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Be a Surrogate Santa: Support OK Foster Wishes

Oklahoma-There are some projects that are so fun or rewarding that they just do not seem much like work.  One of those is an exciting new endeavor the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is taking on that will help spread some holiday cheer!  We were recently asked to help OK Foster Wishes and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) lead a gift drive that will ultimately deliver holiday presents to approximately 6,000 children in foster care. OK Foster Wishes has worked closely with DHS for years to assemble “wish lists” that foster kids and parents pass on to their caseworkers. OK Foster Wishes then matches those wish lists to Oklahomans who volunteer to buy a present on those lists, or to make a monetary donation that covers the costs. DHS then works to deliver those toys to the right children and families. This year, OICA is playing a lead role in raising toys and cash, and we are asking the public to help in one of two ways:
1.         Individuals interested in making a monetary contribution can donate online at okfosterwishes.org or by calling (405) 236-5437. Continue Reading →

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Leadership Change on Criminal Justice Committee Offers a Golden Opportunity to Build Consensus

Oklahoma – For years, bipartisan consensus has been brewing around the notion that Oklahoma locks up too many non-violent offenders. The cost of that over-incarceration has been borne by taxpayers, who are on the hook for the state’s prison costs, and families, whose homes are left broken when one parent (or both) winds up in prison for crimes often related to addiction or mental health problems.

More and more Oklahomans are now calling for criminal justice reform that emphasizes rehabilitation and treatment over lengthy prison sentences for non-violent offenders. Unfortunately, many of those reforms have hit a wall in the State Legislature. Oftentimes, that wall has been the chair of the Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, Rep. Scott Biggs. More than a dozen potential laws were filed earlier this year that moved smoothly through the legislative process until Biggs exercised his authority as committee chair and refused to allow them to be heard.  Biggs’ actions essentially slammed the breaks on most of the state’s meaningful justice reform measures. Continue Reading →

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Statewide Campaign Asks Legislators Who They Really Support: Big Tobacco or Oklahoma?

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK—Frustrated by political gridlock at the State Capitol, the Oklahoma Hospital Association (OHA) is taking to television and social media channels to make the case for a $1.50 per pack cigarette tax increase. Yesterday, a new ad – “What’s it going to take?” – began running on television stations statewide. The campaign asks: “What’s it going to take to keep 2100 Oklahoma kids from becoming addicted to cigarettes this year, to get our legislators to stop playing politics, and to keep Big Tobacco from profiting off this inaction?”

It ends with a call to action for voters to contact their lawmakers and hold them accountable: “Let’s ask legislators who they really support: Oklahoma or Big Tobacco. Quit holding the cigarette tax hostage. Call your legislator and tell them to do the right thing: pass the cigarette tax.”

OHA President Craig Jones said the advertising campaign was a call-to-action meant to highlight the moral importance of passing a cigarette tax. Continue Reading →

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Will The Alamo Fall Twice?

During the Presidential election of 1960, then-Senator John F. Kennedy while campaigning in Texas, made a brief visit to the Alamo. His speech, given in front of the historic mission yielded an iconic photo. Having completed his remarks and pressed for time, JFK reportedly asked San Antonio attorney Maury Maverick, Jr. if there was an exit in the back of the Alamo, to which Maverick replied, “there is no back door, that’s why they were all heroes.”

And so it is, that the Alamo and its remarkable history have been seared into the consciousness of our national character. It is the 19th century’s version of the Spartan 300, who stood defiantly against an overwhelming Persian army. The Alamo story is, in essence, our American Thermopylae, and the lodestar and standard of courage to which our fighting men and women aspire to till this day. Continue Reading →

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Dec. 1 Medicaid Cuts Threaten Health Care Crisis, Imminent Closures

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma’s struggle to adequately fund health care services became a full-blown crisis today, with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) announcing it will likely be forced to cut $169 million in state and federal matching funds from the Medicaid budget. The proposed cuts will take the form of a 9 percent Medicaid reimbursement rate cut to health care providers beginning December 1. Oklahoma Hospital Association CEO Craig Jones noted that Oklahoma hospitals have already been cut by $489 million in annual funds since 2010, leading to several closures in rural areas, nine hospital bankruptcies and the elimination of key services and treatments at many health care centers. “Today’s announcement is just devastating,” said Jones. “We aren’t just seeing an isolated failure to invest in our health care infrastructure, we are seeing the collapse of a budgeting process that is supposed to fund core government services. Continue Reading →

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Children’s Health Services Jeopardized by State and Federal Political Gridlock

Oklahoma- At the time of writing this column, our state elected officials are still at an impasse regarding a budget agreement and a resolution to the ongoing Special Session called by Governor Mary Fallin. OICA has been active in calling for Republicans and Democrats to work together to address the $215 million budget hole created after the courts struck down an unconstitutional cigarette fee. The $215 million reduction – which balloons to over $500M when federal matching funds are included — will either be spread across state government or, if no legislative action is taken, be shouldered exclusively by three agencies that oversee health care and social service programs. Neither scenario should be acceptable to voters or to our lawmakers. Several options for closing the budget hole have been discussed, including a (constitutional) $1.50 per pack cigarette tax hike, an increase in income taxes for high earners, and an increase in the gasoline tax. Other ideas presented have dealt with taxing “luxury” services, like tattooing and lawn care.  The increase in the gross production tax has been something discussed by the public, but has gained little traction inside the Capitol among the Republican supermajority.  Meanwhile, OICA has called upon our elected officials to reinstate at least a portion of the Earned Income Tax Credit which assists families struggling to make ends meet as a form of tax relief. Continue Reading →

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Actions and Consequences in Life and Politics

 

Sometimes in life, the actions we take and the relationships we form have consequences that only reveal themselves years later. I was reminded of this recently when I crossed paths with an individual I first met almost 15 years ago. When I was campaigning for my first election as a state representative in 2002, I was active in reaching out to students and asking them to get involved in the political process. Even if they couldn’t vote, these young men and women could knock doors, canvas neighborhoods and make a real impact on the election. My campaign benefitted from the work and energy of a small group of very dedicated student-activists, and they benefitted from making a meaningful connection with the political process. Continue Reading →

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OICA Accepting Nominations for Laura Choate Resilience Award

Oklahoma-The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) is now accepting nominations online for the Laura Choate Resilience Award. The award was created to celebrate individuals who have overcome significant childhood adversity to make a lasting contribution to the lives of young people. Nominees have exhibited bravery and demonstrated a dedication to fostering resilience in Oklahoma children. The public can submit nominations through OICA.org until September 29 at 5 PM. This award is named for Laura Choate, who served as a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit that helped to uncover and reform widespread abuse and neglect within the state’s  juvenile justice system. Continue Reading →

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Friday, Sept. 22: Route 66 Coalition to Kick-Off Accountable Health Community

Oklahoma-Earlier this year the federal government selected the Route 66 Coalition, led by MyHealth Access Network, the Tulsa Health Department and the Oklahoma City-County Health Department to be the recipient of a $4.5 million grant to create an Accountable Health Community (AHC). The goal of the AHC is for social needs, not just medical needs, to be addressed in order to improve health outcomes and reduce health care costs. Through the Route 66 AHC, over 75,000 Oklahomans will be screened for social needs in five key areas: housing insecurity, food insecurity, utility assistance, interpersonal violence and transportation. Individuals and families in need will be connected to social service agencies through a coordinated navigation service based in each community’s health department. MyHealth Access Network is excited to announce the Oklahoma City AHC Kick-off event will take place next Friday, Sept. 22 at 1 PM. Continue Reading →

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HCSO Tweet Shows America is Alive and Well

Texas, USA- A little over three hours ago the Harris County Sheriff’s Office tweeted the picture seen here.  Along with regular updates on the status of 911 calls, evacuations, and areas of need, the sheriff’s office is using social media to update the world and the people of Texas on Harris County, Texas.  The picture tweeted came with the reassurance “HCSO deputies are out in the Blackhorse subdivision still working high water rescues. #Harvey”

As the picture was being tweeted, out in California newscasters were tweeting a different type of picture.  They were busy tweeting the “faceless,” masked participates of ANTIFA as they took over a park.  They chanted “This is our park” and attacked several people.   Their hate-filled and fueled propaganda routine continued to blast across the twitter feeds.  Fortunately, those tweets do not represent who we are as Americans.  They do not represent what we do as Americans.   They do not represent how we as Americans act.   There are pictures of African Americans helping Caucasians, of Caucasians helping Hispanics, and so on.  People of all races, backgrounds, sexual orientations, sex and religions are coming together to help with the disaster in Texas. Surrounding states, like Arkansas and others, have governors sending aide and supplies – not because the Texas problem is an Arkansas problem, but because the Texas problem America’s problem.  We are America.  The people going into the flood areas and bringing others out, the people giving blood, the people helping with evacuees across the state, and the service people already on the ground wading through water to carry out children, elderly and others are the true representations of America. Continue Reading →

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