In The Know: Winter weather plunges Oklahoma into state of emergency | Public school enrollment rebounds | Oklahoma among best in the nation for Medicaid eligibility | Policy Matters

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.

In The Know will be on a hiatus beginning Friday, Dec. 23, and returning Tuesday, Jan. 3. 

New from OK Policy

Policy Matters: Data should drive policy decision-making: If you want to know how well people in our state are doing, a quick rundown on some metrics will show us. The short answer is: Not well. So, after looking over this data snapshot, a larger question remains: What actions should we take when confronted with these dismal results? We can’t, in good conscience, turn a blind eye to these problems and ignore our friends and neighbors in crisis. That uncaring approach is not consistent with the Oklahoma standard. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Stitt issues state of emergency ahead of ‘severe winter weather’: The winter storm is expected to include a mix of freezing rain, snow, strong wind, and low temperatures across the state beginning Wednesday, which may result in power outages, hazardous road conditions, as well as a potential for an increased demand for liquefied petroleum gas, and certain other fuels, as well as wholesale demand for petroleum commodities such as natural gas. Those damages are likely to cause undue hardship on Oklahomans, according to Stitt’s office. [KTUL]

Tribal Nations News

Osage Nation doubles the financial assistance available to tribe members in crisis: The Osage Nation announced its Crisis Assistance Program will now provide up to $2000 to tribe members in need. Previously, the program offered up to $1000 to support Osage people experiencing short-term crises, like unstable housing, health emergencies or major car repairs. The tribal nation announced earlier this month that the program will provide up to double the assistance in Fiscal Year 2023, which began in October. [KOSU]

Health News

Oklahoma ranks among best in nation for Medicaid eligibility, claims payment accuracy: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority recently completed a 2022 Payment Error Rate Measurement review with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. PERM issues an error rate that measures how accurately state Medicaid programs process claims and determine eligibility. [KTUL]

Column: Mental health crisis help needs changes: In May, Oklahoma lawmakers budgeted a 5.8% increase in mental health funding, totaling $340 million. It is difficult to how much of this goes for inpatient mental health treatment helping persons not functioning safely in society. Oklahoma estimates that 200,000 residents receive contact with mental health professionals, and a fifth of Oklahomans need or use mental health services. Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services participates in a national hotline, which anyone can access by dialing 988. [Kathy Tibbits Guest Column / Tahlequah Daily Press]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma Watch Sues Tulsa Seeking Details of Woman Arrested During Bipolar Episode: Oklahoma Watch and reporter Whitney Bryen are suing the City of Tulsa seeking details of an incident that resulted in the violent arrest of a woman in the throes of a mental health crisis. [Oklahoma Watch]

Tragic traffic stops have led to reforms across the country: Since 2020, at least seven cities and the state of Virginia have banned traffic stops for low-level offenses such as expired registration tags, broken taillights and other minor, non-moving violations. Reform advocates say such stops are often pretexts for drug and weapon searches. [News 21 via NonDoc]

New indictment filed against alleged Continental Resources royalty schemer: A federal grand jury has filed a new indictment against one of two men facing federal charges and a civil suit connected to claims they scammed Continental Resources out of millions of dollars. [The Oklahoman]

Molotov cocktail incident leads to fatal shooting in Oklahoma City: Police say a man was fatally shot Tuesday after allegedly throwing at least one Molotov cocktail into a northwest Oklahoma City apartment. Police Master Sgt. Gary Knight said police responded to a shooting just before midnight Tuesday. At the same time, Oklahoma City’s fire department responded to a fire at an apartment complex in the 7200 block of NW 122. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Column: Hard economic times come and go. Let’s identify and elevate our communities’ needs: With concerns about inflation, the stock market and recession fears, it’s understandable to think that Oklahomans might be cutting back their support for nonprofits. The Chronicle of Philanthropy found that the number of donors to organizations fell nationally by 7% in the first half of 2022 compared to the first half of 2021. Fortunately for Oklahoma nonprofits, many individuals, families and business partners remain committed to steady support and being strong partners. [Trisha Finnegan Guest Columnist / The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Column: Oklahoma turnpikes are part of business-friendly infrastructure: Good infrastructure is good for business; that is certainly true in the great state of Oklahoma. Safe transportation infrastructure is the backbone of our state’s economic growth, and is crucial for business success, whether you are delivering truckloads of goods to market or connecting consumers to businesses large and small. [Chad Warmington, Roy Williams, and Michael S. Neal Guest Columnists / The Oklahoman]

Tulsa-based start-up company gets $2 million in early funding: A local freelance management software company announced $2 million in funding this week. The pre-seed raise for Writesea was led by Tulsa-based Atento Capital, Collab Capital, Visible Hands, Bolster Ventures and Expert Dojo Ventures. Pre-seed funding is often the earliest stage of funding, coming before seed funding and other stages. During this stage, investors provide startups with capital to begin developing products in exchange for equity. [Tulsa World]

Tyson hires Smithfield COO Stewart: Tyson Foods has hired Smithfield Foods’ former chief operating officer, Brady Stewart, to serve as Tyson’s new group president, Fresh Meats, the companies confirmed Monday. [Journal Record]

Education News

Aetna Better Health donating $30,000 to support literacy in Oklahoma: Aetna Better Health said they will donate $30,000 to the Latino Community Development Agency (LCDA) and Reach Out and Read (ROR) to support early literacy for children in Oklahoma. [KOKI Fox 23 Tulsa]

Oklahoma public school enrollment continues rebound after pandemic-induced decline: Public school enrollment in Oklahoma has topped 700,000 for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tulsa World’s analysis of newly released state data shows that public schools’ rolls grew by nearly 2,600 students in the past 12 months, up to 701,258 total. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“With the next legislative session starting in February, it’s not too soon for each of us to play our part in demanding smart policy decisions that can make our state better for all Oklahomans.”

– Shiloh Kantz, Executive Director of OK Policy, on the work needed in 2023 to improve Oklahoma’s poor standing in equity, health, education, incarceration and economic opportunity. [Journal Record]

Number of the Day


Women who receive no prenatal care are five times more likely to have a pregnancy-related death than women who receive prenatal care. [Maternal Health Task Force]

Policy Note

Advancing Maternal Health Equity in Southern States: The US is facing a severe maternal morbidity and mortality crisis, and Black women and other women of color are at particularly high risk. Maternal mortality is also higher in the South than in other regions. Given evidence that abortion restrictions are associated with higher maternal mortality, such risks could grow under the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, especially in the South, where in many states abortion is now severely restricted. With more than 40 percent of all births nationally, 65 percent of births among Black women, and 59 percent of births among Hispanic women covered by Medicaid, state Medicaid policies and practices have the potential to improve maternal health and reduce racial and ethnic inequities in maternal health outcomes. [Urban Institute]

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Hana Saad joined OK Policy in August 2022 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. She graduated from the University of Tulsa with degrees in Media Studies and English and is part of Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society. At TU, Hana regularly wrote for The Collegian and was the Co-Editor of the Stylus Journal of Art and Writing. She also serves on the team at Puppy Haven Rescue to help in their mission of saving rescue dogs across Oklahoma. Hana is eager to learn more about public policy in Oklahoma and use her skills to support the OKP work to build a more equitable state. In her free time, she loves to read fiction and poetry, walk her dog, and make copious cups of tea.

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