In The Know: Year after Costello’s death, mental health spending lags

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

Year after Costello’s death, mental health spending lags: Oklahoma spends less money on its mental health system than it did the day Labor Commissioner Mark Costello died. On Tuesday, the anniversary of his death, Costello’s widow Cathy said the state’s lack of investment in treatment for residents with brain disorders is heartbreaking. …At a tree planting ceremony outside the Oklahoma Department of Labor building, Cathy Costello and three of her children shoveled dirt into a hole where a redbud tree will grow in honor of their slain husband and father [NewsOK]. The FY 2017 budget adds to the cost of mental illness in Oklahoma [OK Policy].

DHS forced to make changes to SNAP program due to budget cuts: Benefits provided to low-income Oklahomans is being slowed after statewide budget cuts, the state agency overseeing the program said. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP, is changing the way it replaces cards. Cards were available immediately, but now cards have to be provided through a third party, delaying them for a week. In a typical month, about 25,000 cards are issued. Of those, 15,000 represent replacement cards [FOX25]. More than 1 in 4 Oklahoma children rely on SNAP to get enough to eat [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Public Safety Department considers furloughing troopers: The Department of Public Safety is considering 23-day furloughs for state troopers and civilian employees as the agency struggles with budget problems, officials said Wednesday. DPS Commissioner Michael Thompson has requested a $12 million budget supplement. He said that without this emergency funding, his agency will not be able to maintain present levels of staffing and operations, which have been reduced after millions of dollars in budget cuts the last two years [NewsOK]. Fifty-nine of 73 state agencies receiving state appropriations saw a further cut in FY 2017, following midyear cuts in FY 2016 [OK Policy]. 

Tulsa County lawsuit ‘imminent’ in battle with Department of Corrections over prisoner reimbursement: A Tulsa County lawsuit against the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is “imminent,” the assistant district attorney said Wednesday. The lawsuit would seek to more than double the $27 per prisoner per day the DOC pays to keep state inmates in the financially strapped Tulsa Jail. The prisoners are principally people convicted in Tulsa County and awaiting transport to state facilities [Tulsa World].

Prosperity Policy: How not to create opportunity: The evidence is clear and compelling that Oklahoma needs more workers with college degrees for the state to be economically prosperous. Overwhelmingly, the most successful states have the best-educated workforce. Both productivity and median wages in states are strongly correlated with higher education levels. On the individual level, too, good-paying jobs and financial security are increasingly limited for those without postsecondary education [David Blatt / Journal Record]. That’s why it is especially troubling that this year’s budget decimated funding for higher education [OK Policy].

Rose State sees big jump in fall enrollment: Enrollment is up 11 percent for students coming out of high school and 6 percent overall at Rose State College, where fall classes began Monday. Officials said this is the largest class of first-time, full-time students at Rose State since 1982, with 200 more students enrolled than in fall 2015. “You can’t get a parking space. This is exciting,” President Jeannie Webb said Tuesday [NewsOK].

RSU recognized for low student debt: Rogers State University has been recognized by two ranking organizations for graduates having low student debt. LendEDU, an online marketplace for student loans and student loan finance, named RSU as having the lowest average student debt per borrower out of the 21 ranked Oklahoma colleges and universities, both public and private. It ranked RSU 35th out of 1,300 schools nationwide. ValueColleges, an organization that ranks colleges by value and affordability, ranked RSU 26th out of 50 universities with the lowest student debt upon graduation [Journal Record].

Medical marijuana supporters consider options if question doesn’t make November ballot: Supporters of legalization of medical marijuana on Wednesday vowed to press getting the issue on the Nov. 8 ballot, despite a series of deadlines that make it nearly impossible. On Tuesday, state officials said Oklahomans for Health had collected more than enough signatures to get the issue before voters. Supporters collected 67,761 signatures; the requirement was 65,987 signatures. But a series of deadlines means the question likely will have to wait until June or November 2018, the next scheduled primary and general elections [Tulsa World]. Learn more about November’s State Questions here

State should do everything reasonable to get the medical marijuana bill on November’s ballot, even if it’s bad idea: If State Question 788 doesn’t make November’s ballot, proponents have no one to blame but themselves. Still, in the best spirit of democracy and to save some money, state officials ought to do everything reasonable to get the medical marijuana proposal before voters in November if possible. Secretary of State Chris Benge announced Wednesday that the petition had 67,761 signatures, enough to qualify for ballot access provisionally [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

OK Watch-Out Video: The Alcohol Question: State Sen. Stephanie Bice and Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma President Bryan Kerr discussed proposed changes to Oklahoma’s laws on sales of wine and strong beer. State Question 792, which is on the Nov. 8 ballot, would allow such sales in grocery and convenience stores [Oklahoma Watch].

40 votes separate Oklahoma Democrat congressional candidates: The runner-up in a Democratic runoff election for an Oklahoma congressional seat in which the two candidates are separated by only 40 votes says he hasn’t decided whether to seek a recount. Former state Sen. Al McAffrey held a narrow edge following Tuesday’s runoff against retired university professor Tom Guild for the Democratic nomination in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District. With all 273 precincts reporting, McAffrey led by 40 votes out of more than 16,000 cast [NewsOK].

Protest takes over hall as meeting halts: Protestors basically took over the Norman City Council Chambers after the members of the Board of Adjustment fled. Protestors began chanting when Dr. Stephen Ellis was denied the right to appeal a floodplain decision. Ellis does not own property in the floodplain and therefore was told he had no standing as an aggrieved party. Protestors burst into chant, “No water, no life, no Plains Pipeline.” [Norman Transcript]

New Oklahoma tag hits sour note: The new Oklahoma license plate design is our state’s New Coke. No one likes it. There was no need to change it. At best, it’s bland. At worse, it resembles the Twitter logo or the “Mockingjay” book cover from the “Hunger Games” series. The odds have so not been in Oklahoma’s favor lately [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World].


Oklahoma Oil Regulator Issues New Restrictions After Earthquakes: The oil and gas industry practice of pumping waste fluid into disposal wells is likely responsible for Oklahoma’s exponential surge in earthquake activity. State officials initially were reluctant to publicly acknowledge the link, which was made in numerous peer-reviewed scientific papers. That changed in 2015. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the state’s oil and gas regulator, is now more frequently ordering plug-backs and issuing quake-related shutdowns and volume limits at disposal wells, which scientists say are likely fueling most of the earthquake activity in Oklahoma [KGOU].

Prairie land owned by Ted Turner transferred to Osage Nation: At the start of negotiations over 43,000 acres of prairie an hour northwest of Tulsa, media mogul Ted Turner sent a message to the potential buyer. “I want this land preserved for generations to come,” Turner told the chief of the Osage Nation last year. And Geoffrey Standing Bear sent word back to Turner. “It won’t be just generations,” the chief promised. “It will be forever.” [Tulsa World]

God, Guns, and Survival, Deep in the Heart of the Dust Bowl: On Hardscrabble Life in the Oklahoma Panhandle: Cimarron County is at the westernmost edge of the Oklahoma Panhandle, bordered by Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. It is out there. The sheer vastness of the space is dislocating, the wind incessant, the beauty of the landscape stark. This is High Plains country, where temperatures can drop 50 degrees in a day, and it rains an average of only 18 inches a year. In the 1930s, Cimarron County was the epicenter of the Dust Bowl. Today it’s the least populous county in Oklahoma, with almost one square mile for every person. As its tourist brochure says: Still not a stoplight in the county! [Literary Hub] The Panhandle can tell us a lot about the future of Oklahoma [OK Policy].

Quote of the Day

“If we would focus on (mental illness), and if we would — as Benjamin Franklin said, use an ounce of prevention for a pound of cure — we could save money. We could save millions of dollars in the long run. To me, it’s relatively simple. We just have to do it.”

– Cathy Costello, widow of slain Labor Commissioner Mark Costello, who was killed one year ago by their son, Christian. The Costello family had spent nearly a decade trying to locate treatment for Christian’s paranoid schizophrenia (Source

Number of the Day


The number of Oklahoma preschool students who were suspended in the 2011-12 school year.

Source: Civil Rights Data Collection

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

In La. and Ky. Shifts on Medicaid Expansion, a Reminder of Governors’ Power in Health Care: Two southern states, Louisiana and Kentucky, have reversed positions on Medicaid expansion–after electing new governors. This shift is a reminder, as the presidential contest draws so much focus, that down-ballot races also matter. When it comes to health policy, governors can make a huge difference [Wall Street Journal].

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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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