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Statewide News

Friday, 19 February 2016 10:28

Registration open for booths at Kids Fair

Plans are well under way for the annual Kids Fair for area families, and booth registrations are being accepted for agencies and groups that want to help promote the health, well-being and safety of area children.

This year’s theme for the Kids Fair – formerly known as the Baby Fair – is Let’s Move and Groove. The event is scheduled for Saturday, April 16, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Southeast Expo Center on U.S. Highway 270, just west of McAlester.

So far, plans involve booths hosted by:

• McAlester Regional Health Center
• Beekeepers Association
• Caring Hands
• Choctaw Nation
• Girl Scouts of America
• Kiamichi Technology Center
• KiBois
• McAlester Army Ammunition Plant
• McAlester Fire Department
• McAlester Public Library
• Pittsburg County Health Department
• Youth Emergency Shelter

Each booth will offer activities or information benefitting children up to age 12, from Hopscotch and Hula Hoops to vaccinations, photo IDs and information about child safety, CPR and nursing.

Each year, about 800 adults and children attend the fair. There is no cost to attend and all activities are free.

There is no cost to host a booth, although exhibitors are asked to donate a door prize. For a registration form, contact Pat Tolson at the OSU Extension Service at 918-423-4120 or Donna Engleman at 918-426-7351. The deadline to register is March 7.

MRHC is a regional 171-bed general acute care public trust hospital serving a region comprised of eight counties in Southeast Oklahoma. With more than 700 employees, the hospital offers a wide array of clinics, and ancillary and outpatient programs.

By Betty Anderson

In a regular meeting of the Board of County Commissioners of Okmulgee County on February 1, 2016 Emergency Management Director of Okmulgee County, Tim Creighton, reported that Governor Mary Fallin has requested a major disaster declaration from the federal government related to the winter storm, ice, sleet and flooding that began December 26, 2015 that affected more than 50 counties in Oklahoma.

According to the Oklahoma government website, Fallin requested individual assistance for homeowners, renters and business owners in nine counties, as well as public assistance to aid municipalities, counties, rural electric cooperatives and the state with infrastructure repairs and costs associated with responding to the storm in 41 counties.

The nine counties included in the request for individual assistance are: Adair, Cherokee, Delaware, Mayes, McCurtain, Muskogee, Ottawa, Pushmataha andSequoyah.
The 41 counties are included in the request for public assistance are: Adair, Alfalfa, Beckham, Blaine, Caddo, Canadian, Cherokee, Coal, Comanche, Cotton, Craig, Custer, Delaware, Dewey, Grady, Grant, Greer, Harmon, Haskell, Hughes, Jackson, Kay, Kingfisher, Kiowa, Latimer, McCurtain, McIntosh, Major, Mayes, Muskogee, Noble, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Osage, Pittsburg, Pushmataha, Roger Mills, Sequoyah, Tilman, Washita and Woods.

Preliminary assessments indicate 108 homes were destroyed and 99 others were damaged as a result of the storms. Additionally, an estimated $48 million in infrastructure damages and response costs have been identified in these counties.

The storm resulted in power outages for more than 200,000 homes and businesses statewide, numerous road closures and dangerous travel conditions in some areas. The storm is blamed for at least four deaths and 104 injuries.

If approved, additional counties may be added to the request at a later date should conditions warrant.

Fallin was denied in 2015 for her request for two counties, Tulsa and Cleveland for tornadoes, flooding and straight-line winds.  In a letter to Fallin denying her request, FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate says the damage caused by the storms was not beyond the capabilities of the state, local governments and volunteer agencies to handle. The state will see how these winter storms and their effects are viewed by FEMA for these counties.

Free Services Available Through the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline

OKLAHOMA CITY (Feb. X, 2016) — What would it take for you to quit smokeless tobacco? During Through with Chew Week, Feb. 14-20, the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline encourages smokeless tobacco users to explore the free services offered by the Helpline.

“Quit Coaches at the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline are specially trained to provide smokeless tobacco users with customized Quit Plans to help them be successful,” said Jason, Quit Coach™ for the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline. “We provide a variety of free tools, including free phone and web coaching, free patches, gum or lozenges, text and email support and more.”

According to the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report, smokeless tobacco use has increased steadily since 2004. Several contributing factors include increased advertising by the tobacco industry, the introduction of a wide variety of new smokeless products and flavors at low price points, and marketing messages intended to specifically appeal to current or former smokers. Many smokers switch to smokeless tobacco as a method of quitting smoking, yet it is even more habit forming, containing up to four times the highly addictive nicotine found in cigarettes.hrough With Chew Week

The Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline, funded by the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET), encourages smokeless tobacco users to understand the facts about smokeless tobacco and think about quitting during Through with Chew Week.

Don’t be fooled. Smokeless isn’t harmless. Smokeless Facts:
What harm can smokeless tobacco cause to your body?

• Smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals and can cause oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancer.
• Sugar in smokeless tobacco may cause decay in exposed tooth roots.
• Dip and chew can cause your gums to pull away from the teeth where the tobacco is held. The gums do not grow back.
• Leathery white patches and red sores in the mouth are common and can turn into cancer.
Why is smokeless tobacco addictive?
• Nicotine, found in all tobacco products, is a highly addictive drug that acts in the brain and throughout the body.
• Dip and chew contain more nicotine than cigarettes.
• Holding an average-size dip in your mouth for 30 minutes gives you as much nicotine as smoking three cigarettes. Someone who dips two cans a week gets as much or more nicotine as a pack-a-day smoker.

“Even if you’ve tried to quit before, it is important to try again and take advantage of the free resources available to you,” said Jennifer Avery, TSET Healthy Living Program Coordinator serving Okmulgee County.

“Shortly after quitting, your health will improve, you’ll have more money in your pocket and, most importantly, you will have more quality time to spend with loved ones.”

Call 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit OKhelpline.com to explore all of the free services available to Oklahomans. Connect with the Helpline through social media by liking the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline on Facebook or following @OKhelpline on Twitter and Instagram. To learn more about Through With Chew Week, visit OKhelpline.com/through-with-chew.

The Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline is a free service for Oklahomans wanting to quit tobacco. Funding is primarily provided by the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET), in partnership with the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Oklahoma Employees Group Insurance Division and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline has served more than 300,000 Oklahomans since 2003 and was ranked the top quitline for reaching tobacco users seeking treatment in FY2013 by the North American Quitline Consortium.

The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) serves as a partner and bridge builder for organizations working towards shaping a healthier future for all Oklahomans. TSET provides leadership at the intersections of health by working with local coalitions and initiatives across the state, by cultivating innovative and life-changing research, and by working across public and private sectors to develop, support, implement and evaluate creative strategies to take advantage of emerging opportunities to improve the public’s health. TSET – Better Lives Through Better Health. To learn more go to: www.ok.gov/tset.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Monday announced Medicaid fraud charges against a licensed professional counselor from Hugo.

Adeline Youngblood, 26, worked as an LPC in southeastern Oklahoma when she billed for treatment sessions that never occurred. This resulted in a total of $23,921.28 in false Medicaid billing.

Youngblood is charged with two counts of Medicaid fraud, one count of fraudulently obtaining personal identity of other persons and one count of using access to computers to violate Oklahoma statutes. If convicted, Youngblood could face fines up to $125,000 in addition to restitution and up to 16 years in prison.

The AG’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is the only Oklahoma law enforcement agency dedicated to the investigation and prosecution of Medicaid fraud. The unit also investigates and prosecutes abuse of residents in Medicaid-funded nursing homes and state facilities. To report suspected Medicaid fraud, contact the AG’s Office at (405) 522-2963.

OKLAHOMA CITY (February 1, 2016) –  The American Lung Association is releasing the results of its 14th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, which tracks progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state level, assigning grades based on whether laws are protecting citizens from tobacco-caused death and disease. This year’s report also highlights the fact that one in four kids in the U.S. still use tobacco products, and that urgent action is needed by our elected officials to address the tobacco epidemic.

To find a copy of the “State of Tobacco Control 2016” report which will be updated with new data will be available at 12:00 a.m. ET on February 3, 2016 at: stateoftobaccocontrol.org

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, killing 480,000 people each year. Youth use of other tobacco products like e-cigarettes and little cigars is at an all-time high, and nearly a quarter of high school students use tobacco products.

(OKLAHOMA CITY) The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety has announced that an error has been found on some Oklahoma driver licenses and identification cards. The holographic security emblem that should appear on the front of each individual license or card may, in some instances, appear on the back or not at all.

License holders and ID card holders are asked to examine their documents to make sure the image appears on the front. Please see attached image for an example of the correct holographic image.

DPS officials say the licenses and ID cards with incorrect or missing images are still considered valid, but will likely cause delays when the holder attempts to use them for personal identification in places such as airports, banks or federal buildings.

Those who have licenses or ID cards with incorrect images are encouraged to return to the Motor License Agency (Tag Agency) where the document was issued. A corrected license or ID card will be issued at no charge. Individuals are urged to do so at their earliest convenience.

To confirm which tag agency issued the faulty license or ID card, the bearer may check the four-digit number printed at the top right corner of the photograph on the card. The corresponding list of tag agencies is posted on the DPS website at https://www.dps.state.ok.us/dls/motor_license_agents.php.

Public inquiries may be directed to the DPS Driver License Help Desk at 405-425-2020.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Governor Mary Fallin announced today she has approved the use of nearly $1.4 million from the state emergency fund to bolster the efforts of regulators and earthquake researchers in Oklahoma.

The funds will be directed to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) and the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS).

Fallin recently asked the OCC and the Coordinating Council on Seismic Activity to determine what state agencies needed to better understand the earthquakes impacting parts of the state. She was presented with a list of needs totaling $1.387 million in one-time costs.

“I immediately made arrangements for the Corporation Commission and OGS to receive the money necessary to meet those needs,” Fallin said. “I’m committed to funding seismic research, bringing on line advanced technology and more staff to fully support our regulators at they take meaningful action on earthquakes.”

The emergency funds allocated by the governor will allow the OCC to proceed with much-needed computer updates and hire two contract geologists and other staff to work on seismic issues.

OCC Vice Chair Dana Murphy said the transfer addresses the need for essential resources.

“Efficient and timely handling of the huge amount of data involved is critical if we are to respond effectively to the earthquakes,” Murphy said. “The governor’s prompt action on our request addresses those concerns.”

OGS will use its share of the emergency funds to install additional seismic monitoring stations in western Oklahoma, update its monitoring network and upgrade its mapping systems.

The research agency also will conduct studies to shed light on how wastewater interacts with the Arbuckle formation, where most disposal wells operate, and the basement layer of rock below it.

OGS Director Jeremy Boak said the additional funding will meet a variety of the agency’s needs related to the increase of earthquakes in Oklahoma.

“The funds will enable us to provide better recommendations for remedial action to further reduce the rate and magnitude of induced earthquakes,” said Boak.

Breakdown of funding for earthquake research

Governor Mary Fallin has transferred $1.387 million from the state’s emergency fund to aid regulators and researchers working to understand Oklahoma’s increase in earthquakes.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission will receive $387,000 for:

· Information technology upgrades

· Two contract geologists, contract clerical worker and geophysicist consultant

· Senior-level oil and gas attorney

The Oklahoma Geological Survey will receive $1 million for:

· Installation of additional permanent seismic monitoring stations

· Update seismic monitoring network and software

· Analyze the response of seismicity to regulatory and market forces driving changes in produced water injection

· Characterize the properties of the Arbuckle formation and basement rock in a complex fluid reservoir

· Workshops to share research results and define needs for additional studies

For additional information about how the emergency funds will be spent, visit earthquake.ok.gov.

OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 28, 2016) — The Oklahoma State Board of Education today unanimously approved the final draft of new state academic standards for English language arts (ELA) and mathematics, sending the standards to the Legislature for approval and concluding a robust and transparent process of revisions that incorporated feedback from thousands of Oklahomans.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister thanked the board for its vote and praised the many Oklahomans who took part in creating the new standards.

“These new standards are rigorous, user-friendly and most importantly created by Oklahomans to address the particular needs of our state,” Hofmeister said. “They strengthen expectations of what our students can achieve and set a high bar that ensures all Oklahoma schoolchildren will be well prepared to enter higher education and demanding careers. I am thankful to every Oklahoman who participated in this process — from writing the standards to providing essential feedback. Oklahoma can truly be proud of these standards.”

Under House Bill 3399, which repealed Common Core State Standards in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State Board of Education (OSBE) was tasked with adopting a set of standards for use in schools beginning in the 2016-17 school year. As directed by that law, the drafted standards were sent to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education and the State Regents for Higher Education for review. This morning, the Regents certified the standards as college- and career-ready.

The Oklahoma Academic Standards for ELA and Mathematics improve on and replace the Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) standards, which were temporarily re-implemented by HB 3399 after the repeal of Common Core.

The new standards were written by teams of educators from Oklahoma institutions of higher education and school districts across the state that based their research on successful, non-Common Core standards in other states. These standards provide measurable goals and benchmarks for instruction. Specific curriculum and lesson plans remain under the control of local school districts.

The standards have earned accolades from a host of experts.

Dr. Frank Wang, president of the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, has worked as a textbook publisher, where he studied math standards he considered vague and immeasurable. The new Oklahoma standards, he said, bucked that trend.

“Given my prior experience studying state standards, I approached this task with a healthy amount of skepticism. I was pleasantly surprised,” said Wang, who holds a doctorate in pure math from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Overall, I found the standards to be clearly stated, explicit, relevant and appropriate. I feel that students who are in classes that follow these standards will be well prepared for college and capable of pursuing STEM majors if they choose to do so.”

Dr. Priscilla L. Griffith, director of the Oklahoma Writing Project (OWP) at the University of Oklahoma, praised the ELA standards.

“The content of the standards is rigorous and requires students to engage in analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and creativity beginning as early as prekindergarten. OWP is confident application of these standards will ensure students are prepared for workplace and college success,” wrote Griffith and Audra Plummer, OWP’s director for in-service, in a letter to OSDE.

Hofmeister said the heavy lifting for educators begins after the standards are finalized.

“Districts and schools have a mountain of work to begin as soon as these standards are approved,” she said. “Before students arrive for the next school year, districts must align the curriculum framework for both subjects in every grade level, and teachers will need professional development. We owe it to our teachers and students to get them finalized and approved as quickly as possible.”

Extensive review process and new features

Since June 2015, standards drafts have been reviewed by classroom teachers, school curriculum specialists, parents, legislators, statewide and national education organizations, representatives of business and higher education and members of the general public who participated in multiple rounds of public comment.

The new standards are more rigorous than PASS. They offer a renewed focus on foundational skills, including phonics, cursive writing, basic grammar and writing research papers in ELA; and counting money, standard algorithms, patterns, ratios and proportions in math.

They are also the first standards in Oklahoma to be published with vertical progressions, which allow teachers to base their lesson plans not just on where students should be performing in their grade, but also where they will be expected to go in future grades, allowing for interconnected instruction with fewer knowledge gaps between grades.

Educators, leaders and organizations from across Oklahoma and the nation have already reviewed the final draft and offered multiple endorsements of the standards.

The South Central Comprehensive Center (SC3) at OU, which aims to sustain reform efforts and improve teaching and learning in four U.S. states, assembled committees to compare the new standards to Common Core standards and found significant differences between them, such as the incorporation of multimodal literacy in ELA and beginning the standards in prekindergarten to identify and eliminate gaps in learning as early as possible.

Of the ELA standards, the SC3 report states: “These rigorous standards establish a solid foundation in all aspects of literacy and incorporate higher-order thinking skills as students engage in research, decipher multimodal texts and become independent readers and writers. The inclusive approach toward historical, social and cultural connections to content grounds learners in the knowledge needed for further study, work and citizenship engagement.”

More than 1,900 teachers across the state were directly involved in the standards-creation process. Educators from across the state are writing in support of the standards as a rigorous and direct answer to the needs of Oklahoma classrooms.

World Literature Today executive director Robert Con Davis-Undiano, who is also a Neustadt Professor and Presidential Professor at OU, praised the final draft of the ELA standards.

“I believe that the new standards will raise the level of student preparation in the ELA area, and I am pleased to anticipate the enhanced knowledge base and sophistication that will be evident in students coming from Oklahoma high schools to attend The University of Oklahoma and study literature and the arts,” wrote Davis-Undiano.

Tara L. Fair, associate superintendent at Edmond Public Schools, said: “As a school district, we have been extremely involved with the standards writing process. Our content specialists, administrators and teachers have also had numerous opportunities for reviewing the standards. Many of our stakeholders have participated in the opportunities that have been provided by the state and through content consortiums. It is our determination that these standards are a quality product and will benefit the students of Edmond and Oklahoma.”

Janet C. Dunlop, associate superintendent at Broken Arrow Public Schools, said: “It is with full confidence that Broken Arrow Public Schools endorses the new Oklahoma [Academic] Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics … The alignment of the standards to college- and career-ready skills and the precise vertical alignment provide a much better roadmap for our teachers to use. We feel strongly that these standards will provide our students with a more rigorous and deep understanding of the concepts and skills needed to be equipped citizens and successful in college and career.”

Once new standards are approved by the Legislature, the OSDE will immediately begin working to ensure all local schools are adequately prepared to begin using them as soon as possible.

Copies of the standards, support letters and ancillary booklets are available here.


OKLAHOMA CITY – In a Jan. 15 hearing chaired by state Rep. Richard Morrissette (D-OKC) and co-chaired by Rep. Cory Williams (D-Stillwater) at the Oklahoma State Capitol to review data on the state’s recent earthquakes, attendees crowded into three large committee rooms, forcing a move to the House Chamber and its galleries.

The attendees, and interested citizens who listened via the Internet, heard presentations by geologists and environmentalists as well as residents’ accounts of experiencing earthquakes and damaging after-effects.

Morrissette announced Wednesday that he plans to request emergency legislation to establish guidelines for a victim reparation fund endowed by the oil and gas companies, and he encouraged attendees to contact their legislators immediately to insist upon legislation to deal with all of the earthquake issues, to include a call for moratorium.

Rep. Morrissette opened the hearing with the following statement: “The goal of this hearing is to begin to honestly and forthrightly establish an unbiased knowledge base from which our state and our wounded communities can draw the confidence necessary to move forward, without fear, after years of enduring earthquakes of dangerous and destructive magnitude, while having no one in government or industry truly willing to listen or accept responsibility.

“Now that the testimony section of the hearing has concluded, I can say that the level of damage to both lives and property is simply shocking,” Morrissette said. “Until these testimonials, our state had no collective record of the scope of the damage. We had no record of how many ways drilling and injection disposal might forever ruin our land and water. And peace of mind no longer exists for our residents. The intensity and severity of the damage has the potential to ruin our economy and our Oklahoma way of life, in my estimation, for years to come.

“The reckless decisions by gas and oil companies to ‘drill baby drill’, obviously without a clear understanding of the potential dangers, threaten to ruin our economy and the environment. And the irresponsible legislation that permits the industry to make these decisions must immediately be repealed. It could take decades, or God forbid, forever, to entirely repair the damage. No victimized private citizen should be made responsible for an energy company’s mistakes. No citizen should have to shoulder the burden of home repairs and earthquake insurance policies. We need a reparation fund established by the industry to begin the process of making these people emotionally and financially whole and we need at least a partial moratorium on injection well disposal.”

Contributors to the hearing included Todd Halihan, professor of hydrogeology, Oklahoma State University; attorney for a class-action lawsuit, Scott Poynter of Arkansas, Poynter Law Group of Counsel to Steel, Wright, & Collier PLLC; Robert Jackman, Tulsa petroleum geologist, Jackman, Inc.; Johnson Bridgwater, director of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club; state Insurance Commissioner John Doak; and perhaps the most powerful message was delivered by Ponca Tribal Council member Casey Camp-Horinek, who spoke of how energy companies operating disposal wells in north central Oklahoma treat the area as a ‘sacrifice zone’ and she also raised the issue of water and its sacred value and purpose and how by hydraulic fracturing and injection well disposal, millions of gallons are fouled and wasted while we languish in intermittent and continuing drought. Ms. Camp-Horinek recently returned from the International Climate Summit in Paris, where she participated as an environmentalist on behalf of her sovereign nation.

Since the hearing on Jan. 15, the Associated Press and KWTV-9 have reported at least half a dozen earthquakes around the state. Additionally, KOCO-TV reported Wednesday that through the first 19 days of January, Oklahoma recorded eight earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 or greater – a new state record for a single month. The previous record was seven occurrences in November 2015 – just two months ago. In yet another related matter, the estimated damage from a recent fracking fire near Chickasha was around $50 million.

Audio of the Capitol hearing:


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A FREE, international campaign organized by The Girls Gone Green is challenging people to go meat-free for 31 days. The goal is to help people think about their food in a whole new way and the results are more than astounding they are life-changing!veggies

According to Executive Director of the nonprofit Julie Watkins, "March is National Nutrition Month and what better way to celebrate than by participating in a community-supported initiative developed to help you feel and look better. I truly believe No Meat March has saved people's lives and will continue to do so with each challenge we offer!"

Participants go online and pledge to eschew meat during the month of March. There are also options for them to give up dairy, eggs and cheese. It invites those curious about exploring a plant-based diet to become part of a growing population seeking healthier alternatives to animal protein. All the questions about health, food, protein and more are answered making the transition easy and effective for everyone.

Watkins explains, "We just want you to use the 31 days of going meat-free as a way to explore your body and health. It allows you to take a break from foods high in fat and cholesterol to see if you like the way it makes you feel. We are here to offer support and encouragement."

During the month participants will receive daily emails sharing nutritional information and recipes to support their commitment to No Meat March. A recipe for breakfast, lunch and dinner is provided taking out the guesswork of what to eat next. Plenty of resources are available to foster community, allowing participants to communicate, ask questions and get feedback.

"The best part about this challenge is hearing from people years later who say they are still meat-free because of No Meat March."

The Girls Gone Green is a 501(c)(3) organization formed in 2007 devoted to environmental, animal and health issues. They organize several events, campaigns and online programs to support these causes.

For more information please visit www.NoMeatMarch.com.

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