Recent Articles

Free School Lunch Programs Deserve Our Support

In an August 11 editorial, the Oklahoman newspaper argued for greater accountability for some parents who accept free school lunches for their children. “A policy that tells parents they’re free to freeload comes with predictable costs to all taxpayers,” the paper writes. The authors point to a story by Chalkbeat Colorado showing that costs increased for a Denver Public School district after schools adopted a policy to provide hot meals to all students (including those whose parents have an income high enough not to qualify for free or reduced cost lunches). After the policy change, schools expenses for unreimbursed meals ballooned from $13,000 to $356,000. The Denver policy may be an example of a well-intentioned but poorly thought-out plan. Continue Reading →

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History Proves Children Can Change the World

As we at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) work to help reform and improve public policy, one of the most frustrating things we hear is the mistaken assumption that children cannot or should not try to change the world. Young people, some say, should “wait their turn” to speak out on social issues or take on a community leadership role. While I agree that life experience is important, I would contend that passion, a willingness to learn, the and the ability to think with an open mind are equally as important. Often, these qualities are easier to find in children than adults, who can be closed-minded or unwilling to consider new information. I would also argue that some young people, even in their few years on this Earth, have had tremendous experiences that make them the most effective champions we need for positive change. Continue Reading →

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Remember the Children in Upcoming Elections

A historic number of Oklahomans voted in the 2018 Oklahoma primary elections. Regardless of your party affiliation or political beliefs, it was great to see an active and engaged citizenry getting out and voting. For the majority of elected positions, the primary elections determined who each party’s nominee will be for the November 6 general election. In races where candidates did not break the 50 percent threshold, however, there will now be a run-off election between the two top vote-getters on August 28, just a few weeks away. At that time we will see seven runoffs for the statewide ballot on the Republican ticket, a runoff for the Gubernatorial election for the Libertarian Party, a race for the Democratic ticket with Oklahoma Corporation Commission, state and federal legislative races and many county positions. Continue Reading →

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Oklahoma: State Question 793 Meets National Resistance Among Vision Health Professionals

Walmart Backed Constitutional Amendment Would Allow Big Box Stores to Control How Eye Doctors Practice Medicine and Treat their Patients

Optometric physicians across the country are working to oppose State Question 793, a Walmart-backed proposal to put optometry clinics in big box stores. In addition to the Armed Forces Optometric Society, a national organization representing optometric physicians in the military, associations of optometrists in Alaska, California, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Louisiana, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia are all working to oppose the initiative, which will appear on the November ballot in Oklahoma. Vision Source, a national network of optometric physicians, and IDOC, an optometric alliance with over 3000 members, are also opposing SQ 793. Eye doctors are alarmed and united in opposition to the language in SQ 793 that states the measure “does not prohibit optometrists or opticians from agreeing with retail mercantile establishments to limit their practice.” That language allows Walmart and other corporate giants to define the services their optometrists can offer, limiting the kind of full service eye-exam optometric physicians regularly perform and replacing it with a faster and more profitable check-up designed to sell glasses. Dr. Brendhan Fritts of Duncan said that allowing Walmart to limit scope of practice would directly harm patients, especially those with degenerative diseases or serious conditions that might go ignored in the kind of simple vision screenings big box stores want to provide. Continue Reading →

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Eye Doctors: Back to School Checklist Should Include Comprehensive Eye Exam

The Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians (OAOP) is encouraging parents to schedule comprehensive eye exams for their children as they prepare for the start of the school year, as one-in-four children has an undiagnosed vision problem. Untreated vision problems often lead to seemingly mysterious conditions like frequent headaches and are linked to everything from behavioral problems to poor performance in class. While many parents assume that a simple vision screening at school or in a pediatrician’s office can identify most vision problems, that is not the case. Most vision screenings test for basic distance visual acuity (ie “does a child have 20/20 vision?”) without also testing the wide variety of vision conditions and problems that affect learning and school-work. Approximately 40 percent of all children with learning disabilities have vison problems. Eye doctors are using the back-to-school season to remind parents that comprehensive vision exams are the best way to identify and correct these issues. Continue Reading →

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Two More Skilled Nursing Facilities Forced to Close as Funding Needs Go Unaddressed

Nursing Home Advocates Seek Legislative Champions as Health Infrastructure Continues to Collapse

OKLAHOMA CITY – Two more skilled nursing facilities in Oklahoma have closed this month, unable to operate in a state with some of the lowest Medicaid funding rates in the nation. Weatherford Living Center and Crescent Nursing and Rehabilitation, which together can house and provide 24 hour a daycare for over 100 frail seniors and individuals with disabilities, now stand empty as they close their doors this summer. Facilities in Wynnewood, Pawhuska, Edmond, and Cherokee have also closed in the last 12 months, representing the elimination of over 350 warm and safe spaces to care for seniors or persons with disabilities as well as hundreds of jobs. The closures are directly tied to a lack of funding on the state level. Over 70 percent of skilled nursing home residents in Oklahoma pay for their care with Medicaid. Nationally, skilled nursing facilities receive $206 per day to care for each Medicaid resident, on average. Continue Reading →

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Medical Cannabis Industry Releases Model Legislation for State Question 788 Implementation

OKLAHOMA CITY – New Health Solutions Oklahoma (NHSO), the trade association representing the state’s medical cannabis industry, is circulating comprehensive model legislation outlining a regulatory infrastructure for Oklahoma’s fledgling medical cannabis program. The model bill, available for download on newhealthoklahoma.com, proposes rules and regulations that would support the successful implementation of State Question 788. The proposal is an evolving document, and NHSO encourages Oklahomans with an interest in medical cannabis to review the model legislation and submit comments or proposed input on a form also available at newhealthoklahoma.com. NHSO Executive Director Bud Scott said his intent is to be a resource for lawmakers looking to carry out the will of the people, who overwhelmingly voted to support State Question 788. Scott said the medical cannabis industry believes in timely and responsible implementation and wants to address the legitimate concerns raised by the business community and others. Continue Reading →

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Reducing Childhood Trauma May Impact Addiction, Incarceration Rates

With the upcoming task force formed by Senate Bill 1517, I am confident Oklahoma has taken a major step forward in overcoming the high rate of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that impacts our residents. For those of you not familiar with ACEs, this is the study of childhood trauma and the associated health-related conditions which follow into adulthood. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood experiences, both positive and negative, have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization and perpetration as well as lifelong health and opportunity. As such, early experiences are an important public health issue. In Oklahoma, they are particularly relevant, as multiple research organizations have consistently ranked our state as having one of the highest rates of ACEs in the nation. The study which discovered the links to childhood trauma and adult health was the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect and later-life health and well-being. Continue Reading →

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Voters Ignored as State Officials Act to Gut State Question 788

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today approved new rules created by the Oklahoma State Department of Health that are designed to hamstring the medical cannabis program overwhelmingly approved by voters with the passage of State Question 788. The rules include a prohibition on the sale of cannabis that can be smoked, a prohibition on many edible medical cannabis products, and an overly burdensome provision that all medical cannabis dispensaries must have a pharmacist on hand. New Health Solutions Oklahoma, the trade group for Oklahoma’s medical cannabis industry, said the new rules directly contradicted the will of voters. NHSO has repeatedly called on Governor Mary Fallin to call a special legislative session to help implement State Question 788. “By refusing to show leadership and call a special session, the governor’s office has handed over the implementation of Oklahoma’s medical cannabis program to a group of bureaucrats that are beholden to the special interest groups that fought State Question 788,” said NHSO Political Director Jed Green. “The people making policy now are the same people who ran a million dollar smear campaign aimed at convincing Oklahomans that smoking medical cannabis would lead to the collapse of society.”

Green said the requirement to put pharmacists in dispensaries was a giveaway to a special interest group that will profit from the new rules at the expense of other Oklahomans. Continue Reading →

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Oklahoma Board of Health Rolls Back Medical Cannabis Laws

Medical Cannabis Supporters: Will of Voters Overturned

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma State Board of Health today took steps to gut Oklahoma’s fledgling medical cannabis program, despite a landslide electoral victory and the support of over 507,000 voters who supported legalization. In split decisions, the Board voted to ban all smokable cannabis products from being sold in dispensaries, banned many edible products and put in place a new requirement for pharmacists to be present in all dispensaries. This comes even though SQ 788 contained explicit language legalizing both smokable and edible marijuana and outlined guidelines for dispensaries. Members of New Health Solutions Oklahoma (NHSO), the state’s trade group for medical cannabis businesses, said the OSDE Board had usurped the will of the people and insulted voters. They called on Governor Mary Fallin to reject the additional rules and, if she fails to act, asked the Legislature to return to the Capitol in a special session to ensure State Question 788 is implemented as voters intended and expected it to be. Continue Reading →

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