TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation and W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital officials announced in January the tribe’s preliminary study to determine if it should manage some or all of the hospital’s services, currently operated by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Indian Health Service. Ed McLemore, the hospital’s CEO, and Melissa Gower, CN Health Services group leader, informed hospital officials about the study on Jan. 11. The study should be completed no later than June 1, and if tribal leaders decide to assume management, it would fall under the CN administration as part of a self-governance effort by Oct. 1. Following the announcement, Principal Chief Chad Smith sent a letter to CN employees stating that improved health care and funding were major reasons for the study. “The reasons for considering this plan are simple: better health services for our citizens and more federal funding for health services in northeastern Oklahoma,” his letter states. Smith said assuming operation of the hospital would mean more federal funding because current dollars available for patient care is limited to federal funding and third party resources. He said CN would provide additional tribal dollars with tribal shares from the Indian Health Service Oklahoma City Area Office and IHS headquarters and grant monies. “These resources could bring an additional several million dollars a year into the health services at W.W. Hastings,” his letter states. Mike Miller, CN Communications officer, said the hospital has a federal budget of $25 million. Smith said the plan is also being considered to eliminate bureaucracy. He said other tribes operate some or all of the services at Indian hospitals, and by doing so it eliminates patient confusion and allows more access to health care. He said part of the comprehensive health care system includes patients receiving better care when Hastings doctors and tribal clinic doctors have the ability to share information and work together. Smith also stressed that patient eligibility requirements would not change during the study or if the tribe decides to take over the facility. According to the IHS Web site, the common standard applied for IHS health services eligibility is that patients are enrolled citizens of a federally recognized tribe. McLemore said he acknowledges that some people won’t like the switch if it happens, but thinks it could lead to better health care for area Indians. “In discussing things with CN you get a range of opinions and some folks don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said. “But I have worked with CN Health leadership and CN elected leadership for almost five years now, and I have found them to be responsive to the health care needs of Cherokee citizens. I think this will help the care of our patients and the responsiveness we have to those patients.” McLemore said some employees are worried about their jobs. However, he said he wants them to focus on the advantages available if CN does assume management. “We have assurances that if CN does get to a decision point that they would like to assume management responsibility for the hospital, they would like to have all the employees transition over to the CN,” he said. “I don’t think CN would indicate to us in one respect and intend for everyone to transition and then change their mind. I hope that folks take a close look at the advantages to be gained from this transition.” Smith’s letter states he acknowledges the employees’ concerns and that the tribe would offer options to current employees. “If the Nation assumes services at Hastings, every employee at Hastings will be asked to stay and will be given the option to choose for themselves whether to become tribal employees or remain federal employees,” his letter states. Smith said through the self-governance compacting process, the CN is able to maintain memorandums of agreements for commissioned officers and inter-personnel agreements for civil service employees. These agreements would allow hospital employees to retain their current employment status and compensation packages with IHS and execute either an MOA or IPA with the tribe. A Hastings employee could also convert to a CN employee with the employee benefit package offered to all CN employees, as well as protections through the CN Constitution. As part of the study, the tribe sent a letter to the IHS regarding the study. Also, tribal officials said budget information would be sent to the Oklahoma City-area IHS office to clarify the transition, but that no program or budget-related changes would occur until a decision is made. Under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, the tribe is allowed to assume operation of the hospital. But before CN can do that, the issue must pass the Tribal Council’s Health Committee and full council.
Cherokee Nation studies Hastings management
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On Oct. 16, Cherokee Nation citizen Randy Campbell was sworn in as the fifth and newest commissioner of the Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission. Campbell replaces CN citizen Teresa Hart who served four years on the commission. According to a letter from Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Campbell spent 35 years with the Teamsters Local Union 523 where he served as president and business manager before retiring in 2007. He also served on the executive board of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. “It’s very humbling,” Campbell said of his appointment. “I was gratified by the chief asking me to take this position.”
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A white former Oklahoma police officer was convicted of first-degree manslaughter in the off-duty fatal shooting of his daughter's black boyfriend after jurors in three previous trials couldn't decide whether to find him guilty of murder. Jurors deliberated about six hours Wednesday night before finding ex-Tulsa officer Shannon Kepler, 57, guilty of the lesser charge in the August 2014 killing of 19-year-old Jeremey Lake, who had just started dating Kepler's then-18-year-old daughter, Lisa. The jury recommended a sentence of 15 years in prison. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 20. Lake's death occurred four days before a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Aug. 9, 2014. Brown's killing touched off months of protests and became a catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement, which decries police violence against minorities and calls for greater transparency from law enforcement officials, especially in cases of officer-involved shootings. The issue of race had also become an undercurrent in each of Kepler's previous three trials, with only one African-American being selected for each jury and accusations by civil rights activists that Kepler's attorneys were purposely trying to exclude potential black candidates. Another racial element had been recently added to the case when Kepler argued that he couldn't be tried by state prosecutors because he's a member of an American Indian tribe. A judge determined the fourth trial in less than a year could move forward in state court. Kepler says he's 1/128th Muscogee (Creek). Kepler's attorneys said the 24-year-police veteran was trying to protect Lisa Kepler because she had run away from home and was living in a crime-ridden neighborhood. Defense attorney Richard O'Carroll said Lisa had been in and out of a homeless shelter after her father forbade her from bringing men home into the house. Kepler told investigators Lake was armed and that he was acting in self-defense, but police didn't find a weapon on Lake or at the scene. "He's bringing it, I'm bringing it," Kepler said from the witness stand. "It was either him or me. I'm not going to stand there and get shot." Kepler retired from the force after he was charged. Prosecutors said Kepler first watched his daughter and Lake from his SUV before approaching them on the street. Lake's aunt disputed Kepler's self-defense account and has said her nephew was reaching out to shake Kepler's hand to introduce himself when Kepler fired. During closing arguments, Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray referred to Kepler's claim that he thought Lake was armed as "the phantom gun" defense. Neither O'Carroll nor District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler immediately returned phone calls seeking comment. Jurors in the previous three trials had deadlocked 11-1, 10-2 and 6-6, forcing the judge to declare mistrials. Although they couldn't agree on the murder charge, jurors in the first trial convicted Kepler of recklessly using his firearm.
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Outpatient mental health and substance abuse programs for 189,000 Oklahoma residents, including some addicted to opioids, will be eliminated or slashed on Nov. 1 because of state budget cuts, the state mental health agency director said Wednesday. Commissioner Terri White of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services said the agency will have to drastically cut its budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 if state lawmakers don't fill a $215 million hole in the state budget. The hole was created when the state Supreme Court overturned a $1.50-per-pack cigarette tax that was supposed to help fund the agency. "These cuts...are unbearable," White said at a news conference in front of the agency's Crisis Center. "They will decimate the state's behavioral health system." White said the cut to her agency of $75 million, or 23 percent of the total budget will result in the loss of another $106 million in federal matching funds and will be implemented almost entirely in the second half of the fiscal year. Oklahoma has the highest percentage in the nation of people over the age of 12 who have used prescription pain relievers for non-medical reasons in the last year, according to a July report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The budget cuts will eliminate funding for drug courts, which provide treatment options for criminal defendants who are addicted to opioids and other addictive substances. Oklahoma lawmakers convened a special legislative session on Sept. 25 to consider ways to raise new revenue and avoid dramatic cuts, but recessed without an agreement. Negotiations between Republican Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders are continuing. GOP Floor Leader Jon Echols of Oklahoma City did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment. White said the agency will trim $65 million of its budget by eliminating all outpatient services except for the delivery of medication needed by mental health and substance abuse patients. The balance will be cut through the elimination of psychiatric residential treatment for children, White said. The agency will continue to provide in-patient psychiatric and substance abuse care for the most acutely ill patients, she said. About 300 state workers will be laid off or terminated due to the cuts as well as thousands of employees in 700 private and nonprofit organizations involved in the mental health and substance abuse fields in the state. Mental health and law enforcement officials who have daily contact with people with mental health and substance abuse issues said the proposed cuts could devastate the lives of those who receive the services. "We will lose lives if we cut outpatient services," said Steve Buck, executive director of the state Office of Juvenile Affairs.
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A federal judge in Washington, D.C., will accept arguments over the next month on whether the developer of the Dakota Access pipeline must stage equipment near an American Indian reservation in southern North Dakota to respond to any oil spill under the Missouri River. The idea is part of a fallback plan proposed by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in August in case U.S. District Judge James Boasberg eventually decided to allow the four-state pipeline to continue operating while federal officials do more study on the $3.8 billion project's impact on the tribe. Boasberg ruled on Oct. 11 that oil could keep flowing from western North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a distribution point in Illinois, as it has been since June 1. President Donald Trump earlier this year pushed through the pipeline's completion. On Wednesday, Boasberg conferred with attorneys on both sides of an ongoing tribal lawsuit against the pipeline and set a timeline for arguments on Standing Rock's proposal. It includes increased public reporting of pipeline issues such as repairs, and implementation of an emergency spill response plan — including equipment staging — at the crossing beneath the Missouri River's Lake Oahe reservoir. The tribe gets its water from the reservoir and fears harm from any spill. Standing Rock is the leader of four Sioux tribes hoping to convince Boasberg to shut down the line, which Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners maintains is safe. Boasberg won't make a decision until the Army Corps of Engineers, which permitted the project, completes more study that he ordered in June on the pipeline's impact on Standing Rock. The additional review isn't likely to be completed until next spring, according to the Corps. Boasberg in his ruling allowing pipeline operations to continue noted that the Corps and ETP had not yet expressed their positions on the tribe's "alternative relief" plan and said he would hear arguments on the matter. He'll make a decision on the proposal sometime after mid-November under the timeline for arguments that he set Wednesday.
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin says federal officials have extended the state's deadline for complying with the REAL ID Act to Oct. 10, 2018. Fallin said Thursday that the compliance deadline was extended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The agency's previous deadline for complying with the federal law passed last week. Fallin says the extension means that the federal government will continue to recognize Oklahoma driver's licenses and ID cards for entering federal buildings and installations for another year. Fallin signed legislation earlier this year to bring the state in compliance with the 2005 law that strengthens rules for government-sanctioned identification. The measure requires state driver's licenses and ID cards to have security enhancements and be issued to people who can prove they are legally in the United States.
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Technologies is hosting job fairs from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Oct. 24 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 28 at 10837 E. Marshall St. The tribally owned company anticipates hiring 100 bilingual call center specialists to respond to calls from Disaster Recovery Service Centers. Hired support specialists will answer questions and perform data entry for individuals and businesses affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. CNT is looking for experienced and entry-level bilingual agents. All applicants must be U.S. citizens, be at least 18 years of age with a high school diploma or GED and have the ability to pass a background and drug screening. Job fair attendees should bring their résumés and be prepared for an interview at the CN Nation Career Services office on Marshall Street. CNT is part of the Cherokee Nation Businesses family of companies and is headquartered in Tulsa, with a regional office in Fort Collins, Colorado, and client locations nationwide. CNT provides unmanned systems expertise, information technology services and technology solutions, geospatial information systems services, as well as management and support of programs, projects, professionals and technical staff. For more information or to apply online, visit <a href="https://cnbjobs.cnb-ss.com/#/jobs/11540" target="_blank">https://cnbjobs.cnb-ss.com/#/jobs/11540</a>.