In The Know: DHS ADvantage Waiver members receive notification of program elimination

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.

Today In The News

DHS ADvantage Waiver members receive notification of program elimination: Concern has turned into sheer panic after the Department of Human Services mailed a letter this week to members of the ADvantage Waiver program warning them that without state funding, the program would be eliminated. “It says, ‘We regret to inform you that DHS must eliminate the ADvantage Waiver effective December 1, 2017,’” said Andre Dewberry, whose 68-year-old mother is an ADvantage member. It’s the notification he and numerous other Oklahomans hoped would never come [KOKH].

Questions Deepen over Cash Shortfall at State Health Department: The Oklahoma State Department of Health went more than a year without a chief financial officer, and questions later arose about whether the agency overestimated revenues and used restricted federal funds to fill the gaps, sources told Oklahoma Watch. However, a former chief financial officer at the agency said he had no knowledge of restricted funds being used to cover shortfalls. Complicating the agency’s finances was a struggle by state information technology officials to reconcile the health department’s internal financial system with the state’s consolidated system, the former CFO said [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma State Health Department budget gap grows to $30 million: The Oklahoma Health Department has a funding gap of at least $30 million and eventually won’t be able to pay employees unless it receives an injection of cash from the Legislature, its new leader told employees Thursday. In an emotional, two-hour meeting with Health Department workers, Interim Health Commissioner Preston Doerflinger described the situation as “desperate.” [NewsOK].

State could end coal, wind cash-back rebates: Coal and wind production companies could lose a valuable tax incentive under two state Senate bills that advanced Thursday. The Senate Rules Committee adopted Senate Bills 13 and 14, which would eliminate the industry’s ability to get cash back for unused income tax credits. Both bills won’t become law in time for Oklahoma to see more revenue this budget year [NewsOK].

Governor Fallin names new health secretary to her cabinet: Gov. Mary Fallin has named the director of the state Office of Juvenile Affairs as Oklahoma’s secretary of health and human services. Fallin said Thursday that OJA director Steven Buck will replace Terry Cline on her cabinet. Cline resigned earlier this week as both health and human services secretary and as state health commissioner after the state Health Department’s board of directors accused him of mismanaging department finances [Associated Press].

​I’m an adoptive parent. S​tate budget cuts put my family at risk: Nine years ago, I fostered and then then adopted my three kids. They’re biological siblings, now 12, 15, and 18 years old, and they’re fabulous. I can’t imagine my life without them. However, like most kids in the foster care system, my kids have significant mental health needs due to neglect, trauma and abuse. When I adopted them, the State of Oklahoma offered limited resources to help support my kids, including a monthly subsidy and SoonerCare coverage until adulthood [Shelley Cadamy / OK Policy].

How Oklahoma government got in a hole and why it can’t seem to get out: How, a caller asked this week, did Oklahoma’s state government get into such a financial fix, and how do we get out of it? Simple question. Not so simple answer. First we have to accept the premise that the state is in a financial pickle. Not everyone does. They believe the rough patch of the past few years is just that, and that Oklahoma will soon grow its way out of the current difficulties [Randy Krehbiel / Tulsa World]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin sets goal for apprenticeships to help address the state’s skills gap: Gov. Mary Fallin announced Thursday a goal to increase the number of paid internships and apprenticeships in Oklahoma to 20,000 each year by 2020 to help address the state’s workforce shortage. The Earn & Learn Oklahoma initiative will benefit both workers and employers who cannot find the skilled people they need, Fallin said. “Increasing the number of work-based learning opportunities in our state — for not only the youth but also our adults — is vital to ensuring that Oklahoma can continue to prosper and move forward,” Fallin said [NewsOK].

Every sheriff in Oklahoma being sued over unpaid fees going to collection: A debt-collection system in Oklahoma that routinely throws indigent people in jail for failing to pay state court fines and costs is illegal and amounts to an extortion scheme, according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Tulsa by two Tulsa-based law firms, seeks class-action status on behalf of indigent criminal defendants who “are victims of an extortion scheme in which the defendants have conspired to extract as much money as possible … through a pattern of illegal and shocking behavior.” [Tulsa World] Excessive court fees lock Oklahomans into the justice system without boosting state revenue [OK Policy].

State Rep. Scott Biggs resigns to take federal job: State Rep. Scott Biggs, a three-term Chickasha Republican who has recently opposed changes in Oklahoma’s criminal justice system, has announced his resignation effective immediately. Biggs resigned Thursday in a letter to House Speaker Charles McCall, in which he said he’d accepted a federal appointment effective immediately. He didn’t specify what his new job will be but said he believes he “can do much more for out state as I work to promote the agriculture industry in Oklahoma.” [Associated Press]

Oklahoma lawyer: ICE tricked father of 6 into being deported: Immigration officials lied to an Oklahoma father of six who wanted to extend his permits to live and work in the U.S., telling him they’d grant the extensions if he came to their office but arresting and quickly deporting him instead, his lawyer said. U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials say Luis Plaza Moreno, of Norman, was arrested Oct. 25 at an Oklahoma City immigration office after failing to report to ICE agents for more than three years [Associated Press].

The City Preparing for Climate Change Without Ever Saying the Words: Along with millions of other people, Anna America was saddened by the devastation and loss of life that struck Houston in August. Like many others, she wondered whether the city’s massive sprawl contributed to the damage from Hurricane Harvey. Thousands of acres in Houston that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had intended to use for a reservoir and other flood control projects had been paved over, taken up by homes that left flood waters with nowhere to go. That kind of thing wouldn’t happen where America lives [Governing].

The State of Medical Marijuana in Oklahoma: A year from now, Oklahoma voters will decide on whether or not to legalize medical marijuana. State question 788 started as a grass roots initiative. If approved, it will force new legislation, programs, and procedures for state agencies, not to mention the impact on the medical community. “This is not about getting high. This is about saving lives and trying to survive,” Ray Jennings, a cancer survivor said [KSWO]. How does SQ 788 compare to other states’ medical marijuana laws? [OK Policy]

Apology demanded after lawmaker calls state agencies ‘terrorists’: A Republican lawmaker should apologize for calling state agencies “terrorists” that routinely try to extort money from the Legislature, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said. Fallin and officials with Oklahoma Public Employees Association said state Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, owes agency heads and public employees an apology for comments he made Wednesday while debating against a proposal to increase taxes on oil and gas producers [CNHI].

Quote of the Day

“It may be theoretical to them, but it’s every day to me. I hope that, you know, they can come to some kind of solution.”

– Suzanne Ryles, on receiving notification that the state plans to end the ADvantage Waiver that funds adult day services for her son due to the budget shortfall (Source)

Number of the Day


How much Oklahoma state employee salaries are below the salaries for comparable jobs in the private sector and other states, 2016.

Source: Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Somebody Lied: Education Alone Can’t Dismantle White Supremacy: Put simply, we’re overstating the impact of schools on students’ abilities to climb the social ladder. Kids don’t live in schools; they live in communities. And schools don’t transcend neighborhoods and cities; they are part of them. Improving people’s lives means we must empower the communities that schools are in [The Root].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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