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Josh Edelson / AP Images

Patients in Oklahoma will pay one of the highest tax rates for medical marijuana among the 30 states that currently offer it if State Question 788 is approved by voters this month, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis.

Oklahoma Suicide Rate Up 36 Percent Since 1999

Jun 7, 2018
CDC’s National Vital Statistics System; CDC Vital Signs, June 2018. / Centers for Disease Control

Suicide rates are on the rise in Oklahoma and nearly every state, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between 1999 and 2016, suicide rates increased significantly in 44 states. Oklahoma is one of 25 states that saw rates climb more than 30 percent.

Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

Babies who begin life with a long hospital stay are especially vulnerable to secondhand smoke. That’s galvanized health officials at one children’s hospital to focus on laying aside stigma when they ask parentsa simple question: ‘Do you smoke?’

Paul Monies / Oklahoma Watch

A reported cash crisis at the Oklahoma State Department of Health that led to job cuts and an emergency injection of $30 million was more of a mirage than the real thing, a months-long grand jury investigation and audit found in separate reports released Thursday.

The state’s multicounty grand jury didn’t hand up any criminal indictments, but it did fault former top officials at the health department for creating a “slush fund” to pay for pet projects and years of financial mismanagement.

With Health Department News, Waves Of Disbelief Roll Across State

May 18, 2018
Oklahoma Watch

Justin Forney worked for the state Department of Health for 12 years as a public information officer, stationed in several county health departments, including Logan County.

Then, in the wake of a financial crisis that shook the department, Forney lost his job in March – the result of cuts of nearly 200 health department positions.

Forney is still unemployed. And on Thursday, as the news rolled out statewide that a grand jury had found the agency’s reported cash shortfall never happened, he felt a sense of shock.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and state Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones at a press conference announcing the grand jury’s findings.
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The six-month investigation into financial mismanagement at the Oklahoma State Department of Health is complete — and no criminal charges will be filed.

Ted S. Warren / AP Images

In June, Oklahomans will vote on State Question 788, a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana, and many people are asking – how has this worked in other states?

Who has legalized medical marijuana?

PDPics / Creative Commons CC0

Amid the celebrations and self-help resolutions, 2017 began in Oklahoma as it has in many other years: with a rash of people taking their own lives.

In the first week, there nine self-inflicted gunshot deaths, four hangings and a deliberate drug overdose, occurring in cities large and small. With those 14 deaths, the year was off to a familiar tragic start in a state that perennially ranks among the 10 worst in the nation in suicide rates.

Trevor Brown / Oklahoma Watch

The state will have to find another way to help fund graduate medical education by July 2019 if it wants to use Medicaid matching funds after the federal government denied the Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s latest bid to fix the program’s funding issues.

Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

It’s hard to get basic health care like shots and x-rays in rural Oklahoma. The federal government considers all but one of the state’s 77 counties to have a primary care shortage. The problem is driving a legislative effort to allow highly educated nurses to fill that gap — but doctors and nurse practitioners are butting heads on who is qualified to help.

Lindsi Walker sits behind a glossy wooden desk at Cordell Memorial, a hospital on Oklahoma’s western plains. She’s surrounded by pictures of her family — a stethoscope hangs around her neck.

Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

The victims number in the hundreds across Oklahoma every year, each one a casualty of the state’s epidemic of suicide by firearms.

The youngest last year was a 12-year-old Spiro boy.  The oldest was a 97-year-old Bartlesville man.  Both died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, state data show.

ALEX DODD / FLICKR - CREATIVE COMMONS

Oklahoma had the second highest rate of certain drug overdose deaths between 2015 and 2016, a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

Overdose deaths from a class of drugs known as psychostimulants increased in 14 states. Oklahoma and New Mexico shared the second highest rate behind Nevada. These drugs include methamphetamine, ecstasy and drugs like Ritalin used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Oklahoma’s heroin, illicit opioid and cocaine death rates also ticked up slightly.

Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

New research suggests people with intellectual disabilities are being turned down for organ transplants because of their disability. A growing effort to take human bias out of the decision highlights a little-known area of medicine.

Thomas Kienzle / AP Images

Decimal point errors, switching the numerator and denominator in fractions, or even just plain typos—scientists aren’t immune to these mistakes when publishing their research. Oklahoma scientist Jonathan Wren is trying to fix that.

 


Oklahoma Opioid Deaths Continue To Rise

Mar 7, 2018
Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

New data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests drug overdose deaths declined in some states — but not in Oklahoma.

Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

A dispute between Oklahoma and federal agencies over relatively high payments for hundreds of doctors who treat Medicaid patients is a key reason state taxpayers are on the hook for $140 million in emergency funds for the state’s two medical schools, records obtained by Oklahoma Watch show.

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.

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