Budget hearings continue

by Jessica Garvin

As we quickly approach the start of the 2023 session, we’re continuing to hold budget hearings at the state Capitol to learn more about state agencies and their requests for Fiscal Year 2024. Our Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services held two days of budget hearings with all the agencies and commissions we oversee.

Last Monday, we met with the JD McCarty Center, the OSU Medical Authority, the University Hospitals Authority, and the Department of Human Services. 

On Wednesday, presentations were made by the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, the Department of Health, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the Office of Disability Concerns, the Office of Juvenile Affairs, the Department of Rehabilitation Services, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority. 

This coming Thursday is the filing deadline, and I’m approaching nearly 30 bills with a few more to go.

Besides teachers, our state is in dire need of nurses, especially registered nurses (RNs), so I’ve filed SB 70 to allow nursing diplomas from technology centers approved by the State Board of Career and Technology Education or private schools licensed by the Oklahoma Board of Private Vocational Schools to qualify as an approved RN program. We must do more to fill the nursing workforce pipeline and providing more educational opportunities to become an RN is a critical piece of that effort.

Another health-related bill I’m working on would create the Agency for Generational Excellence of Oklahomans (AGEok). With a rapidly aging population, we must do all we can to ensure we have the senior services, programs, and facilities to meet the massive demand.

AGEok would oversee the development and implementation of rules and regulations of any agency, organization, or business responsible for the health and wellbeing of aging or vulnerable adults. It would also ensure proper accountability and oversight of caregivers and care facilities, as well as direct care manager’s education, training, and licensure. Finally, the agency would advocate for this population through research, policy development, and agency accountability.

I hope with another one of my measures that we can slow the submission of false complaints against nursing homes. We have some incredible facilities and long-term care staff, but they’re constantly being falsely accused of violations by disgruntled individuals. My bill would require the Health Department to inform such complainants of the potential consequences for willfully or recklessly submitting false complaints under the Nursing Home Care Act including civil liability. They need to know if they’re lying about a staffer or situation, there will be consequences.

Another bill would authorize the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) to administer all Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) agreements. The OHCA would enforce federal laws and regulations governing PACE organizations and would allow the agency to enter into an agreement with the state Department of Health to handle any additional duties. 

PACE is a Medicare and Medicaid program that helps meet people’s health care needs in their homes, community, or local PACE center rather than going to nursing homes or other care facilities.

These are just a few of the many issues I’ll be working on this session to help improve and strengthen various areas of our state’s health care system. 

If you have any questions or comments, please write to Senator Jessica Garvin, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 237, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email me at Jessica.Garvin@oksenate.gov or call (405) 521-5522.