“True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
The tragic death of George Floyd and so many others has sparked a response here in Oklahoma and across the United States which will, I pray, result in change with people’s hearts, minds, and the injustice under protest. The protests we see, sadly, are nothing new to our nation. Their impact is being amplified through the media and the Internet. As I type this column, I hear news helicopters flying overhead covering the mass gathering demanding changes to a system the protesters feel has failed them. The spark to this flame was the action by some who should never have held jobs of public responsibility, or certainly should have been removed following a prior incident, as was the case of the officer who killed Mr. Floyd. Continue Reading →
Special Care Should be Taken to Protect Students and Student-Athletes
As Oklahoma government officials move our state into “Phase 2” of reopening after COVID-19, it is important for us to maintain safe practices. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued recommendations recently for those communities who are considering opening schools and events.
The link – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools.html – on the CDC website recommends “schools can determine, in collaboration with state and local health officials to the extent possible, whether and how to implement these considerations while adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community. Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community.”
They also recommend that “these considerations are meant to supplement – not replace – any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which schools must comply.”
This is especially important with the plan that the Oklahoma Secondary Sports Athletic Association considered on Friday for phased return to practices, which they defeated by one vote. Their tentative plan was to open programs back up in some capacity on June 1, allowing coaches and athletes to have limited contact. Then on June 15, weight rooms could open with strict social distancing guidelines in place. Continue Reading →
OKLAHOMA CITY – As the curtain draws on the 2020 session of the Oklahoma Legislature, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) has named Tulsa state Sen. Allison Ikley-Freeman as its “Children’s Senator of the Year.”
The award goes annually to the member or members of the Oklahoma Senate who has particularly distinguished himself or herself during the session. For 2020, the decision was easy, according to Joe Dorman, CEO of OICA. “Oklahoma is fortunate to have a number of lawmakers who write, support, and advocate for ‘child-friendly’ legislation,” Dorman said. “This year, the steadfast work of Senator Ikley-Freeman stood out among her colleagues. Her determination to make Oklahoma a better place for all its children was inspirational, and it is an honor for OICA to have her as our ‘Children’s Senator of the Year’.”
The lawmaker carried a series of bills encompassing many of the legislative goals of OICA, targeted to improving the lives of children. Continue Reading →
OICA Stayed Busy Monitoring Children’s Issues Until the Final Gavel Fell
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – “Ferris Bueller” from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”
The above quote, from one of my favorite movies – “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, certainly can apply to the legislative session, which finally ended Friday evening. Advocates struggled to keep up with issues brought forth by lawmakers as language often is amended at the last minute. The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) monitors legislation on children’s issues and we will work through those last-minute changes to determine which ideas were in the best interest of children and families. Soon, OICA also will develop a legislative scorecard showing how “child friendly” the votes cast by lawmakers were. Continue Reading →
OKLAHOMA CITY – As Oklahoma’s skilled nursing staff and residents continue to grapple with COVID-19, Governor Kevin Stitt issued a proclamation declaring May 10-16 “Skilled Nursing Week” in Oklahoma and offering “love and appreciation” for “residents, patients, caregivers, nurses, other staff and volunteers.” (read the proclamation here). The proclamation notes that “nursing home staff have made heroic efforts and sacrifices to fight and contain the coronavirus in our nursing facilities” and that “nursing home families and residents have also made sacrifices and experienced hardship … and have demonstrated exceptional resolve and compassion.” Care Providers Oklahoma President and CEO Steven Buck thanked the governor and said nursing staff and residents appreciate the recognition. “If you are a resident in a facility with restricted access or a member of our nursing staff, it can be easy to feel forgotten,” said Buck. “They are fighting a war against an invisible enemy behind-closed-doors, and it’s easy to be overlooked, even as we applaud other men and women in the health care community.” “The fact is, nursing homes are now the front lines in this battle,” continued Buck. “They need our support, they need resources, and they need our prayers and goodwill. Our staff, our residents and their families are all in this together. The rest of our community needs to stand with us and help win this fight, and that’s what Governor Stitt’s message is all about.”
Continue Reading →
Child Statistic of the Week Focuses on Water Safety Day, May 15
The way we all conduct business has changed due to COVID-19, with millions finding themselves without a stable income. Just last week, Oklahomans filed more than 68,000 jobless claims with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) during the week ending May 2. That is up more than 15,000 claims from the week before. On the week ending April 25, OESC made compensation payments to nearly 155,000 people according to the U.S. Department of Labor data. U.S. unemployment rate for April hit a staggering 14.7 percent, the highest rate since the Great Depression. Continue Reading →
OKLAHOMA CITY – Skilled nursing facilities across the state are working to bring some joy to their residents this weekend in celebration of Mother’s Day. Even as coronavirus-related restrictions to visitors continue, staff are working to put residents in touch with loved ones, plan celebrations, and treat their residents to various Mother’s Day activities. At Beacon Ridge Senior Mental Health in Sapulpa, staff are planning a Mother’s Day Tea celebration and facilitating FaceTime visits for moms with their families. At Shawnee Care Center, resident-moms are participating in a “glamor” photo shoot with costume jewelry and feather boas and sending those pictures to family members who are unable to visit. At Bridges facilities across the state, staff are planning Mother’s Day spas and creating slideshows from pictures sent by families. These are just a few examples of celebrations that will be occurring in skilled nursing facilities across Oklahoma. “This has been an enormously difficult time for our residents and their families,” said Care Providers Oklahoma President and CEO Steven Buck. Continue Reading →
OKLAHOMA CITY – Joe Dorman, chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, released the following statement in the wake of the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision in the case of The League of Women Voters, Angela Zea Patrick, and Peggy Jeanne Winton v. Paul Ziriax, Secretary of the State Election Board which allows voters to self-notarize absentee ballots in this year’s elections:
“This was a courageous, and more importantly, correct decision by the majority of the Court to allow voters to self-notarize their ballots. This will allow absentee voters to remain in their homes to cast their ballots without having to risk exposure to COVID-19 to get their ballots notarized. It is a victory not only for the plaintiffs, but for democracy. “Barriers to vote, like the absentee requirement, do more to disenfranchise those whose voices should most be heard, including senior Oklahomans. This is a victory for them as now they do not have to risk illness or even death to exercise their most precious right and duty. Continue Reading →
Education, Core Services Fare Well Amid Revenue Reductions
The Oklahoma Legislature returned to the State Capitol Monday to finalize budget plans for the upcoming fiscal year, which will begin on July 1. The leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate, controlled by large Republican majorities, held a press conference announcing their proposal. Budget reductions in the proposal are limited to 4 percent or less amid the COVID-19 pandemic, while seeing no cuts to services within the overall education system in our state. There was no discussion as to whether this budget was agreed to by Democratic lawmakers or Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt.
Under the proposed budget, most of the $1.4 billion, or 17 percent, budget reduction projected by the state Board of Equalization for next year will be filled by using reserve funds, cutting one-time spending, temporarily redirecting non-appropriated money into the budget, and agency appropriation reductions of 4 percent, or less in most cases.
To help with the economic downturn, Oklahoma has so far received more than $1.25 billion in federal relief funds for COVID-19 expenses. Much of this money is expected to solidify agency budgets for services tied to the pandemic. Continue Reading →
OKLAHOMA CITY – While Oklahoma and many other states are lifting stay-at-home orders and reopening their economies, skilled nursing facilities are still anticipating a long and devastating battle against COVID-19 for their residents and staff. Residents at nursing homes and long-term care facilities are uniquely vulnerable to the virus, and the effort to contain its spread was initially hampered by a lack of access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing. Now, even as those supplies become more readily available, nursing homes continue to face enormous financial hardships related to PPE and staffing costs.“Many facilities are seeing a 500 percent increase in the cost of PPE, which is not only being sold at marked-up prices but is also being used at a much faster rate than normal,” said Care Providers Oklahoma President and CEO Steven Buck. “Similarly, some facilities are experiencing double their normal labor costs, as they have worked to hire additional staff and increase compensation for those working directly with COVID-19 patients. The financial situation at our nursing homes is not sustainable. Continue Reading →