In The Know: Oklahomans begin lining up before midnight for free medical care

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.

Oklahomans began lining up before midnight for a free medical care event by Remote Area Medical Oklahoma. Jaclyn Cosgrove shared stories from the event in a multi-part series for The Oklahoman. Oklahoma’s overdose death toll dipped slightly in 2013, from 850 to 821 deaths. About three-quarters of all overdose deaths in the state involve prescription drugs. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed why prescription drug abuse is Oklahoma’s biggest drug problem. NewsOK reported on how the city of Moore is responding to its latest tragedy to bring national attention.

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission has put a moratorium on ethics complaints during election season, which some are complaining allows candidates to skirt campaign laws. An Attorney General’s Office opinion has deemed electronic signatures on voter registration applications invalid. Electronic signature devices have been used to help people register to vote over the internet. Currently 27 states offer or are planning to implement online voter registration, but Oklahoma is not one of them. Oklahoma is planning to resume executions on November 13, but death penalty experts are questioning whether the state will be prepared to implement changes following the botched execution of Clayton Lockett. The Oklahoman outlined the planned changes to Oklahoma’s execution protocol.

Oklahoma Muslims are seeking to improve outreach to push back against the hateful rhetoric being spread by state Representative John Bennett. The Tulsa World reported that the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City has received several threats of violence against Muslims after Bennett called them a “cancer that needed to be cut out of America.” The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is sharing a presentation on how much it costs to raise children to try to reduce Oklahoma’s teen pregnancy rate, which is the second-highest in the nation. Gun rights activists are pushing to make Oklahoma the latest state to legalize concealed carry of guns on college and university campuses.

Hundreds of rape kits have been collected from victims but not tested by the Tulsa Police Department due to lack of funding. Oklahoma wheat growers are calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand subsidized crop insurance to help their businesses survive the state’s ongoing drought. The Number of the Day is the growth in Oklahoma’s Asian-American population from 2000-2010. In today’s Policy Note, KGOU examined a new program that doubles how food stamp recipients can purchase at farmers’ markets.

In The News

Free clinic: ‘Do I want health care or do I want my education right now?’

It’s like Black Friday for health care. That’s how Stephanie James and her father, Tony Gomez, recently described a free medical care event they camped out for. The two arrived about midnight, sitting behind about 80 other people who got to the event at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds even sooner. James, 28, a server at an Oklahoma City restaurant, is uninsured, and events like Remote Area Medical Oklahoma’s large annual free medical care event are one of few options she has for dental care. She came last time RAM Oklahoma held the event and had a tooth pulled because it was cracked inside. “It was causing pain for probably about four or five years, off and on,” James said.

Read more from NewsOK.

Find more stories in the ‘Free Clinic’ series from NewsOK.

Overdose Deaths Level Off

Oklahoma’s overdose death toll dipped slightly in 2013, but state drug law enforcers say it’s too soon to celebrate. The 2013 overdose death count was 821, compared with 850 the previous year, according to recently compiled data from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Although the 2013 count could rise by a few deaths as medical examiners complete reports on a handful of pending cases, the narcotics bureau said it appears unlikely that the final tally will rise above 2012’s total.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

See also: Oklahoma’s biggest drug problem isn’t what you think from the OK Policy Blog.

Moore adversity: Tragedies continue to put Oklahoma city in national spotlight

In many ways, the public reaction to the Sept. 25 workplace attack at Vaughan Foods felt familiar to Mayor Glenn Lewis. Phone calls. Interview requests. Widespread grieving. Headlines. Following the deadly tornado that devastated Moore on May 20, 2013, Lewis was interviewed on camera 499 times. The EF5 twister killed 25 people, including seven elementary school students who took shelter in a school hallway. Now, another tragedy with national interest: two women attacked at work, one woman beheaded, the other survived.

Read more from NewsOK.

Ethics agency stirs anger with complaint moratorium

Oklahoma’s top political referee is firing up debate over a decision to close its complaint window during election season, essentially stepping out of the political fray. Wallace Collins, the chairman of the state Democratic Party, said he learned about the new Ethics Commission rule the “hard way” when the party tried to complain that Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, had committed a violation regarding television ads. The party got a letter from Ethics Commission attorney Geoffrey D. Long.

Read more from the Muskogee Phoenix.

AG: Electronic Voter Registration Signatures Improper

A recent Attorney General’s Office opinion has deemed electronic signatures on voter registration applications invalid. The technology, called the Allpoint Pen, allows someone to use their finger on an electronic tablet or a computer’s mouse to sign their name, State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax explained. The device then mimics the person’s signature and places it on a document, in this case a voter registration application.

Read more from KGOU.

See also: Thousands of People Have Used Remote-Controlled Pens Over The Internet To Register To Vote from TechPresident; Online voter registration overview from the National Conference of State Legislatures

Oklahoma Prepares To Resume Executions

Prison officials have renovated the death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, ordered backup medical equipment, and developed new procedures for carrying out executions since a lethal injection went awry in the spring. The state hopes to avoid a repeat of the April 29 execution of Clayton Lockett, who clenched his teeth, moaned and writhed on a gurney before a doctor noticed a problem with the intravenous line and the execution was called off before Lockett died anyway.

Read more from KGOU.

See also: Outline of Oklahoma’s changes to execution protocol from NewsOK.

Muslims say they want to bridge the gap of hate in Oklahoma

Sallisaw Republican state Rep. John Bennett ignited a firestorm last month with his comments that Islam was a “cancer that needed to be cut out of America.” He later said those comments were meant to inspire “open dialogue and education about the Islamic faith.” In that, he actually shares something with Oklahoma Islamic leaders. In response to Bennett’s initial statements — as well as two presentations he’s given in the last three weeks — some area Islamic leaders said they believe the only way to reach state residents fearful of their religion is through the same avenues Bennett uses to help ignite that fear.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ presentation highlights how much it costs to raise kids

Raising a child is expensive. Just ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which estimates that it will cost $245,340 to see a kid through to age 18. It’s a daunting figure for sure, and one that teens — particularly those having babies — are unaware of. “It just seems like a lot of teenagers and young people don’t understand what the true financial costs are for raising children, so we want to make that information readily available to them,” said Meg Cannon, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services.

Read more from NewsOK.

State gun activists lobby for weapons on college campus

Gun rights activists have colleges and universities in their sights and are pushing to make Oklahoma the latest state to legalize concealed carry on campus. “Anywhere you can carry your Bible, which is your First Amendment right, you should be able to carry your gun, which is your Second Amendment right,” said Don Spencer, vice president of Oklahoma Second Amendment Association. But that might be a tough sell as gun activists face resistance from leaders of the state’s 25 public schools.

Read more from the Enid News.

Tulsa Police Seek Funding To Test All Untested Rape Kits

There are hundreds of rape kits — untested — collecting dust at the Tulsa Police Department. That means hundreds of rapists who never stood trial. Tulsa Police say because so many rapists don’t just stop, its is important to get all rape kits tested. That is easier said than done. The tests are expensive and could cost the police department tens of thousands of dollars. But police say running those tests would be worth every penny.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Farmers Call On USDA To Implement Farm Bill Fix

Oklahoma wheat growers are calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement a Farm Bill provision they say would address the ongoing drought that’s plagued the state and others for the past several years. The new provision allows farmers to maintain enough crop insurance to cover expected production in exchange for paying a higher premium to cover any additional liability. The provision will change how farmers make the estimate of their expected production.

Read more from KGOU.

Quote of the Day

“They have coverage until they’re 18, and then it’s like, when they turn 18, no more coverage. And that’s the way our state (is), and we need to do something to change this. It’s not really fair. I don’t know what the answer is.”

– Michelle Casson, a Del City grandmother raising her three grandchildren. Ms. Casson is uninsured and sought dental care at a free clinic event in Oklahoma City in August (Source:

Number of the Day


The growth in Oklahoma’s Asian-American population from 2000-2010.

Source: Asian Americans Advancing Justice analysis of U.S. Census data.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Two For One: Subsidies Help Food Stamp Recipients Buy Fresh Food

The U.S. Department of Agriculture just announced that $31.5 million is now available as grants to programs that help make farm-fresh fruits and vegetables more affordable for families who rely on food stamps. The Food Insecurity Nutrition Program is modeled on the Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks initiative in Michigan and Wholesome Wave’s Double Value Coupon program at 350 farmers markets across the country. Both programs boost the purchasing power of SNAP, or food stamps, at farmers markets. If a SNAP recipient uses $10 of their benefits at a farm market, they get $20 dollars worth of produce. The USDA grants, which have to be matched by private donations, will provide the $10 subsidy.

Read more from KGOU.

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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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