The legislative session is moving quickly this year and the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is currently tracking a whopping 530 child-related bills. Each of these bills must be heard and approved by committee within the first four weeks of session. Those that miss that deadline can be held over and re-examined in 2020. Many bills will not advance, and that 530 number is sure to shrink considerably once we enter March.

At OICA, we have been happy to see many lawmakers pursuing constructive and substantive policy changes. For instance, on Monday, the Senate Retirement and Insurance Committee passed SB 605, a bill to request federal funds for enhanced insurance coverage for working-class Oklahomans and their families. This bill by Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada, passed unanimously in committee, but with the title stricken. Striking the title is a procedural move that ensures the bill will be forced to a conference committee later in the session unless the House and Senate can agree upon the final language earlier. The bill will now go to the Senate Appropriations and Budget Committee.

OICA sent out an action alert on this legislation to inform our advocates the bill was being heard and asking them to reach out to lawmakers to voice their support. We believe that lawmakers heard their voices — and the voices of many others — and responded by advancing this important bill. If you would like to be a part of our advocacy efforts and receive our action alerts and other information, please go to OICA.org and sign up for our weekly newsletter. We will email updates to you, and you can be informed immediately about what you can do to help support children through legislative action.

In addition to the great work being done to improve health care, I am also pleased to report that the first meeting of the Trauma-informed Care Task Force was held last week and the group has decided to meet monthly to pursue its important mission. The task force members, along with the members of the public, had the opportunity to watch the film “Resilience” thanks to the support of the Potts Family Foundation. This documentary highlights the work done by physicians and teachers to study Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). We are appreciative of the efforts made by state agencies to consider the impact of long-term traumatic issues impacting children and finding ways to reduce those issues with Oklahoma youth. One example is the work done by State Superintendent of Education Joy Hofmeister and her staff to bring awareness to educators and partner organizations. The Muskogee (Creek) Nation is another outstanding partner in helping find solutions for childhood trauma through raising awareness and OICA is proud to work with each.

OICA is planning an event surrounding ACEs in late March with business leaders in the Tulsa community, so monitor our website for updates. We hope you will be able to join us at this event, or one near you, soon.