In The Know: Medicaid expansion enrollment | Oklahoma reviews disability services waitlist | More

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.

New from OK Policy

The 2021 session proved a mixed bag for health issues: Oklahomans across the state will soon be able to more easily visit a doctor or fill a prescription, thanks to voter approval of State Question 802 and legislators’ decision to fully fund Medicaid expansion. Though the Legislature failed to legislatively halt the governor’s proposed transition to privatized managed care (something that would make the state’s Medicaid administration unnecessarily complicated), the June 1 Supreme Court ruling effectively stopped the Governor’s managed care plan. With Medicaid expansion finally funded, the state now has a number of common sense options to maximize federal Medicaid spending and further ensure access to high-quality, affordable health care for all. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

New questions arise after nearly 100K Oklahomans sign up for health care since Medicaid expanded: Nearly 100,000 people have signed up for health insurance in the short time since Medicaid expanded in Oklahoma. It’s sparked new questions about how much funding will be needed for the program while other questions continue to swirl about Gov. Kevin Stitt’s plans for it. [KOCO] Families USA report: Medicaid expansion is estimated to add $1.3 billion to the state economy and add 26,000 new jobs

‘Gives me hope’: Oklahoma to review disability aid list in hopes of eliminating 13-year wait: When Chris Hobbs added his son, Brooks, to the state’s waiting list for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities, he was thinking about the help his son might need when he graduates high school. With nearly 6,000 Oklahomans on the list and a 13-year wait for services, Hobbs knew help wouldn’t come immediately. But as the Oklahoma Department of Human Services undertakes a review of the waiting list with the goal of eliminating it entirely, there’s hope Brooks and other Oklahomans who have waited years for help could qualify for services sooner rather than later. However, the Oklahoma Legislature came under fire from disability advocates over a new law that requires individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities live in Oklahoma for five years before they can apply for community-based services. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma prison inmates to begin receiving computer tablets: Inmates at an Oklahoma prison began receiving special computer tablets this week, as part of a Department of Corrections plan to provide secure tablets to everyone incarcerated in state prisons. The devices, specially designed by prisons communications company Securus Technologies, will include free content such as prison policies, access to a law library, some books and educational and self-help materials. [AP News]

Health News

State health department awaits federal guidance on 107,000 COVID vaccine doses set to expire by end of June: The Oklahoma State Department of Health says it has set aside almost 10,000 doses of expired vaccine and is awaiting federal guidance on what to do with another 107,000 doses set to expire by the end of the month. [Tulsa World]

  • COVID-19: Average case counts down to early-pandemic levels as 1.35 million Oklahomans have completed their vaccines [Tulsa World]
  • Vaccinating Oklahoma: Tracking vaccination rates, COVID-19 data, maps and updates [KOCO]
  • Variants Get New Names, Alpha Variant Most Prevalent In Oklahoma [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • OSDH: State reports 702 COVID-19 cases, 9 deaths in weekly update [Enid News & Eagle]

Oklahomans We’ve Lost: A loving husband who didn’t get to grow old with his wife: Shari and Tommy Harrison found each other late in life but had planned to make up for lost time by traveling, riding motorcycles and volunteering together. Married seven years ago, it was a second chance at love for both after divorce. But the Broken Arrow couple’s plans were cut short when Tommy died of COVID-19 on Jan. 8 after a month-long hospital stay. [The Frontier]

State Government News

State Election Board secretary opposes federal ‘For the People Act’: Oklahoma’s top election official says concerns about voter suppression stemming from new voting laws in more than a dozen states “seem exaggerated and in many cases appear to be based on misinformation.” In a June 2 letter to U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford, Oklahoma State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax argued against S. 1, better known as the “For the People Act,” saying it is unworkable and probably unconstitutional. The two senators made the letter public on Wednesday. [Tulsa World]

House, Senate staff to redistrict Oklahoma County; Freedom of Information Oklahoma president weighs in: After a 2-1 vote Monday by Oklahoma County Commissioners to allow state House and Senate staff to run county redistricting, one state watchdog group has spoken on the matter. The decision is a departure from how redistricting was handled in 2010. However, it is not the first time the state government has been involved. [The Oklahoman]

Search for Victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre Has Uncovered 27 Coffins: The first site that was excavated, in a part of the city’s Oaklawn Cemetery, turned up no evidence of a mass grave. But in October, the remains of at least 12 people were discovered in a mass grave in what was once the Black potter’s field within Oaklawn. At the beginning of June, the research team returned for more extensive searching. On Tuesday, they announced that evidence of at least 15 more coffins had been found, though whether any of them were connected to the massacre has yet to be determined. [New York Times]

Tribal Nations News

Muscogee Nation considering buying Cancer Treatment Centers of America hospital in Tulsa: The Muscogee Nation may be buying a recently shuttered south Tulsa hospital. As first reported by Mvskoke Media, the Muscogee Nation National Council has called an emergency session for 6 p.m. Thursday in Okmulgee to consider a measure that would authorize the purchase of the former Cancer Treatment Centers of America facility to expand the tribe’s hospital services. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Creek County murder trial delayed, defendant’s bond reduced after new evidence: A Creek County man charged with murder was released today on a reduced $50,000 bond following a discovery conference Tuesday in which his defense attorney claimed prosecutors violated Brady v. Maryland by meeting with a key witness and not providing required notice. [NonDoc]

OKC police get record $240 million in city’s 2021-22 budget: The Oklahoma City voted 7-2 Tuesday to adopt a $1.65 billion annual budget, down slightly overall but including a record $240 million for police. A year after dozens of residents called for restraining police spending, criticism was muted. City Manager Craig Freeman’s budget was adopted as proposed. [The Oklahoman] Reform advocates criticized city council members for giving the police department more money right after several high profile police killings. [KGOU]

Norman City Council creates crisis response program, maintains police budget: Tensions were high during Tuesday night’s Norman City Council budget meeting, which ended after 3 a.m. Wednesday and served as a crescendo to more than a year’s worth of drama about Norman Police Department funding and police response in the community. [NonDoc] The city council approved an amendment 5-4 to allocate $500,000 towards a mobile health crisis response unit, but the money will not come from police funds as originally proposed. Instead, the money will be sourced from the city’s general fund. [KGOU]

Economic Opportunity

Homeless shelters, housing for special needs among top priorities in Lawton: Homeless shelters, street upgrades and housing for special needs residents are among the top priorities identified by the City of Lawton and its housing and community development division after compiling the recent online Community Needs Survey. [The Lawton Constitution]

Economy & Business News

Rain delays Oklahoma wheat harvest, but farmers expect quality crop: At 6-foot-7, Oklahoma farmer Lyman Urban is used to towering over the wheat he plants. Wheat stalks and heads usually reach his knees. But as he saunters through his green and yellow fields of grain this year, the crop brushes his waist. [The Oklahoman]

Court seeks to clarify claims to mineral rights: A case that reaches back 100 years was recently decided by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which was asked to determine which present-day oil and gas company has the greater claim to mineral interests for land in south Oklahoma. [The Journal Record]

Phone scams targeting bank accounts on the rise: A call spoofing scam that targets individuals’ bank accounts is on the rise in Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s Credit Union alerted all of its members to the fraud this week after a few of them reported losing money to the fraud. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Hofmeister: Nutrition program fraud ‘being investigated by federal authorities’: The Oklahoma State Department of Education has deemed $1.6 million in claims for federal funds at child nutrition sites to be “fraudulent” since April 2020. OSDE leaders said the alleged fraud does not involve any school district directly and that the issue is currently being investigated by federal authorities. [NonDoc]

School districts ramp up summer feeding program for kids: Classes may not be in session, but the kitchens are still open at multiple schools across the Tulsa area. “The minute school let out, we started providing meals the next day,” said Lisa Griffin, director of child nutrition for Union Public Schools. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa Voters Approve Massive School Bond Package: Tulsa voters approved a massive $414 million bond package for the city’s public school district on Tuesday. The package was broken up into four questions focused on improving Tulsa Public Schools’ building, technology and transportation infrastructure as well as funding learning programs. [KGOU]

General News

Route 66 ‘refuge’ for Black travelers now listed among ‘most endangered’ historic places: Situated near a “sundown town,” a historic fueling station on U.S. Route 66 offered Black travelers a safe place for overnight stay, and fuel and food purchases during the Jim Crow era. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Oklahoma City Council forwards First National $11M loan request after questioning wages [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa Mayor, City Council propose 4% retention bonuses for city employees [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“We met a girl last year who said she was having chest pains and she literally googled ‘Am I having a heart attack?’ You know, she’s going to get health care. She no longer has to google ‘Am I having a heart attack?’ tonight and sleep and hope for the best. She can call her primary care doctor.”

–Quote of the day from Amber England, campaign manager for Yes on 802, describing the life-changing impact of Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma [KOCO]

Number of the Day

$1.35 billion

Medicaid expansion is estimated to add $1.35 billion to the state economy in federal dollars in its first year.

[Source: Oklahoma Hospital Association & National Center for Rural Health Works]

Policy Note

Economic Impact of State Question 802: In addition to expanding health care to nearly 200,000 citizens, passage of Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma is expected to provide an annual infusion of $1.35 billion in federal dollars, which would also create jobs and additional revenue for state and local budgets. This report lays out the economic benefits of full Medicaid expansion — both statewide and in communities throughout Oklahoma. [Oklahoma Hospital Association & National Center for Rural Health Works]

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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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