In The Know: Hospitals shift to crisis care | Interim study addresses court funding | A glimmer of hope in the dark

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.

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Policy Matters: A glimmer of hope in the dark: Good news is hard to find these days. Between grim stories from the pandemic’s recent spike to ever-deepening political divisions, these have been dark days. However, spending time last week with some Oklahoma college students and recent grads helped give me hope for our state’s future. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Medical tents, trailer morgues and determinations on who gets a ventilator: Oklahoma hospitals shift toward crisis standards of care: Oklahoma hospitals have transitioned to some crisis standards of care as COVID-19 inundates emergency rooms and intensive care units, and the substantial strains on the hospital system are manifesting in myriad ways that aren’t limited to COVID-19 patients. Hillcrest Hospital South in Tulsa has brought in a temporary trailer morgue. Medical tents have popped up outside Comanche County Memorial Hospital in Lawton and Stillwater Medical Center. Fourteen unvaccinated COVID patients at McAlester Regional Health Center tapped out its ventilator capacity Friday, requiring its ethics committee to decide which COVID patients wouldn’t have access to a ventilator in the event that one or more of nine other COVID patients deteriorated. [Tulsa World]

  • COVID-19: Holiday’s impact on reporting means ‘holding our breath’ for impact of school, football season [Tulsa World]
  • After More Spikes, COVID-19 Set To Become Endemic In Oklahoma [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • COVID-19 in Oklahoma: Latest hospital capacity figures from Integris Health, Mercy, OU Health and SSM Health [The Oklahoman]

Editorial: Who are Oklahomans to believe about COVID data? Hospitals or the state?: Oklahomans are frustrated by the mixed messaging going out about the capacity for the state to handle the rising COVID-19 spread. Hospitals have been holding press conferences and releasing their numbers during the four months the Oklahoma State Health Department remained silent. Front-line workers have consistently shown a bleak outlook, with patients sent out-of-state, as far away as South Dakota, or left waiting in hallways for care. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma schools can mandate masks, if parents are able to exempt children, with judge’s order now in effect: On Wednesday, an Oklahoma County District Court judge signed a written order that gives school districts the ability to mandate face coverings with one caveat — that they offer the same exemptions required by law for mandatory school vaccines. [Tulsa World]

  • Pediatric COVID Admissions Rising ‘Exponentially’ At Saint Francis, Doctors Say [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tahlequah school board votes to require masks [Tulsa World]

Advocate, lawmakers want to review court fee structure in Oklahoma: State lawmakers are funding some executive branch functions on the backs of Oklahoma’s criminal defendants by allowing judges to tack on additional fees, criminal justice advocates told lawmakers this week. Damion Shade, criminal justice policy analyst with the Oklahoma Policy Institute, said the state has relied on a fee-for-service model to fund law enforcement entities, victim resources, trauma treatment care, mental health resources, crime reduction resources and just to keep the lights on in the courtrooms. [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

State Government News

Oklahoma budget leaders outline spending plans for funds: House and Senate budget leaders met Wednesday to outline plans for spending billions of dollars in federal coronavirus relief funds. Oklahoma is receiving $1.87 billion over the next two years, while another $1.32 billion will flow to cities, counties and towns across the state, said Jeff Bankowski, a partner with Guidehouse, an independent consultant hired by the state to help guide state spending. [AP News]

Oklahoma governor asks only physicians on Medicaid oversight board to step down: The only two physicians on the Oklahoma Health Care Authority Board, which oversees the state’s Medicaid program, have stepped down after Gov. J. Kevin Stitt requested that they resign, according to local news station Fox 25. [Becker’s Hospital Review]

  • Physicians booted from board after blocking Stitt Medicaid plan [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]
  • Former PPE Czar of Oklahoma appointed to Health Care Authority board [FOX 25]
  • Questions surround Stitt’s decision to remove 2 doctors from Oklahoma Health Care Authority [KOCO]

‘One person surrendered almost 300’ medical marijuana licenses, lawmakers are told: An interim legislative study on the relationship between medical cannabis producers and others in the state’s agriculture industry revealed the extent to which the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics is involved in compliance enforcement efforts. [Tulsa World]

Seven Oklahoma Lakes Added To Mercury Consumption Advisory List: The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has updated its consumption advisory directory of lakes with fish that have mercury. Seven lakes have been added to the list: Chandler Lake, Lake Hefner, Shawnee Twin Lakes, Sooner Lake, Lake Tenkiller, Lake Texoma and Lake Thunderbird. [KOSU]

Federal Government News

Census Information Center Urging Oklahomans To Fill Out American Community Survey: The Census Information Center of Eastern Oklahoma is urging Oklahomans to fill out the American Community Survey if it shows up in their mailbox. The survey is sent out each month by the U.S. Census Bureau. It is a much more in-depth version of the decennial census that comes out every ten years. [News On 6]

800 Afghan refugees expected in Tulsa over next three to four months: Eight hundred Afghan refugees are expected to arrive in Tulsa in the next three to four months, with more possible in the future, an official with Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma said Wednesday. [Tulsa World

Tribal Nations News

Seven seek Muscogee Council Tulsa District B seat: Absentee voting is underway for the Sept. 18 Muscogee Nation primary election, which will help determine much of the makeup of the Muscogee National Council, and there is no shortage of candidates seeking the Tulsa District B seat. [NonDoc]

Press question an issue in Muscogee Wagoner/Rogers/Mayes District B race: Incumbent Mark Randolph will face challenger Dierdra Thompson in the race for the Muscogee National Council’s Wagoner/Rogers/Mayes District B seat. A primary election will be held Sept. 18., with absentee voting underway and early voting set for Sept. 15 and 16. [NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma pushes back 7 executions due to notice requirement: The Oklahoma attorney general’s office has asked the state’s Court of Criminal Appeals to push back execution dates for seven death row inmates based on requirements to give a 35-day notice before any execution. [AP News]

Oklahoma Supreme Court asked to block parole board members from hearing Julius Jones’ case: The Oklahoma Supreme Court is being asked to block the chairman of the state Pardon and Parole Board and another member from hearing death row inmate Julius Jones’ commutation request next week. [The Oklahoman] Jones’ commutation hearing before the five-member Pardon and Parole Board is set to take place on Monday. [Tulsa World]

Statewide prison lockdown partially lifted: Correctional facilities across the state are starting to be released from a statewide lockdown caused by reported gang-related incidents at six facilities, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections announced Wednesday. [Tulsa World]

Panel issues first recommendations for troubled Oklahoma County Jail: A first round of recommendations focused on improving conditions at the Oklahoma County jail includes ideas for increased supervision and staffing, reducing the population and more adequately classifying detainees. [The Oklahoman]

‘Investment in the community’: northeast OKC residents gather to talk police reform: More than a year after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, and in the wake of several officer-involved shootings in Oklahoma City that prompted protests in the streets, dozens of community members and city leaders gathered Tuesday at Pitts Park on the northeast side to discuss police reforms. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Housing study shows renters are struggling with housing costs; Economic Development study shows minorities under-represented in business: Renters in Oklahoma City continue to confront limited housing options which are largely unaffordable, and in some cases, in poor condition, according to a study presented to the city council earlier this week. Oklahoma City Planner Kim Cooper-Hart said the presentation allowed city staff members and the council to gain an understanding of the “housing landscape and how it affects the people and their need to keep shelter in place. We also learned how much (of the housing market) is not affordable. It helped us recognize the scale of the problem.” [The City Sentinel]

Education News

Coronavirus pandemic causes lagging kindergarten and pre-k enrollments: Early childhood education is something Oklahoma has traditionally done well. But as parents fear the effects of COVID-19 on their youngest children, the state is seeing a steep drop in the number of students enrolled in Pre-K and kindergarten programs. Last school year, for the first time in two decades, Oklahoma lost public school enrollment. And most of that came from hemorrhaging pre-K and kindergarten students. The state saw a decrease of 7,000 of those students. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Oklahoma Local News

  • State, Local Officials Mark Opening Of Tech Incubator Within Tulsa City Hall [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa’s Union Public Schools Considers Two Mascot Options [KOSU]

Quote of the Day

“The goal for any person who gets in trouble with law enforcement should be to rehabilitate them into productive members of society. If they are constantly indebted to the court system, that makes it much harder to move on with their lives. It’s important that we in the Legislature work with experts to determine if state-appropriated dollars can help fix some of the issues we are seeing.”

-State Rep. Bob Ed Culver, R-Tahlequah, speaking about how the current system of funding Oklahoma courts through fines and fees can perpetuate justice involvement for many residents [CNHI via Norman Transcript]

Number of the Day

$663,557,851

The amount of criminal court fines and fees designed to fund Oklahoma courts which was not collected between 2012 and 2018.

[Source: Open Justice Oklahoma]

Policy Note

Why Are Stimulus Checks Being Taken From People Who Need Them Most?:  Those who needed the stimulus money most may never get it. People who owe fines and fees associated with criminal and traffic convictions — disproportionately low-income people and people of color — can have their entire stimulus payments garnished for court debt. While the CARES Act stimulus checks sent to Americans last summer could not be garnished under the act’s provisions, ARPA checks can be intercepted. Even before COVID-19 hit, millions of people in the U.S. were unable to afford the exorbitant fines and fees associated with criminal and traffic convictions. Now, one year into the pandemic, the situation is dire. These same people are losing vital stimulus money because of decades-old court debt. [Fines and Fees Justice Center]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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