In The Know: 1 in 5 Oklahomans suffer from mental illness

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

In a new series, the Tulsa World explores the lives and stories of the one in five Oklahomans who suffer from a mental illness. One such story follows a family of four, including two young children, who are homeless in downtown Tulsa. The rest of the “Hitting Home” collection can be found here. On Thursday, attorneys for The Oklahoma Observer and Guardian US argued in favor of greater media access to executions following a botched execution in the spring. A Department of Corrections representative claimed that the botched execution was an anomaly and that officials need to have discretion over protocol. The Department of Corrections is investigating whether its notification system needs repairs after a Tulsa family was erroneously notified that their daughter’s killer had been released from prison.

Following public outcry, the City of Tulsa and a group of charitable foundations have combined funds to keep a juvenile center open. In his Journal Record column, Oklahoma Observer editor Arnold Hamilton suggested that a state Supreme Court decision upholding income tax cuts will strain the state’s already-strained finances. StateImpact wrote that legislative reexamination of wind energy subsidies could result in stricter regulations on the industry. The federal government is seeking an injunction to halt construction of a wind development in Osage County while a lawsuit over the development is heard.

Public health officials say that people should get flu shots this year even though the vaccine may be less effective than in previous years. We’ve written about why everyone should get a flu shot before. Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard says that the district’s $415 bond package, if approved, will include a STEM  center for use by all TPS students. A new drought report shows that a little under two-thirds of the state remains in drought. The state Department of Human Services will accept applications for winter heating assistance starting next week.

The Number of the Day is the average age of an incarcerated person in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, The Pew Charitable Trusts describe how more states are revamping their incorporation laws to encourage companies to deliver social and environmental benefits, not just profits.

In The News

One in five Oklahoma adults suffer from mental illness

More than 20 percent of Oklahomans suffer from mental illness, an often misunderstood disease that can be debilitating but is treatable, experts say. Many other social issues — including homelessness, jail overcrowding, substance abuse and addiction — can be linked to mental illness and a lack of access to treatment.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Homeless family with baby, 5-year-old hopes for better future

The 14-month-old baby is in a backpack strapped to his mom. Dad has his own backpack, and so does their 5-year-old son tagging along. In another place, this might look like a family outing. In downtown Tulsa, this is homelessness. The LaRonge family moves from place to place throughout the day. The Librarium. The courthouse plaza. The Day Center for the Homeless.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Find the rest of the Tulsa World’s collection on homelessness and mental health here.

Botched Execution Called An “Anomaly” In Media Access Court Case

A federal judge is mulling whether the media should have greater access to witness executions in Oklahoma after a group of journalists and news organizations sued following a botched lethal injection in the spring. Attorneys for The Oklahoma Observer and Guardian US newspapers argued their case Thursday before U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton, who suggested he would issue a ruling before the state’s next scheduled execution on Jan. 15.

Read more from KGOU.

False notification about prison release of Kevin Sweat startles couple

Michael and Faye Taylor have been through a lot already. For a few brief hours this week, they thought their troubles had gotten even worse. Charyl Schultz, 33, the couple’s daughter, was recently found dead outside her home in Henryetta. The couple’s other daughter, Ashley Taylor, was killed in 2011 by her fiance, Kevin Sweat.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Tulsa, private donors combine funds to keep juvenile center open

The city of Tulsa and a group of charitable foundations have come up with the $113,000 needed to keep the Tulsa Area Community Intervention Center open through the end of the fiscal year in June. Councilor Phil Lakin, chief operating officer of the Tulsa Community Foundation, led a meeting of the Funders Roundtable on Thursday to discuss providing money for the CIC.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Storm clouds loom over tax-cut victory

ov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders were thrilled this week when the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld a tentative series of politically pleasing state income tax cuts. They also were relieved the justices didn’t overturn a slew of revenue measures enacted in the two-plus decades since voters approved State Question 640, making it all but impossible to ever raise taxes again. The legal victory could well be Pyrrhic.

Read more from The Journal Record.

Scrutiny of Subsidies Could Test the Economics of Wind Energy in Oklahoma

The 2015 session is still months away, but the newly elected Oklahoma Legislature has already started talking about how to divvy up roughly $7 billion in state appropriations. Some prominent lawmakers are promising to re-examine tax credits and economic incentives worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Some of those incentives are used for wind energy, which the industry says are working.

Read more from StateImpact.

Federal authorities seek immediate halt to Osage County wind development

Last month when the U.S. government filed a federal lawsuit against a wind development near Pawhuska, the Osage Nation complained that it wouldn’t stop construction in time. With wind turbines already rising and power generation scheduled to start next summer, the case probably wouldn’t be heard before the Osage Wind project was finished, tribal officials said.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Flu On The Rise in Oklahoma, But How Effective Is The Shot This Season?

Reported cases of the flu are on the rise, but doctors say this year’s flu vaccine may not fully protect you. There’s a slight variation in the virus that’s now circulating, making the vaccine less effective. The CDC says it is too late to make a new vaccine for this flu season.

Read more from NewsOn6.

See also: Get your flu shot. Yes, you. Now. from the OK Policy Blog.

STEM center for all Tulsa Public Schools students to be included in $415 million bond package

A centralized Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, center for use by all Tulsa Public Schools students would be located somewhere in the Memorial High School feeder pattern if a proposed $415 million bond package is approved, Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard said Thursday.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Drought shows little improvement over the past week, report shows

Oklahoma’s drought showed no improvement over the past week, according to a report released Thursday. About 60.3 percent of Oklahoma remained in drought this week, up slightly from 59.85 percent of the state last week. The report is based on data collected Tuesday morning, meaning it doesn’t account for any rainfall that came since then. No part of the state received significant rain during the week between Nov. 25 and last Tuesday.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma DHS announces application period for winter heating assistance

Beginning next week, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) is accepting applications for winter heating assistance. A limited number of funds are available across the state through the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). DHS has approximately $8 million for this years Winter Heating Program.

Read more from KJRH.


Quote of the Day

“I want him to have a stable life. I don’t want him to be raised like this. I don’t like this — I feel like a failure.”

– Dennis LaRonge, speaking to a Tulsa World reporter about his five year-old son. LeRonge and his family are homeless, and live in downtown Tulsa. (Source:

Number of the Day


Average age, in years, of an incarcerated person in Oklahoma

Source: Oklahoma Department of Corrections 2013 Annual Report.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

More States Encourage ‘Companies with a Conscience’

In the last four years, 24 states and the District of Columbia have revamped their incorporation laws to help companies that aim to deliver social and environmental benefits, not just profits. The move to allow businesses to register and operate as “benefit corporations” reflects the ethos of a rising generation of entrepreneurs and investors who are rebelling against the “profit-is-king” framework of corporate America. The states that have taken action, starting with Maryland in 2010, have protected benefit corporations from laws that require corporations to maximize profits, letting them pursue social, environmental and economic goals without fear of shareholders suing them for not squeezing out every penny.

Read more from The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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