Zoe Porter uses touch detection on a SMART Board program that allows students to hear and learn the Cherokee language at the Cherokee Nation’s Head Start in Tahlequah, Okla. According to a recent study, Oklahoma kids in every racial group except Native Americans lag behind national averages in categories such as children enrolled in nursery school, preschool or kindergarten. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Oklahoma Native kids only racial group to exceed national averages
BY MIKE AVERILL
Tulsa World Staff Writer
TULSA, Okla. – Oklahoma children, particularly racial minorities, are lagging behind children in the rest of the United States in meeting key milestones, according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
“Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children” highlights concerns about barriers children face in achieving success and calls for a multisector approach to developing solutions.
The report uses a composite score of 12 indexes on a scale of 1 to 1,000 for each racial group.
Nationally, Asians/Pacific Islanders scored the highest with 776, followed by whites at 704, Latinos at 404, American Indians at 387 and African-Americans at 345.
In Oklahoma, children fared worse than the national averages, with Asians/Pacific Islanders leading the way at 729, followed by whites at 606, Latinos at 350 and African-Americans at 306. The exception in Oklahoma was American Indians, whose composite score was 478, 91 points better than the national average.
“With our state’s racial diversity and changing landscape, it is all the more important to begin looking at ways to ensure all children reach their full potential,” said Terry Smith, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.
“If there is one thing data shows us year after year, it is that Oklahoma’s children are facing tremendous barriers to success due to family instability, poverty, poor heath and low educational achievement, and these barriers are even worse for children of color.”
The report points out that from 2000 to 2010 the state saw its Hispanic population increase by 46 percent and that Oklahoma has one of the largest American Indian populations in the country. Additionally, it predicts that minorities will represent the majority of children in the United States by 2018.
“It is imperative that we begin to pool resources in a focused way to not only close achievement gaps but support all children in reaching these important milestones,” Smith said.
The indexes the report considered include babies born at normal birth weight; children ages 3 to 5 enrolled in nursery school, preschool or kindergarten; fourth-graders at or above proficiency in reading; eighth-graders at or above proficiency in math; females ages 15-19 who delay childbearing; high school students graduating on time; young adults in school or working; young adults with associate degrees or higher; and children living in two-parent homes.
Desiree Doherty, executive director of the Parent Child Center of Tulsa, noted that “critical developmental essentials are missing in so many children’s lives between this report’s first two indicators.”
“After ‘born at a normal birth weight’ and before ‘enrolled in nursery school, preschool or kindergarten,’ every child, regardless of color or race, must have three key ingredients for healthy physical and emotional development. These fundamental essentials are safety, stability and nurturing.
“The way a child receives these – or not – is in that reciprocal relationship with their primary caregiver.”
Doherty also commented on “the brain’s developing architecture,” saying it “is so powerfully influenced by a child’s earliest experience that the first three years of life form the basis for all cognitive and social-emotional learning that will follow.”
The report includes four policy recommendations to help ensure that all children and their families achieve their full potential: gather and analyze racial and ethnic data to inform policies and decision making; utilize data and impact-assessment tools to target investments to yield the greatest impact for children of color; develop and implement promising and proven programs and practices focused on improving outcomes for children and youths of color; and integrate strategies that explicitly connect vulnerable groups to new jobs and opportunities in economic and workforce development.
“I think that last one is spot on,” said Tom Taylor, executive director for Emergency Infant Services. “What I’m finding is people aren’t aware of the opportunities that are out there. We’re trying to connect them with the services they need.”
– REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM THE TULSA WORLD
A record number of Oklahomans died from drug overdoses in 2016, and for the first time in years, methamphetamine was the single biggest killer, preliminary data shows.
An Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control analysis shows 952 people died from overdoses, and the number is likely to rise as pending autopsies are finalized. The total number of overdose deaths is well above the 862 recorded in 2015 and the previous record of 870 in 2014.
Meth was involved in 328 of the deaths, climbing steeply from 271 in 2015 and surpassing the total combined deaths involving much-abused opioids hydrocodone and oxycodone.
Opioids remain a potent threat, however. As a group, they were involved in more fatal overdoses than meth in 2016.
Fatal heroin overdoses continued to surge, with the drug involved in 49 deaths in 2016, up from 31 in 2015. Other states have seen larger increases in deadly heroin abuse.
The Narcotics Bureau said its numbers derive from its running collection of autopsy results from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Narcotics Bureau spokesman Mark Woodward attributed the meth-related deaths partly to the growing use and continued availability of the drug.
Oklahoma’s high rates of mental illness and addiction, along with crackdowns on opioid prescribing, have made the state a ready market for a form of meth, called “ice,” provided by Mexican cartels.
The living-room meth labs of the previous decade are less common now, with discoveries of labs decreasing dramatically, Woodward said. Instead, meth comes from “super labs” in Mexico and along the U.S.-Mexico border. People who once would have cooked small amounts of meth to sell and use now steal or barter to feed their habits.
“It’s cheap, it’s accessible and someone in your circle will have it if you’re using drugs,” he said.
Changes in law have helped decrease opioid overdoses, health officials say. A 2015 law requires doctors to check the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program database before prescribing opioids and benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, to new patients. A 2014 reclassification of combination opioids, such as Lortab, which includes hydrocodone and acetaminophen, into Schedule II controlled dangerous substances, prohibits doctors from writing prescriptions for more than 90 days and phoning them in to pharmacies.
Jeff Dismukes, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said the declining number of opioid-related deaths also corresponds with lives saved from administering opioid-blocking Naloxone.
“It’s pretty darn close,” he said. “You can see how we’re really making a difference in bringing that number down.”
However, prescription drug overdoses remain a scourge.
“We’ve made a little progress with opioids but we’re nowhere near that not being a problem,” Dismukes said. “That’s still the biggest issue in the state”
Jessica Hawkins, prevention director for the Mental Health Department, cautioned against oversimplifying potential links between meth and prescription drug abuse. A drop in one doesn’t necessarily lead to an increase in the other, she said.
“They’re concurrently problematic,” she said. “What we don’t want to do is switch attention from another serious epidemic, which is the opioid epidemic we’re in, and move attention away from that.”
Hawkins said potential causes include increased strength of methamphetamine, manner of taking the drug (IV users are more likely to suffer an overdose), using meth with other substances, and multigenerational use in some families.
Woodward said there is no way to know if the hundreds of Oklahomans who died from meth overdoses were regular users or were shifting from prescription opioids to meth. Autopsies and medical examiner reports only determine what was in a person’s body at the time of death, or if responders found drugs or paraphernalia nearby. Also, many people who die from drug overdoses have taken multiple drugs, although the Narcotics Bureau counts them according to the main drug found in their systems.
“When you’re an addict, you’ll take what you can get. … They all have their drug of choice, but they’re not exclusive to that drug,” he said.
<strong>Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that produces in-depth and investigative content on public-policy issues facing the state. For more Oklahoma Watch content, go to <a href="http://www.oklahomawatch.org" target="_blank">oklahomawatch.org</a>.</strong>
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Republican plan to overhaul the nation's health care system shows health care could become unaffordable for many poor Oklahomans and the state could be forced to subsidize health care costs for Native Americans, according to an early analysis of the plan prepared for Gov. Mary Fallin.
A document obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press shows state health officials also project the proposed new law would result in the state immediately losing $9.3 million in public health funding for programs such as immunizations and chronic disease funding.
The three-page document prepared last week by state health officials and policy analysts in Fallin's office outlines some of the pros and cons of key provisions in the plan.
Among the top concerns is the proposal to replace income-based subsidies that help people pay for premiums with age-based tax credits.
"This creates a huge subsidy cliff between Medicaid and the individual market that could cause people on Medicaid to not go to work or earn more income because the cost of insurance would be unaffordable," the analysis states. "The subsidy should be based on income and age."
Anna Holloway, a 60-year-old Norman resident who received tax subsidies to purchase health insurance on the federal exchange, said she's fearful the new GOP plan could price her out of the market for health insurance.
"If I didn't have subsidies, I couldn't have insurance," said Holloway, who works part-time at a Tulsa seminary and takes medication every day because of an auto-immune disease.
"I am conscious of just how desperate this is," she said, fighting back tears. "I try not to let myself feel this way, but to live this way with real terror, real fear that the universe is going to fall apart around me."
The analysis also suggests there is no indication that the federal government intends to adhere to a previous obligation to pay for tribal members' health care costs, "shifting that burden to the states."
Among the benefits cited in the report is that the age rating change should lower the cost of insurance for young people, who also could be attracted by their ability to buy catastrophic coverage.
Oklahoma has one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation, with about 14 percent of residents with no coverage, compared to the national rate of about 9 percent. Oklahoma also is among the poorer states, with about 16 percent of residents earning below the federal poverty level of $24,250 for a family of four in 2015.
An analysis of the plan by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released this week predicts 14 million Americans would lose coverage next year under the GOP proposal, and that number would balloon to 24 million by 2026.
A separate analysis of the bill by the left-leaning Center for American Progress shows Oklahoma would experience among the highest premium increases by 2020, averaging more than $5,000 per individual. Those annual premium increases are even more dramatic for low-income residents, who would see their premiums increase by about $7,385 by 2020, and Oklahomans aged 55-64, who would see average increases of $12,032.
Fallin said in a statement she's optimistic that Republicans members of Congress are planning to repeal, replace and reform the Affordable Care Act, but described the GOP proposal as a "first step."
"I look forward to seeing what will evolve from this proposal," she said. "I hope the plan will offer strong flexibility to the states to reform Medicaid and the system surrounding it."
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — State health officials say Oklahoma County is in the midst of the largest syphilis outbreak in recent state history.
The state Health Department's manager of HIV and sexually transmitted disease services, Kristen Eberly, said this is the largest number of cases connecting to the same infection she's seen in her 13 years with the department.
The outbreak comes as Oklahoma is also seeing a rising number of residents dying from heroine and methamphetamine overdose.
Health officials said drug abuse is one of the main contributing factors for the syphilis outbreak. Other risk factors associated with the outbreak include exchanging sex for money or drugs, and having multiple sex partners.
Eighty residents between the ages of 14 and 47 have been infected over the past few months, The Oklahoman reported. The majority of those identified used drugs, including heroin and methanphetamine.
Health officials said it's important for residents to get tested for syphillis.
"We just want to help everybody, regardless of whether you're on drugs or not, we don't care," Eberly said. "We want to help get you treated and make you as healthy as we can."
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease passed through direct contact with a syphilitic sore, known as a chancre.
ATLANTA, Ga. – Community-based and individual-level prevention strategies are effective ways to reduce alcohol use among American Indian and other youth living in rural communities, according to a new study supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse also provided support for the study.
“This important study underscores our commitment to finding evidence-based solutions for alcohol problems in American Indian and other underserved populations,” said NIAAA Director George F. Koob “This study is one of the largest alcohol prevention trials ever conducted with an American Indian population, and the first to demonstrate the effectiveness of screening and brief counseling intervention in significantly reducing youth alcohol use at a community level.”
Although American Indian teens drink at rates similar to other United States teens, they have early onset alcohol use compared to other groups and higher rates of alcohol problems. Rural youths, including those who are a racial minority relative to their community, are also at increased risk for alcohol misuse. Early prevention is critical in these populations, but both American Indians and rural communities have been underrepresented in studies aimed at finding effective solutions for underage drinking.
To address this gap, researchers led by Kelli A. Komro of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta worked with the Cherokee Nation, the second-largest tribe in the U.S., to implement a rigorous research trial of two distinct strategies to reduce underage drinking and its consequences.
Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol is a community-organizing intervention designed to reduce alcohol access, use and consequences among underage youths. The second strategy, called CONNECT, is an individually delivered screening and brief intervention delivered in schools. The study was conducted within the 14 counties of northeastern Oklahoma that comprise the CN jurisdictional area, which is home to about 40 percent of the tribe. While CN citizens constitute a significant proportion of the population, whites and other racial/ethnic minorities also live within this area. Results of the trial are reported in the March 2017 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
“Community organizing has been used effectively in multiple other health intervention trials and appeared to be an optimal strategy to engage diverse citizens in these multicultural communities,” explained Dr. Komro. CMCA involves training teams of adults to implement policies and take actions to reduce youth access to alcohol through social and commercial sources. In the school-based intervention, a school social worker conducts a brief one-on-one health consultation with each student each semester to encourage healthy behavior change related to alcohol consumption. Students who report high risk drinking attend follow-up sessions and are referred to specialty treatment when appropriate.
Six communities, each served by a single high school, participated in the study. The student population in these communities was nearly 50 percent American Indian. The study population consisted of students who were in ninth or 10th grade when the study began and followed over three years through 11th or 12th grade.
By random assignment, students in two communities received both the community-organizing intervention and the individually delivered intervention. Students in two different communities served as controls, and received neither intervention. One of the remaining two communities used only the community-organizing intervention while the other used only the school-based individually administered intervention.
Over the course of the study, researchers found that self-reports of alcohol use, including any use and heavy drinking episodes (five or more drinks on at least one occasion) in the past 30 days, was significantly reduced among students receiving either or both interventions, compared with students in the control communities.
“The two distinct interventions alone and in combination resulted in similar patterns of effect across time,” said Komro, “but, interestingly, we found no evidence that the two interventions combined had significantly greater effects than either alone.”
Komro and her colleagues conclude that, while alcohol use among high school students remains a serious public health problem, and rural and American Indian youths are particularly vulnerable populations, the specific community and school-based interventions they examined are effective approaches for addressing alcohol problems in these diverse communities.
Additional alcohol research information and publications are available at: <a href="http://www.niaaa.nih.gov" target="_blank">http://www.niaaa.nih.gov</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Former Cherokee Nation employee Gary McAlpin returned home on March 10 with his family and son, Kai, who’s been battling cancer since May. Gary has pleaded with citizens locally and across the United States to fight for more children’s cancer research and treatment funding.
Kai, who has been dubbed “Warrior Kai,” suffers from a rare cancer call T-Cell Leukemia. According to Gary’s Facebook page, he said he and his family have knocked on all the hospital doors available to them for Kai, but none would take him due to the complexity of his condition.
And after battling for so long and watching his son’s pain daily, they chose to take Kai home.
“Where Kai will continue to have the same medical care, but with hospice. He will have the same pain management and fluids being given,” Gary stated on Facebook.
During the past year, while attempting to stay positive about his son’s diagnosis, Gary has pleaded with people to pressure the country’s leaders into offering more funding for childhood cancers.
“The main thing that I’m asking from people is to contact their state legislatures and our federal senators and congressman and demand that our children get more than 4 percent of what is given to cancer research, treatment and funding,” he said. “Adults receive almost 96 percent and all of our children, all they receive are hand-me-down chemos from adults. That’s all they get.”
He added that he is on this “mission” and no matter Kai’s outcome he will “go to the grave” fighting for the funding to be equal for children and adult cancer treatments.
“I’m going to die fighting because our children are more precious than the subsidies that go to oil company CEOs. Our children are more precious than the kickback given to pharmaceutical companies that only fund the most money-making research, which is why the children only receive 4 percent and our children are worth more than that.”
Gary said he has watched Kai suffer, listening to his screaming for hours because his pain is so intense. He knows he is not the only child suffering.
“There’s others up here, too. And like I said no matter what happens to him I will go to the grave pushing this,” he said. “Call your senators. Call your congressman. Call your state level (officials).”
Gary and his family said they are thankful for all the support they’ve received during the past year and for the support that continues. They ask for thoughts and prayers as they continue on Kai’s journey.
For more information on how to help the family, visit <a href="https://www.facebook.com/WarriorKaiMcalpin/?hc_ref=SEARCH" target="_blank">https://www.facebook.com/WarriorKaiMcalpin/?hc_ref=SEARCH</a> or donate to the Kai McAlpin Arvest Cares account at any Arvest Bank location or online at www.gofundme.com/KaiMcAlpin.
<strong>Oklahoma’s State and National Legislators</strong>
Senator James Lankford: 202-224-5754
Senator James M. Inhofe: 202-224-4721
Rep. Mark Wayne Mullin: 202-225-2701
State Sen. Dewayne Pemberton: 405-521-5533
State Rep. Matt Meredith: 405-557-7408
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – While eating healthy is a major component to weight loss and leading a healthy life, exercise also plays a role in taking on a well-rounded lifestyle change.
Brandon Goad, a physical activity specialist at the Cherokee Nation Male Seminary Recreation Center, said people who are looking to begin exercising should speak with “fitness professionals.”
“I would suggest come into a facility like we have, or anywhere where they have fitness professionals, and get some advice,” he said.
Goad said when beginning an exercise program people should exercise two to three times a week.
“Your body will kind of tell you if you need to be in the gym or if you don’t. If you’re extremely sore and you can’t move it’s probably not going to benefit you to show up and do more exercise on top of that. I’d probably be more beneficial to stay at home or come up here and walk and then maybe do some stretching and some mobility exercises,” he said.
He said the MSRC offers various classes, and that it’s a good way to start one’s physical fitness journey. “The really good thing with that is I can kind of guide them along the way and coach them and train them and see them every day.”
Goad said people who attend MSRC classes vary in fitness level and age, but trainers make sure people are working at paces that are best for them.
“I have people in all ranges of fitness levels that come to our gym or come to my classes. I have (people) anywhere from maybe still in high school to, I have a 73-year-old woman in one of my classes,” he said. “I have one gentleman that has two replaced knees, and he can’t do all the movements, but a lot of them we can scale back and tailor to him. I have another gentleman that started with me doing personal trainings, but now we’ve got him to the class setting. He was 400 pounds when he started and he’s about 340, and we’re still working on improving that.”
Goad said it’s great for people to attend classes because it builds a “good community” as well as “accountability.”
“The really good thing with our classes is that we have a lot of people. So we may have anywhere from 10 to 20 per class, and it really builds a good community. The community aspect really helps keep people coming in. You meet a few friends or you show up for a little while and people start expecting you to be here,” Goad said. “So if you don’t show up for a week they’re going to contact you on Facebook or if they have your number call you and say, ‘hey, where’ve you been?’ Checking to see if you’re sick or what’s going on. So it really has a good accountability.”
He added that if people would rather exercise at home he suggests starting out on what he calls “functional exercises.”
“They’re exercises that you’re going to do basically in your everyday life,” he said. “So squatting, deadlifting, pressing, push-ups, sit-ups, all your more functional stuff to where your body is doing the work and not the machine.”
He said when it comes to weight loss to not expect “overnight” success.
“Don’t expect it all to happen overnight,” he said. “You don’t become out of shape or overweight in a week, or a month. So it’s not going to happen the same. It’s not going to come off in a month so you got to give it time and stick with it.”
Goad said he doesn’t focus on weight loss as a number but if one’s clothes are fitting better.
“If your pants aren’t fitting quite as tight, if you ever move down a pant size or your shirts are fitting better that’s a lot better goal then what’s on the scale because your weight will fluctuate,” he said.
He said if people would like to monitor their weight loss by the pounds it’s best to weigh-in once a week. He said it’s also good to track progress by taking photos.
“Maybe if you weigh…once a week and take a progress picture,” he said. “I would rather you do that because I just had a woman in class, she’s been coming for almost a year, and it’s one of those things where you really can’t tell a lot of changes every day because you’re seeing yourself every day. You really can’t tell a change, but if you see yourself from a month ago and you compare the pictures. It’s a huge difference.”
<strong>Male Seminary Recreation Center hours</strong>
Monday through Thursday – 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday – 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information, call 918-453-5496. The MSRC is located at 1501 Graham Ave. in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
The MSRC offers classes seven days a week with a majority of the classes taking place Monday through Friday. For an updated list, visit <a href="http://cherokeepublichealth.org/msrc-gym/" target="_blank">http://cherokeepublichealth.org/msrc-gym/</a> and click on the “Group Fitness Classes” tab on the right side of the page.