The following article contains opinions from the author that do not necessarily reflect those of Sandite Pride News or its staff. To submit an Op-ed contact Sanditepridenews@gmail.com
As the end of the fifth legislative week comes to a close, our focus has now shifted to hearing bills on the Senate floor. Last week was the deadline for Senate bills to be heard in committee, and at the end of that deadline there were still 511 bills in committee, with 9 failing in committee. As of the end of this week, there were 333 pending bills on Senate General Order, with 201 already passed on the Senate floor and sent to the House. Our next deadline is March 14, which is the last date for bills and joint resolutions to be heard in their chamber of origin. Any measures not heard by this date are generally considered dead for this legislative year.
Many of you know one of my strongest areas of interest and focus is mental health. Before being elected to the Senate, I worked as a mental health counselor. It’s always been my belief that it’s less expensive to address mental health issues early, so early intervention in public schools is a logical place to start.
Oklahoma has some of the highest rates for mental illness and substance use disorders. In 2012, Oklahoma ranked third in the nation (22.4%) in any mental illness and second in the nation (11.9%) for substance abuse disorders. This means that between 700,000 and 950,000 adult Oklahomans need services, but most are not receiving the care they need to recover from their illnesses. As the years have passed, the statistics haven’t changed much, and in some regards, have grown more even more concerning.
This week, the full Senate approved Senate Bill 257, which increases the full-time employee limit from one to two employees for the State Board of Licensed Social Workers. The Board currently utilizes one full time employee and two temporary employees to supervise almost 1,500 licensed social workers. Licensure boards assist the government in fulfilling one of its main covenants to the public- protection from harm. By having specific occupations regulated through licensing government can help its citizens know when someone offering goods or services in this area is meeting basic expectations for safety of their consumers. An understaffed board translates to less thorough supervision and can lead over time to a lack of meeting the public's expectations. This change will help the State Board of Licensed Social Workers continue to meet your standards for public safety in the profession.
It’s an honor to serve Senate District 37 and I look forward to continuing to represent you in the days ahead. As always, I welcome your input on concerns and issues. If you are visiting the Capitol and would like to stop by, our new office is located in Room 524. My office number is remains (405) 521-5600 and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please let me or my assistant, Audra, know if we can be of assistance to you.