In The Know: ‘Unprecedented’: Mental health advocates, state leaders prepare for the worst as mental health cuts loom

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

‘Unprecedented’: Mental health advocates, state leaders prepare for the worst as mental health cuts loom: Surrounded by dozens of representatives from across the state, including from hospitals, law enforcement and other state agencies, the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services outlined budget cuts that were described as “unprecedented” and “devastating.” “This is a really difficult day for our department and for the behavioral health network across the state of Oklahoma. It is an especially difficult day for the families and individuals who rely on our life-saving services,” said Terri White, commissioner of ODMHSAS [The Frontier]. Although the Oklahoma Legislature has convened numerous special sessions in recent decades, none has dealt with issues as sweeping and consequential as the current one [OK Policy].

Rehab work camps were about to be regulated. Then a friend stepped in: For years, Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery proudly operated outside of state oversight in Oklahoma. The founders ran their Christian recovery program their way – with church, hard manual labor and little government interference. In 2013, it looked like that was about to change. After a handful of patients died in another unregulated rehab, state lawmakers introduced a bill to crack down on a wide swath of uncertified programs. Then Republican lawmaker Doug Cox stepped in [Reveal].

Oklahoma taxes are the lowest in our region, and falling: This week the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services began alerting care providers that they will have to shut down the state’s entire outpatient behavioral health system, with just a few exceptions, if lawmakers don’t find ways in special session to fill the agency’s $75 million budget hole. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is planning to cut rates paid to doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes by 9 percent — a scenario that would likely put more rural hospitals out of business at a time when pregnant women in rural Oklahoma already are being forced to travel long distances for basic care [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: Let our people stay: They are students, teachers, nurses, and police officers. They are caregivers, laborers, and soldiers. They are neighbors, colleagues, and friends. They are young immigrants, commonly known as “dreamers,” who came to this country at such a young age that they have little or no memory of living anywhere else. They are, for all intents and purposes, Americans [David Blatt / Journal Record]. Congress must pass the Dream Act to protect young Oklahomans and our economy [OK Policy].

Thanks, Big Oil, For Teaching Oklahoma’s Kids: Whiny liberals and lazy teachers always cry for more and more funding for education. It’s never, never enough. Lucky for us, one brave state refuses to be held hostage by such demands. We sent our citizen journalist Laura Grey to dig a little deeper [The Opposition with Jordan Clepper / Comedy Central]. Oklahoma’s investment in preK-12 education has plummeted in recent years [OK Policy].

Oklahoma City, Tulsa tout quality of life to lure Amazon HQ2: Oklahoma City and Tulsa are showcasing their cultural, recreational and quality-of-life attractions as they compete for Amazon’s second headquarters in North America, a massive $5 billion project that will eventually include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs. The online retail giant will clearly need tech-savvy talent and will likely look for state and local subsidies. But officials in Oklahoma are hoping to stand out by pushing other amenities to appeal to CEO Jeff Bezos [Journal Record].

These States Are the Least Ready for the Next Recession: It’s been more than eight years since the last recession, but nearly a third of America’s states aren’t ready for the next one. Fifteen state governments don’t have enough money saved to make up for the revenue that would disappear during a moderate recession, with Louisiana, North Dakota and Oklahoma the least prepared, according to stress tests conducted by Moody’s Analytics [Bloomberg].

As Outcry Over Sexual Harassment Grows, Focus Shifts to State Legislatures: Hundreds of thousands of women in recent days have turned to social media – many using the hashtag #MeToo – to indicate that they have been sexually assaulted or harassed in the past. The movement, which has exploded in the wake of allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein, has brought attention to sexual harassment on college campuses, in Hollywood and in corporate America. And many of the women who are speaking out have pointed to their time in and around state capitols [Governing].

Former Tulsa Police Officer Shannon Kepler convicted of manslaughter: Former Tulsa Police Officer Shannon Kepler was convicted of first-degree manslaughter late Wednesday by a jury that recommended he serve 15 years in prison and pay a $10,000 fine. The verdict was returned about 11:40 p.m. Jurors had sent a message to the judge about 10:50 p.m. asking whether, if they convicted Kepler on a manslaughter charge, they also would need to arrive at a sentencing recommendation before returning to the courtroom [Tulsa World].

Higher expectations needed for Oklahoma to succeed says GOP gubernatorial candidate Mick Cornett: Higher expectations and more “positive energy” are what this state needs, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said Wednesday evening during the formal Tulsa kickoff of his gubernatorial campaign. “What Oklahoma City and Tulsa haven’t done as well as we’d like, and that other areas of the state are struggling with as well, is having higher standards for us in the areas of health and education,” Cornett told supporters and interested observers at the Central Park Community Center [Tulsa World].

Cole says tribal gaming deserves same support as energy industry: U.S. Rep. Tom Cole said he wants Oklahoma’s leaders to support tribal gaming, similar to how the state supports the energy industry. He’s a member of the Chickasaw Nation and mentioned the tribe’s billion-dollar annual budget. He compared the tribe’s economic impact to Tinker Air Force Base. “It’s like another Tinker Air Force Base, that’s about what Chickasaw Nation is,” he said [Journal Record].

U.S. Rep. Cole predicts increased funding for federal higher education programs: While state funding for colleges remains up in the air as budget negotiations continue, federal dollars likely will increase, Congressman Tom Cole said Wednesday during a meeting of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. Education bills in the U.S. House include big increases for TRIO and GEAR UP, “areas that are pretty important, particularly to Oklahoma higher education,” said Cole, R-Moore [NewsOK].

Administration Sends Mixed Signals On State Health Insurance Waivers: It was the Friday before a Monday deadline, and federal health officials in Washington, D.C. were working feverishly with their counterparts in Oklahoma to finalize the details of a new state reinsurance program. Emails flew between the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Washington and Oklahoma’s Department of Health. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, the only ACA insurer in the state, was on board. Everything had to be done by Monday, Sept. 25, so the insurance company could set new, presumably lower, health insurance rates for 2018 [NPR].

Oklahoma gets a one-year REAL ID extension after saying compliance will take two years: Oklahoma has received another extension for compliance with the REAL ID Act, months after its public safety commissioner said it will take two years to come into compliance. The Department of Homeland Security granted a one-year extension this week, giving the state until Oct. 10, 2018, to create driver’s licenses that meet a host of federal-mandated security features aimed at preventing counterfeits [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“There’s a huge humanitarian issue here for people whose lives will seriously be lost due to suicide, due to opioid addiction, but also it’s an economic issue for the business communities, which they’re very concerned. For me, it’s a very harsh public safety issue. You’re going to see homelessness and crime rates increase when people don’t have access to services, and people are unemployed, and then the unemployment rate is going to go up, which is going to impact all these other core functions of government.”

– Melissa Baldwin, director of justice and policy for Mental Health Association Oklahoma, on the announcement that the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services will initiate eliminating nearly all outpatient services in November if the Legislature doesn’t reach a budget deal by then. ODMHSAS reported the cuts will affect almost 189,000 people who are currently receiving outpatient services (Source)

Number of the Day


Average cost of fees to obtain an occupational license in Oklahoma

Source: Institute for Justice

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Absent Federal Action, States Take The Lead On Curbing Drug Costs: Lawmakers in Maryland are daring to legislate where their federal counterparts have not: As of Oct. 1, the state will be able to say “no” to some pharmaceutical price spikes. A new law, which focuses on generic and off-patent drugs, empowers the state’s attorney general to step in if a drug’s price climbs 50 percent or more in a single year. The company must justify the hike. If the attorney general still finds the increase unwarranted, he or she can file suit in state court. Manufacturers face a fine of up to $10,000 for price gouging [Kaiser Health News].

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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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