Tulsa World, Oct. 5, 2013
New mental health facility relieves pressure
The opening of the new Family & Children's Services CrisisCare Center on Monday is both a big deal and a good deal for the community, the mentally ill and law enforcement.
The center, 635 W. 11th St., will reduce significantly instances in which mentally ill people, who are on Medicaid and who only need a brief stay in a safe and calming environment, are hauled halfway across the state because of a local shortage of crisis-stabilization beds.
The trips, sometimes requiring hours in the back of a police cruiser to find an available bed as far away as the Panhandle, are hard on the mentally ill. They're also hard on the officers transporting them. These off-duty police officers, who must be paid overtime, have been making up to 35 transports monthly, an enormous expense.
For years, Oklahoma, particularly its urban areas, has lacked enough crisis respite beds to meet demand for mentally ill adults on Medicaid. (Additional facilities are expected to come onboard in coming years and have been endorsed by the governor and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services).
The new center offers up to a 24-hour stay and was created for adults who need more structure and monitoring than can be provided in a home, clinical office or emergency room but don't necessarily require long-term or inpatient hospitalization.
During their stay at the 16-bed crisis center, adults can rest in a safe, supportive and calming environment. They will receive continuous supervision, pharmaceutical oversight and other services from trained staff.
Many adults experiencing mental health issues depression, suicidal thoughts, psychotic episodes, feelings of disorientation often can be stabilized within 24 hours, and many can return home. If no improvement is shown, the center can recommend where they should receive follow-up treatment.
Tulsa has needed this additional short-term crisis care facility a long time. It offers a more humane, therapeutic alternative for struggling adults. It is far less costly for taxpayers, and it makes for a safer community.
The Oklahoman, Oct. 4, 2013
Practice of selecting judges should favor good government over special interests
Calls for judicial reform in Oklahoma are prompting outcries from the current system's defenders. Some defenders' statements are providing ammunition for reformers' arguments.
In an interview with The Journal Record, Shawnee attorney Terry West — a critic of judicial reform — described lawsuit reform as an effort to protect corporations.
"We've been in and out of tort reform for 10 or 12 years," said West, a plaintiff's attorney. "And they have done basically what they set out to do, which was insulate corporate America from individuals and they have succeeded to a great extent."
In addition to appearing untethered from reality, West's business-bashing comments are notable because he has twice served on the state Judicial Nominating Commission, which effectively controls Oklahoma Supreme Court appointments.
The commission, touted as a way to take politics out of judicial selections, clearly involves substantial politicization if people like West are at the wheel. West's comments largely echo the anti-business views of Occupy Wall Street, not the views of Oklahomans on Main Street.
When vacancies occur on the Supreme Court or civil and criminal appellate courts, the nominating commission screens applicants and submits three nominees to the governor, whose appointment power is limited to those names.
The Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission has 15 members: six selected by the Oklahoma Bar Association, six appointed by the governor, and three at-large appointees (two at-large appointees are non-attorney members appointed by legislative leaders; the third is selected by the other commission members). The gubernatorial appointees are not attorneys.
The commission is based on a plan pioneered in Missouri. But a book by Richard A. Watson & Rondal G. Downing, "The Politics of the Bench and the Bar" (1969), reviewed the first 25 years of merit selection in Missouri and concluded that it largely replaced the political concerns of the broad public with the internal politics of the legal profession.
In "The Case for Partisan Judicial Elections," a 2003 Federalist Society paper authored by Michael DeBow, Diane Brey, Erick Kaardal, John Soroko, Frank Strickland and Michael B. Wallace, the authors noted, "In operation, the Missouri Plan substitutes committee politics for electoral politics. The appearance of expertise and nonpartisanship is largely, if not entirely, a facade — a fact widely noted in the political science literature."
Overall, there's little evidence that judges selected by nonpartisan commissions are more qualified than those selected through direct election or other means. Three judicial reform bills passed the Oklahoma Senate this year and could be taken up in the House next session. One measure would allow the governor to select judicial nominees who would then be screened by the Judicial Nominating Commission and subjected to Senate confirmation, creating multiple layers of review. Another bill would set a 20-year term limit for judges. A third would allow the governor to select the chief justice, who oversees the entire judiciary, including local district courts.
Any change to judicial nominations should be carefully vetted; the current system was itself a reform enacted after a bribery scandal at the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 1964. The outcome of this debate is not inconsequential. The power to choose judges is the power to fortify, or to undermine, the rule of law.
Judicial selection practices should favor good government over special interests, but West's comments suggest the current system is hardly run by people virtuously placing state interest above self-interest.
Enid News and Eagle, Oct. 3, 2013
Enid stakeholders should 'dream big' to draw visitors
Three decades ago, Enid adopted the slogan "Stride with Pride" to promote our community's business prospects.
That was a long time ago. What does Enid need for the 21st century?
A tourism consultant recently told Visit Enid Advisory Board one thing our city lacks is a major leisure attraction.
Berkeley Young said Enid must target travelers between the ages of 30 and 50. The national travel industry expert has advised our city on previous travel and tourism issues.
We should continue to improve on our city's "gateways," the areas visitors see as they come into Enid along U.S. 81 and U.S. 412.
"You definitely need to focus on arteries," he said. "It's like good teeth and bad teeth. You've got a few good teeth, and in the middle of every block, there's something that's just hideous and it kills it."
Since first impressions are crucial, Young said we need to upgrade the front-line encounters visitors have. That would include an effort by retail store owners to improve customer service skills of their employees.
Even as retails sales remain strong in Enid, our work isn't over yet. Although Enid's on the right track, we must strive to improve our community and not rest on our laurels.
We should get input from stakeholders and "dream big" about an alluring attraction to draw visitors from the major metros in the region. Let's revise the discussion on what's reasonable and how to do it.