He will be the first person executed in the state since 2015. Grant was convicted for the November 1998 murder of prison worker Gay Carter at the Dick Conner Correctional Facility in Hominy while serving sentences for four armed robberies. [NonDoc] | [AP News] | [The Oklahoman] | [Public Radio Tulsa] | [Tulsa World]

Health News

Study: Vaccines helped reduce COVID-19 deaths in Oklahoma: Coronavirus vaccinations have helped reduce COVID-19 infections by 7,500 and deaths by 1,100 among Oklahomans aged 65 and older, according to a study released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. [AP News] Oklahoma’s vaccination rates are highest among people 65 and older: 80% of that age group is fully vaccinated, and 92% have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. [The Oklahoman]

Head of Oklahoma’s biggest pediatric residency program calls for all hands on deck to solve shortage: Oklahoma has a major shortage of pediatricians to solve. The state would need another 250 pediatricians today just to meet the national per child average. Just four states have fewer pediatricians per 100,000 children than Oklahoma: Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming and South Dakota. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Rapid COVID-19 tests increasingly scarce, pricey as demand from employers jumps: Oklahoma has begun to pay higher prices for tests in recent weeks, said Michael DeRemer, the state’s director of emergency preparedness and response services. State governments have been struggling to acquire enough rapid tests for several months after a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the more contagious Delta variant. [Reuters]

Criminal Justice News

Julius Jones’ clemency hearing: Prosecutor now seeks recusal of two Pardon and Parole Board members: Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater is now asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to bar two Pardon and Parole Board members from participating in the clemency hearing of Oklahoma County killer Julius Jones. Jones’ clemency hearing is set for Oct. 26. His execution is scheduled for Nov. 18. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice Advisory Council holds second public listening session on Oklahoma County jail: The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council will host a second public listening session from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday giving the community another opportunity to address concerns about the Oklahoma County jail. [The Oklahoman]

Editorial: Staffing crisis in Oklahoma prisons needs more permanent fix: Recent revelations about the staffing challenges faced by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections illustrate a looming crisis in the state’s prison system. As reported by Oklahoma Watch, the DOC had 387 fully funded corrections officer positions that were vacant. Poor morale, difficult working conditions and too much required overtime — not to mention low pay — have contributed to this crisis. Having so many vacancies leaves the state’s prisons woefully and dangerously understaffed. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Editorial: Tulsa’s housing plan worked in staving off evictions, but only for now: Tulsa’s collaboration on an eviction prevention plan paid off with the number of people getting help from a newly formed assistance program greater than that of those going to court. The federal eviction moratorium was always going to end, and aid was available to support renters and landlords during the economic downturn. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Education News

Oklahoma Supreme Court declines Western Heights case: The Oklahoma Supreme Court has declined to hear Western Heights Public Schools’ case against a state takeover, but the legal battle is far from over. The original lawsuit the district filed against the Oklahoma State Department of Education is still pending in Oklahoma County District Court. Western Heights sued the department to challenge its involvement in district operations and to fight the suspension of the district’s superintendent, Mannix Barnes. [The Oklahoman]

General News

‘Fire in Little Africa’ hip hop project to release educational curriculum: Earlier this summer, Tulsa’s hip-hop collective ‘Fire in Little Africa’ released their debut album on Motown Records, commemorating the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Now they are turning the album’s content into an educational curriculum that can be taught in schools, corporate offices and other educational settings. [Black Wall Street Times]

‘We will be recognized’: Couple recalls fight for same-sex marriage in Oklahoma: Nearly 30 years before the U.S. Supreme Court legally recognized same-sex marriage, Sue Barton and Gay Phillips were joined in a “holy union” ceremony on Sept. 1, 1985, in the living room of their Tulsa home. But almost 30 years later, and after a lengthy legal battle, Barton and Phillips were at the center of the 2014 court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in Oklahoma seven years ago today. The story of their lives and their relationship encapsulates the journey for many same-sex couples of their generation in Oklahoma, who have seen an enormous shift in the laws and norms surrounding gay marriage and who participated in the fight to bring those changes about. [NonDoc]

  • Throwback Tulsa: Oklahoma’s first same-sex marriage license issued on this day in 2014 [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“Some [children], their lives will never be the same again because they have lost parents, grandparents who are caregivers for them, other significant people in their lives, and children who have have been devastated by the economic impact this has had on their families, and on their learning and development.”

-Jennifer Hays-Grudo, director of the Center for Integrative Research in Childhood Adversity and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the OSU Center for Health Sciences [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day

1 in 5

In 2020, Hispanics made up nearly one-in-five people in the U.S. (19%), up from 16% in 2010 and just 5% in 1970. [Pew Research]

Policy Note

Hispanic Heritage Month: The Public Broadcasting System has organized a number of multimedia stories that highlight the voices and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans. This also includes “Latino Americans,” the first major documentary series for television to chronicle the rich and varied history and experiences of Latinos who have helped shape North America over the last 500-plus years and have become, with more than 50 million people, the largest minority group in the U.S. [PBS]

NOTE: National Hispanic Heritage Month is Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Each week, OK Policy will share policy notes and numbers to recognize this commemoration.

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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