[Weekly Wonk] Better tomorrows for state youth | Pandemic impacts in Oklahoma | Managed care bill

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

Upcoming Opportunities

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Weekly What’s That

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events experienced before age 18. The include all forms of child abuse, having a household member who is incarcerated, exposure to domestic violence, neglect, and having a parent with an untreated mental illness or substance use disorder.

ACEs can disrupt brain development causing social, emotional, and cognitive problems throughout an individual’s life, which increase the likelihood of risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, difficulty functioning at school/work, and even early death.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“Juvenile justice done correctly is a collaboration.”

– Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs Executive Director Rachel Holt, speaking at OK Policy’s panel discussion and report release on Oklahoma’s youth justice system [Tulsa World]

Editorial of the Week

Moving ‘tent cities’ of people who are homeless doesn’t fix the problem

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that the recent removal of the homeless encampments west of downtown Tulsa only temporarily moved the problems.

Those experiencing homelessness are still without shelter and services. Some have returned; some have shifted their camps; and some have whereabouts unknown.

This did not provide a solution. It only moved it out of sight. It is the wrong way to approach helping people who are homeless.

Many people who are living on the streets are not merely down on their luck. They usually face significant problems with unmet needs in brain health or substance abuse, requiring housing with wraparound social services and health care.

The desire to get rid of these makeshift tent cities makes sense. They cause problems for surrounding neighborhoods, including trash build-up, rising crime and hygiene issues. They lower property values and drive away economic prosperity.

We understand the need and moral imperative to find other locations for those who are erecting shanties and tents for shelter. The most effective way to do that is by working with those individuals to find appropriate housing, including locations that accept pets.

The Department of Transportation cleared brush and trees. About a week later, city of Tulsa security guards told those in the encampments to leave, and prisoners in Department of Corrections custody cleaned up debris as they left.

No social workers or mental health professionals were on site when this took place.

It went against best practices and the housing plan administered by the nonprofit Housing Solutions. Outreach teams typically spend weeks or months building a relationship with campers to get them into the right type of housing.

Some campers may be reluctant due to being in a mental health crisis or issues with past experiences, pet ownership or other needs.

A consequence of disbanding a site without those outreach teams present is setting back the connections made. It only forms a distrust and doesn’t get anyone off the streets.

“The important thing to acknowledge is: The sweeping of a camp doesn’t eliminate that person’s homelessness. Housing does,” said Becky Gligo, Housing Solutions executive director.

Tulsa has a housing problem and a homeless problem. The city does not have enough different types of affordable housing for people who are homeless or on the verge of being homeless. The situation is getting worse.

More than 2,300 people were experiencing homelessness in Tulsa last month, including nearly 300 people who were new to homelessness. That is an increase from 1,700 in February 2021.

This is a community problem that is not getting better. Tulsans have a history of solving big problems through innovation and collaboration. We can do better than this.

[Tulsa World Editorial]

Numbers of the Day

  • 2,345 – Number of young people held in detention in Oklahoma between July 2019 and August 2020. [Oklahoma Juvenile Affairs]
  • 41st – Where Oklahoma ranks nationally for positive family and community support. [2021 KIDS COUNT Data Book]
  • 4x – Black students in Oklahoma are more than four times as likely to have a school-related arrest and six times as likely to be expelled when compared to white students. Inequalities, often due to underfunding, unequal access to education and health care, as well as rural-urban divides, leave youth of color at a disadvantage. [Open Justice Oklahoma]
  • 2x – American Indian youth are nearly twice as likely to be arrested when compared to white youth, in Fiscal Year 2020. These disparities are the legacy of racial and ethnic oppression and implicit bias in the criminal justice system. [Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs]
  • 57% – The percentage of three- and four-year-olds enrolled in preschool in Oklahoma. Oklahoma was once a national leader in early childhood education. [2021 KIDS COUNT Data Book]

What We’re Reading


David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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