In The Know: In Search of New Ways to Tame Opioid Crisis

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

In Search of New Ways to Tame Opioid Crisis: Oklahoma is among the nation’s leaders in combating the opioid epidemic in some ways, but it lags in others. The question of what more Oklahoma can do to reduce the hundreds of fatal overdoses from prescription painkillers each year will hover over the 2018 legislative session. A commission chaired by Attorney General Mike Hunter plans to recommend by Dec. 1 new strategies for attacking the scourge. Some or all of its proposals will be folded into legislation [Oklahoma Watch].

Legislative seats, city projects on Oklahoma ballots Tuesday: Legislative seats in Norman and Tulsa, sales tax initiatives for improvements in Oklahoma City and a sheriff’s race in the state’s largest county are among the items on special elections ballots on Tuesday. Voters in Norman’s House District 46 will select a new legislator to replace former Republican state Rep. Scott Martin, who resigned in May to take a position as director of the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce [Associated Press].

New state revenue begins to flow: Gross receipts have come in for most of the state’s new sources of revenue, and for the most part, they’re meeting expectations. Despite the political gridlock that killed most revenue proposals during the legislative session, lawmakers managed to pass five tax and fee bills, including one that survived a state Supreme Court challenge. The measures placed new fees on sports tickets and nixed a sales tax exemption on automobiles [Journal Record]. Despite the passage of some new revenues, this year’s budget leaves Oklahoma services massively underfunded [OK Policy].

Loss of federal prevention funds will lead to more unintended teen pregnancies: If we want to make sure every Oklahoman has the chance to become a productive, healthy adult, then preventing teen pregnancies is one of the most important things we can do. While some teen mothers and their children manage to beat the odds, giving birth before completing one’s education and being prepared to parent greatly increases the likelihood of being trapped in a cycle of misfortune [OK Policy].

For almost a century, Oklahoma County voters have chosen only Democrats for sheriff. That could change Tuesday: For almost a century, voters in Oklahoma County have elected only Democrats to be sheriff. That could change Tuesday in a special general election. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The front-runner in the race is Oklahoma County Undersheriff P.D. Taylor, an Oklahoma City Republican. He has been serving as acting sheriff since March 1 when his longtime boss, John Whetsel, retired [NewsOK].

Audit finds Cleveland County sheriff’s employees driving uninsured vehicles: Widespread financial mismanagement within the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office has created cash flow problems and resulted in employees driving 48 vehicles that were not insured, a state audit has found. Sheriff Joe Lester sued Cleveland County commissioners in March, accusing them of violating state law by failing to fully fund detention center operations [NewsOK].

Breaking the cycle: Fighting the road from prison to poverty: Elvis Wright doesn’t know what a normal life looks like. “A normal life? I still don’t know what that is,” Wright said. “And I’m not looking for that. I’m looking for an extraordinary life, I’m not looking for the same old normal, day-to-day thing. I think it’s the only way I’m going to be able to overcome the past.” Wright, of Duncan, once belonged to an overcrowded and failing system. Bursting at the seams with inmates, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is underfunded and lacking in program participation, leaving prisoners without a support system to reintroduce them to society [Enid News].

Tulsa County could hand down its first death sentence in 8 years as state moves to make woman’s slaying a capital case: The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office on Monday filed its intent to seek the death penalty against a man accused in a young woman’s strangulation death, marking the first time prosecutors have asked for the maximum sentence since 2012’s Good Friday shootings. Gregory Jerome Epperson, 41, is expected to appear in court Oct. 9 for arraignment before District Judge Doug Drummond on charges of first-degree murder in the March 20 homicide of 19-year-old Kelsey Tennant and assault against her boyfriend, Riley Allen, inside her east Tulsa apartment [Tulsa World].

DACA forum sparks discussion about uncertain future: Briseyda Amador was 2 years old when her parents moved from Mexico to Oklahoma City in 2000. The Dove Science Academy senior has set goals that include being the first in her family to graduate from high school and college. Those plans, however, are on hold for Amador, 18, one of nearly 7,500 undocumented immigrants in Oklahoma who could lose deportation protections found under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, unless Congress acts by March 5 [NewsOK]. Congress must pass the Dream Act to protect young Oklahomans and our economy [OK Policy].

A need for state government leadership: We have a leadership crisis in Oklahoma – and the country. The front page of The Oklahoman on Thursday may have unintentionally pointed to the issue. Under the headline “Fallin to call special session” were two other headlines: “Shortey indicted in federal case/Accusations include child porn, child sex trafficking” about former state Sen. Ralph Shortey and “State senator charged with sexual battery” about state Sen. Bryce Marlatt [Joe Hight / Journal Record].

State of Addiction: Oklahoma school district now equipped with Narcan: Police officers at an Oklahoma school district are now getting trained on a nasal spray that can stop overdoses. The opioid crisis continues to get worse, prompting one school district to make sure it’s prepared if the epidemic strikes its schools. Narcan is known to save the lives of those who overdose on opioids. Many police departments around Oklahoma are now equipped with the lifesaving drug, and with the opioid crisis growing, schools now have to be prepared [KOCO].

Name Change Proposal of 3 Oklahoma Schools Lacks Support: Principals of three Oklahoma schools named after Confederate generals say there’s little support among parents to change the names of the facilities. The Oklahoman reports that Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Aurora Lora said last month following racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia that some facility names don’t “reflect our values in 2017.” Stand Watie Elementary Principal Theressa Manzanedo and Jackson Enterprise Elementary School Patrick Duffy say they’ve had few parents give an opinion on the name change [Associated Press].

State Supreme Court rejects city’s effort to put an end to Helmerich Park lawsuit: The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday denied the city of Tulsa’s request that it assume jurisdiction over the Helmerich Park lawsuit pending in Tulsa County District Court and dismiss the case, according to the Supreme Court’s website. The lawsuit now goes back before District Judge Jefferson Sellers. In a prepared statement, Mayor G.T. Bynum indicated the city will continue to fight the case in court [The Frontier].

Quote of the Day

“The substance abuse [program], CareerTech training, the GED — all these things that these guys need to be able to overcome poverty when they get out and reduce … the need to reoffend to support themselves. Because this is where true corrections comes in. Prisons are warehouses.”

– Enid Community Corrections Center Director Steve Kiss, explaining the need for more services in Oklahoma prisons in order to prevent recidivism (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of World War II veterans living in Oklahoma, 2011-2015 average.

Source: US Census 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Rural America Gets Creative to Attract Much-Needed Doctors: Because of the Affordable Care Act, more Americans have health insurance than ever before. But having insurance doesn’t necessarily make it easy to find a doctor when much of the United States is suffering from a shortage of physicians. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, there are almost 7,000 areas around the country with an inadequate number of primary-care providers. In the next decade, the country could be short 95,000 doctors, according to a study last year by the Association of American Medical Colleges. It’s an issue that affects urban and suburban areas to a degree, but it’s the nation’s rural areas that tend to be hit the hardest [Governing].

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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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