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Every new male inmate in the Oklahoma prison system arrives through this gate at the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center in Cleveland County. Blood is drawn from inmates for testing and certain results can lead to further tests for hepatitis C.
Oklahoma Watch

Inmates in Oklahoma prisons must have advanced liver disease before becoming eligible for treatment of hepatitis C, a potentially deadly and growing disease.

The situation in prisons pits the enormous cost of treatment against the public health gains of curing one of the populations most at risk for the viral infection.

Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

Drug overdose deaths in Oklahoma increased 91 percent over the last decade and a half, prompting the state to form a task force charged with a daunting goal: Brainstorm a plan to guide the state out of an opioid epidemic that kills three Oklahomans nearly every day.


Oklahoma Watch

Update from Health Department spokesman Tony Sellars: “The Oklahoma State Department of Health confirms the resignation of CFO Mike Romero. The agency will not have any additional comment at this time.”

Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press

It’s hard to tell when this year’s flu season will end, but a vaccine remains the best way to prevent the virus, according to a panel of University of Oklahoma medical experts.

“I think the one predictable thing about influenza season is that it will be unpredictable.  Every year is different,” said Dr. Cynthia McCloskey, director of microbiology and virology laboratories at OU Medical Center, at a news conference on Wednesday.

Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

Jacob is just a few hours old when registered nurse Amy Burnett begins one of the simplest measurements to tell if a newborn is healthy — their weight.

Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press

Seven years ago, with Oklahoma stuck near the bottom in key public health rankings, the Oklahoma State Department of Health and Gov. Mary Fallin set out to reshape the strategy for markedly improving health outcomes for Oklahomans.

The approach would involve new health department initiatives, partnerships, educational efforts and other programs.

Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

On June 26, voters will decide if Oklahoma will become the 30th state to legalize marijuana for medical use. But regulating the new industry could prove difficult.

If State Question 788 passes, licenses will be required for each stage of marijuana cultivation, including dispensaries, commercial growers, processors, and individual medical marijuana cards.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that black infants in Oklahoma are twice as likely to die before their first birthday than white or Hispanic babies, making Oklahoma one of the worst states for black infant mortality.

StateImpact Oklahoma: A Look at 2018

Dec 28, 2017
StateImpact reporters preview the key health, education, energy and environment issues they'll be tracking in 2018.
StateImpact Oklahoma

2017 is wrapping up, but the growing group of reporters at StateImpact is following important  policy issues that will carry on into the new year.

Senior Reporter and Managing Editor Joe Wertz brought the StateImpact team into the studio for a preview of their coverage in the year to come. Here are some excerpts from the conversation:

Health

Joe Wertz: Give me the big picture for the new year.

Cuts announced at the state health department suggest leaner services for years to come.
Oklahoma Watch

At community health centers across Oklahoma, new patients typically have to wait more than two months for a dentist appointment. Those waits may get even longer.

And throughout swaths of rural Oklahoma, nonprofits that provide child-abuse prevention services for hundreds of families have halted their programs. Others are looking for alternative funding sources to stay afloat.

And The Rest / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

When Moore Public School Superintendent Robert Romines asked some of his high school students what the district could do better, they told him they needed more help with mental health.

“I was a bit shocked,” Romines says.

More and more of Oklahoma’s teenagers are dealing with mental illness, and the increase has caught a few school administrators off guard.

Oklahoma Watch

Documents released Friday by the state Department of Health include a summary of alleged deceptions within the agency that include fraudulent budget reports to state finance officials and omissions in reporting the agency’s financial position to the Legislature and the State Board of Health.

Lori Taylor reads the second letter she received from the state Department of Human Services informing her that her Medicaid waiver program will be funded temporarily.
Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

After her divorce, Lori Taylor wanted a home all her own. She moved back to Oklahoma to be near her aging parents, but she had a problem. For years her personal caregiver had been her now ex-husband.

“I have cerebral palsy and that’s brain damage that I incurred at birth, and it affects my motor skills. I’m confined to an electric wheelchair. I can stand but I can’t walk, I have very limited use of my arms,” Taylor says, sitting in the living room of her Norman apartment.

Oklahoma Watch

The cash crisis at the Oklahoma State Department of Health, which was years in the making, raises questions about which agencies and state officials could have caught the agency’s reported financial mismanagement.

At first glance, state government appears to have the powers and expertise to detect  financial irregularities occurring at the health department from 2011 to 2017.

Oklahoma Watch

The state’s multicounty grand jury is looking into allegations of financial mismanagement at the Oklahoma State Department of Health as top officers continue to resign or get forced out in the wake of the agency’s sudden cash crunch.

Sam Ward / Reveal

In Texas, women with limited access to abortions are traveling across the border to find a drug that will induce miscarriages. In Mississippi, anti-abortion groups are opening crisis pregnancy centers across from abortion clinics to persuade women to keep their babies. And one company offers permanent birth control through the insertion of a simple device – that’s ended up causing health complications for thousands of women. This week, we look into pregnancy and the ways people try to prevent it, end it and save it.

Oklahoma Watch

The Oklahoma State Department of Health went more than a year without a chief financial officer, and questions later arose about whether the agency overestimated revenues and used restricted federal funds to fill the gaps, sources told Oklahoma Watch.

However, a former chief financial officer at the agency said he had no knowledge of restricted funds being used to cover shortfalls.

Jeff Raymond / Oklahoma Watch

A cash crunch that emerged over the summer at the state Health Department goes beyond the state’s current budget shortfall and caused the department to reach out to public health agencies in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties for help in shoring up its finances.

Reveal: Too Many Pills

Oct 23, 2017
Photo illustration by Michael I Schiller for Reveal. Photo of pill bottle and hands by Frankie Leon via Flickr

Drug overdoses now are the leading cause of death among Americans under 50, largely thanks to a surge in opioid use. Although heroin and fentanyl have dominated the headlines in recent years, the problem started with a flood of prescription painkillers, distributed by some of the country’s biggest corporations.

Audiologist Jillian Detwiler reviews a patient’s hearing aid function at the John W. Keys Speech and Hearing Center in Oklahoma City. Detwiler oversees the Cabaret Hearing For Seniors Program, which provides high-quality hearing aids for $100 a pair.
Warren Vieth / Oklahoma Watch

When the government began providing health coverage to millions of older Americans five decades ago, it specifically excluded hearing aids.

Hearing loss among the aged was not a life-endangering medical condition, the reasoning went. Good hearing was not considered essential to good health.

That view has changed. Hearing specialists say the consequences of untreated hearing loss can be substantial, from impaired job performance and damaged relationships to social withdrawal, anxiety, depression and possibly even accelerated dementia.

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