Interim studies indicate increased focus on children and youth issues (Capitol Update)

There was not a lot of substantive legislation aimed directly at children and youth issues that passed in this legislative session compared to the 2021 session. But judging from the interim study requests by a variety of legislators, this next session may be a more active year.

Rep. Mark Lawson, R-Sapulpa, filed a request focusing on the increasing number of children in juvenile detention who need mental health treatment. Rep. Lawson wants to look at the possible need for increased funding to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to fund “no eject, no reject” mental health treatment facilities and to the Office of Juvenile Affairs for mental health treatment services for children in detention. He’s also looking at the possibility of changing the statutory definition of “inmate” to seek a federal waiver allowing Medicaid reimbursement for mental health services rendered to children in juvenile detention. Four states have now accomplished this, which could provide Oklahoma with model language for the effort.

Rep. John Talley, R-Stillwater, a former educator who serves as director of Fellowship of Christian Athletes for North Central Oklahoma, has requested a study on how to have an accurate accounting of students experiencing homelessness in Oklahoma schools. It would shock many to know the number of kids from homeless families or who are not living in a home with their families. The study is to find a way to identify the students experiencing homelessness being served in our public schools and help schools establish a process for connecting them with available resources so they are in a better position to learn in the classroom.

Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond, has requested what should be an interesting study of the state’s child abuse Restricted Registry. She wants to look at ways to enable the Restricted Registry to be more visible and accessible to parents and caregivers, to discuss modernization of the Restricted Registry to maximize its effectiveness, to ensure confirmed perpetrators are submitted to the Restricted Registry Review Committee in a timely manner, and to assess the Restricted Registry Review Committee to ensure adequate training and knowledge. Legislation involving the Restricted Registry is sometimes controversial because it is difficult to balance the safety of the children with the rights of alleged perpetrators whose actions have been substantiated by DHS investigation, but not tried in a court of law.

In the Senate, Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, in three separate study requests, wants to review childcare facility access and regulation, the use of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) screening results to assist in Preventative Treatment, and substance abuse treatment options for youth. Sen. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton, wants to look at school safety and security. In related requests, Sen. Roland Pederson, R-Burlington, wants to study permanency for foster children and Sen. Dave Rader, R-Tulsa, wants to review children in DHS custody. Finally, Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City, wants to look at interdisciplinary legal representation for indigent parents and children in child welfare judicial proceedings. 


Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1990. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

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