In The Know: Addiction holds a grip, yet treatment is lagging

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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Reminder: The Fall Policy Boot Camps are this week! Join us at OSU-Tulsa on Friday, October 14 or Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond on Saturday, October 15 to learn more about the state budget, criminal justice reform, poverty, and other critical policy issues affecting our state! To purchase tickets, click here. Space is limited and registration closes October 11.

Today In The News

Where Addiction Holds a Grip, Yet Treatment Is Lagging: For many Oklahomans, the tug of war between drug addiction and the wait time for treatment can be a one-sided competition: The power of addiction often wins. Those who lack insurance or cannot pay out of pocket often find themselves on a long waiting list that prioritizes the most severe drug addiction cases. If the person isn’t pregnant or injecting drugs, he or she will not receive state-funded treatment or will be forced to wait, sometimes weeks, until a spot opens up [Oklahoma Watch].

This year, tax audits are more likely in Oklahoma: The state is more likely to audit your tax return this year. Oklahoma’s Tax Commission is adding auditors and increasing their pay in an effort to improve compliance with tax codes and to increase state revenue. By tightening enforcement, the commission hopes to bring in more than $50 million in new revenue at a time when state government continues to suffer from major budget problems. So far, the commission has hired 20 new auditors, and is seeking 33 more [The Oklahoman].

Tulsa World editorial: Another gigantic budget hole is forming for the state: If you enjoyed this year’s $1.3 billion state budget hole, get ready for more fun. Unless there’s a very sudden and unexpected turnaround in the state’s economy, the Oklahoma Legislature will again be staring at a gaping appropriations problem from Day 1 when it convenes early next year. Much of that is because of their own doing. Depending on how you count it, this year’s budget is based on $450 million to $774 million in one-time money. That’s money that we’re spending this year but won’t be available from the same source next year. If state tax revenues don’t grow enough to cover that gap, the result is a budget hole. And revenue isn’t growing. In fact, it’s shrinking, which makes the hole deeper [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Accountability measure has OKC school facing possible closure: An accountability measure that goes into effect this year has an Oklahoma City charter school facing possible closure. Changes made to the state’s charter school regulations in 2015 included a trigger to close a charter school that finishes in the bottom 5 percent of all Oklahoma schools for three consecutive years. The charter school’s sponsor would be required to close the school at the end of its contract or defend its decision to keep the school open to the state Board of Education. Two Oklahoma City charter schools are likely to be bottom 5 percent performers when the ratings are released this month — Justice Alma Wilson SeeWorth Academy and Harper Academy [NewsOK].

Education tax faces voters with history of saying ‘no’: Over the past two decades, voters have overwhelmingly supported questions asked of them at the ballot box – except the ones that ask to raise taxes. “If (State Question) 779 passes, you can really point to it as proof that things have reached such a crisis situation in Oklahoma that Oklahoma voters are willing to buck the historical patterns and do something they have typically not done,” said David Blatt, executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute [Tahlequah Daily Press]. Of the 83 state questions submitted to the voters in the past 25 years, fewer than one in four have been rejected [OK Policy]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 779 here.

Repeal or reform? Death penalty voter decisions for 3 states: California’s dysfunctional death penalty faces a fate in November that seems fitting: voters can put it out of its misery, or try to fix it so it does what it promises. The state is among three where voters will make decisions on capital punishment. California’s ballot initiatives one would repeal capital punishment, the other would speed up appeals so convicted murderers are actually executed€” are fueled by those who agree only that the current system is broken, leaving murder victims’ kin grieving and the condemned languishing on death row. Meanwhile, voters in Nebraska will be asked whether they want to reinstate the death penalty and Oklahoma residents will decide whether to make it harder to abolish it [Associated Press]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet on Oklahoma’s death penalty state question here.

Is this the year Oklahoma begins repealing our Bill of Rights?: From the time I took my first government class at OBU, I’ve heard it said that if given an opportunity, a lot of people would vote to repeal the Bill of Rights. This rather cynical statement refers to the outrage often expressed by some when a court makes a constitutional ruling that goes against the grain of public opinion. This happens, for example, when a popular law is held unconstitutional. Or it happens when a lower court case involving a particularly repulsive defendant is overturned because he was denied a constitutional right. The people of Oklahoma will have an opportunity to repeal a section of our bill of rights when we vote on SQ 790 next month [OK Policy]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 790 here.

State questions highlight candidate differences, voter demographics: Perry Brinegar is happy to talk about improving the economy and bringing jobs back to southwestern Oklahoma. But the candidate for Senate District 31 isn’t thrilled to see the conversation shift to State Question 777, a statewide ballot initiative often referred to by supporters as “Right to Farm.” “I was hoping you wouldn’t ask me that question,” Brinegar said with a laugh. “You see a lot of support for (SQ 777) down here because it’s important to the farmers and ranchers.” [NewsOK]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 777 here.

Oklahoma companies rank in top for water use in fracturing: A national report found more than half the wells drilled in the last five years in the U.S. were in drought-stressed regions. Two Oklahoma oil and gas companies ranked in the top for using the highest proportion of water for hydraulic fracturing, according to a Ceres data analysis released Thursday. But the national report doesn’t capture the whole picture of how drillers operate in Oklahoma, said Energy and Environment Sec. Michael Teague. Chesapeake Energy Corp. used the most water to hydraulically fracture its oil and gas wells, said Monika Freyman, Ceres’ water program investor initiative director. Devon Energy Corp. was fifth on the list. Oklahoma was third among states for water used in the hydraulic fracturing process, with 33 billion gallons used over five years [Journal Record].

ONG faces hearing Wednesday in explosion case: Oklahoma Natural Gas could face $8.5 million in fines if Corporation Commissioners determine the company failed to follow state and federal pipeline safety rules, which might have led to a house explosion in January. The utility also faces a contempt charge at a hearing scheduled for Oct. 12 at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. A house at 12505 Whispering Hollow Drive in Oklahoma City exploded Jan. 2 after the company failed to investigate and monitor leaks from the natural gas main in the neighborhood, according to the Corporation Commission’s complaint. There were eight previous leaks in the neighborhood, the first dating back to 1983, five months after the plastic pipeline was installed, the agency’s pipeline safety department found [Journal Record].

Hunger issues remain a concern in Northwest Oklahoma: Oklahoma has frightening statistics related to poverty and hunger amidst its population of 3,795,764 residents. According to the Center for American Progress, 610,828 Oklahomans were living in poverty in 2015, which contributed to hunger and disease. Several chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and obesity are linked to hunger. “In short, food insecurity harms the health and financial security of our state,” according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute ( web site. So who is hungry in Northwest Oklahoma? [Woodward News] See more information about hunger in Oklahoma here.

Native Oklahomans could emulate new citizen, register to vote: Marcia Brookey is not the typical first-time Oklahoma voter. For one thing, she’s a new citizen. “The only reason I wanted to become a citizen is because I wanted to vote,” said Brookey, who was born in Brazil and spent a good deal of her youth in Italy and Israel. “The first thing I did after being sworn in as a citizen was fill out a voter registration form.” If only other eligible citizens were so diligent. Unless the pace picks up before Friday, the deadline to register for the Nov. 8 general election, Oklahoma’s voter participation rate is likely to remain among the lowest in the nation [Tulsa World]. In Oklahoma we are seeing growing signs of the breakdown of electoral participation [OK Policy].

OKGOP communications director resigns in protest of Trump: Friday morning I sent an urgent message to the leadership of the Oklahoma Republican Party insisting that the party release a statement thusly: “The Republican Party was founded to promote certain principles, rights and values that befit a free and moral people and to advance candidates for office who will defend them. It has been demonstrated finally and without question by this most recent revelation of what Donald Trump has said and what he said he does that he is wholly unfit to continue as the Republican nominee for President of the United States.” [Brett Farley].

Quote of the Day

“The addicts, they’ve got to get in when they’re motivated. By the time they can get in, they’ve relapsed and they’re no longer motivated.”

-Robinson Tolbert, a social worker who helped found the Stigler Health and Wellness Center’s mental health unit, speaking about how Oklahoma’s waiting lists due to lack of funding for treatment has led to people who want treatment falling back into addiction (Source).

Number of the Day


Share of Oklahoma children receiving SNAP benefits in FY 2014. The program helped about 262,300 Oklahoma children have enough to eat that year.

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

A third of the homeless people in America are over 50. I’m one of them.: Nobody ever tells you about the sleep deprivation. At around 4:30 am, while the rest of the world is still asleep, I wake up and get moving under cover of darkness. Quiet spots with some degree of tree cover, or the occasional hospital or church parking lot, are typically where I sleep for the night. Still, there’s always the risk that someone will spot me and I’ll wake up with police blaring a flashlight into my eyes. Every night and every morning, I wonder how it got to be like this [Vox].

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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