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Monday, May 20, 2019

Bill to create statewide sexual assault kit tracking system signed

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Governor signed legislation Monday to help Oklahoma law enforcement investigate sexual assault crimes by creating a statewide tracking system for sexual assault evidence collection kits.  Sen. Kay Floyd (D-Oklahoma City) is the author of Senate Bill 967, and was a member of the 2017 Oklahoma Task Force on Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE).

            “The task force agreed a major challenge solving sexual assault cases was that law enforcement agencies around the state were using tracking systems that weren’t compatible with other systems.  There needed to be a consistent process to investigate and solve these sexual assault cases,” said Floyd.  “By having one tracking system, law enforcement will be able to cross-reference thousands of crimes and DNA samples to solve more cases and prevent future sexual assaults.”

            SB 967 directs the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation’s (OSBI) Criminalistics Services Division to create a statewide electronic tracking system for rape kits including those found in the 2017 statewide audit. It will track a kit’s location and whether it has been processed. By January 1, 2020, all law enforcement agencies, forensic labs, medical providers and others in the state who have custody of rape kits will be required to participate in the tracking system. The system will also be accessible anonymously by victims.

“Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of rape and attempted rape in the nation. This new tracking system will better ensure that all kits are tested and DNA collected, and will provide more accessibility for allowing victims to track their kits,” said Floyd.  “Most rapists will commit multiple crimes, typically until they’re caught. Having this DNA evidence in one statewide system will hopefully help solve more cases and provide some peace to the victims knowing their assailant is no longer walking free.”

SB 967 will go into effect July 1, 2019.

GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT APPOINTS STEVE BUCK AS SECRETARY OF HUMAN SERVICES & EARLY CHILDHOOD INITIATIVES

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Oklahoma City, Okla. (February 15, 2019) – Governor Kevin Stitt announced today the appointment of Steve Buck as the Secretary of Human Services and Early Childhood Initiatives, a cabinet position that requires Senate confirmation.

“Steve has a proven track record for bringing together a wide range of stakeholders to ensure the most vulnerable in our state are taken care of and given opportunities for a bright future,” said Stitt. “Steve’s passion and vision to continue to improve Oklahoma’s services supporting children and families will play a critical role on the cabinet as we work to move the entire state forward.”

As secretary of human services and early childhood initiatives, Buck is responsible for 34 agencies, boards and commissions, including the Department of Human Services and Oklahoma Juvenile Affairs (OJA). He previously served the state as secretary of health and human services under the Fallin administration.

As OJA’s executive director, Buck is responsible for the overall management of the agency’s operated and contracted programs and services. He works directly with the agency’s governing board to facilitate agency priorities, planning and operational performance. Before joining OJA, Buck served nine years as deputy commissioner for communications and prevention at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Prior to that, he worked 10 years for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness in multiple roles, including national director of state policy and executive director of NAMI Oklahoma. Buck and his wife, Lisa, have four daughters and two sons. A native Oklahoman, he is a graduate of Oklahoma State University with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and a masters in administration leadership from the University of Oklahoma.

“Steven Buck is a champion of children and families; a proven leader who brings an extensive scope of experience to Oklahoma as a wonderful steward of people and physical resources. I know him to be a person of integrity who exemplifies a heart for all Oklahomans and a passion to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens receive the services they need most. He is a convener, a collaborator and a servant leader, bringing together foster providers, parents, governmental agencies, mental health services, the judicial system, and the public-at-large. He is truly among Oklahoma’s greatest treasures and will be a wonderful addition to the Governor’s cabinet.” – Karen Vinyard Waddell, Former DHS Commissioner; Chair, Count Me In 4 Kids, and President/CEO, the Lynn Institutes 

“I have had the pleasure of working with Director Buck in his many leadership roles in our state.  He has always approached his work with a heart of service and is uniquely qualified to be secretary of human services and early childhood initiatives.  Steven’s passion for people, particularly children is unmatched.  Governor Stitt couldn’t have picked a better person to advise him on these issues.”  Scott C. Martin, President/CEO, Norman Chamber of Commerce

“I have known and worked with Steve Buck for many years.  I consider him a transformational leader, an innovative thinker, a truly principled, transparent individual, an unwavering advocate for children and families and a valuable partner who is always willing to think outside the box.  As Governor Stitt reimagines Oklahoma’s future, Steve will be an invaluable asset as secretary of human services and early childhood initiatives.  Huge thanks to Governor Stitt for appointing Steve Buck to fight for the children and families of Oklahoma.”  Sarah Roberts, Senior Program Officer, Inasmuch Foundation 

“Steve is a man of integrity and a selfless individual. Through my association with him for some 30 years, I have found him to have a servant’s heart and an ability to communicate with all he comes in contact. He will serve our state well.”  Phil Kennedy, Owner and President, Comanche Home Center, Lawton 

“I couldn’t be more excited for Director Steven Buck’s appointment to Governor Stitt’s cabinet as secretary of human services and early childhood initiatives. Steve’s work is not a job, but rather a calling. As a true advocate for youth and justice, Mr. Buck will unquestionably make a positive difference for our state.”  Lee Roland, Author, Public Speaker and Education Consultant

Senate votes Greg Treat as president pro tempore

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Members of the Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday voted Senator Greg Treat as president pro tempore, the chamber’s top leadership post.

Treat previously served as the majority floor leader, the Senate’s second-highest leadership office, and was selected by Senate Republicans last year as their choice to lead the Senate. On Tuesday during organizational day, the entire Senate made it official and voted to name Treat as the Senate leader.

“I am humbled and honored to serve as the leader of the Oklahoma Senate. I very much appreciate my colleagues for their trust in my leadership and look forward to the challenge ahead. I also want to thank my wife and children. Without their love and support, I would not be able to serve in the Senate,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City.

“As leader of the Senate I promise our chamber will work hard, we’ll work together across political parties, and we’ll work toward policies that are good for all Oklahomans. There are certainly challenges facing our state, but there is nothing standing in our way that we can’t overcome together. I am optimistic about the future of our state and feel very blessed to be in a position to help lead Oklahoma to an even better and brighter future.”

Treat lives in Oklahoma City with his wife Maressa and their three children: Mason, Cooper, and Olivia. The Treat family attends Frontline Church. He was elected in a 2011 special election to represent District 47, which encompasses northwest Oklahoma City and portions of Edmond, Deer Creek, and Bethany. Treat serves on the executive committees of both the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Southern Legislative Conference.

The Oklahoma Constitution calls upon the Legislature to meet before the start of each two-year session to formally elect its leaders and certify the previous year’s election results. On Tuesday, the Senate certified the 2018 election results and officially elected Treat and other senators to Senate leadership positions. The Senate GOP leadership includes:

  • Senator Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, President Pro Tempore
  • Senator Kim David, R-Porter, Majority Floor Leader
  • Senator Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, Appropriations chair
  • Senator Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, Majority Caucus chair
  • Senator Rob Standridge, R-Norman, Majority Whip
  • Senator Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, Assistant Floor Leader
  • Senator Frank Simpson, R-Springer, Assistant Floor Leader
  • Senator Dave Rader, R-Tulsa, Majority Caucus vice chair
  • Senator Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, Assistant Majority Whip
  • Senator Casey Murdock, R-Felt, Assistant Majority Whip
  • Senator Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, Assistant Majority Whip
  • Senator Darcy Jech, R-Kingfisher, Rural Caucus chair

President Pro Tem-designate Greg Treat files bill creating legislative watchdog office

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Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) will evaluate agency spending and performance

OKLAHOMA CITY – Senate President Pro Tem-designate Greg Treat on Thursday filed legislation to create a legislative fiscal watchdog office to help lawmakers better fulfill their oversight role of state agency spending and performance.

Senate Bill 1 creates the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) to provide the Legislature with objective, verified data lawmakers can then use as they consider and make critical policy decisions.

“Real numbers and objective data will help the Oklahoma Legislature make better-informed decisions when writing the state budget, setting policy, and tracking whether programs are meeting or exceeding our expectations,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City.

“The most important duty the Legislature has is to write the budget and provide oversight of agency spending and performance. In most cases, the Legislature depends on the agency itself or the executive branch to report data on spending and performance. Agencies present only the data they want us to see not necessarily what we need to see. Agencies tend to focus more on outputs and not outcomes. That’s not how we are going to turn Oklahoma around. The Legislature needs independent, objective data so that we can make better-informed decisions,” Treat said.

Key parts of SB 1:

  • LOFT will conduct performance evaluations of agencies, programs, or specific divisions;
  • LOFT would have open access to all agency data and budgets;
  • LOFT would be overseen by a bicameral, bipartisan committee;
  • LOFT would have six to eight independent, nonpartisan office staff;
  • Data gathered by and reports produced by LOFT would be available to the public.

Treat pointed to the recent Health Department scandal as one of the best reasons why an office like LOFT is needed.

“Last year, the Legislature was told the Health Department needed $30 million immediately or they agency couldn’t make payroll and there would be catastrophic public health implications. As we know now, the department didn’t need the money and the agency’s finances were in shambles. That is unacceptable and must not continue,” Treat said.

“Well more than half of the states have a legislative oversight office like LOFT. It helps provide accountability and oversight among the branches of government. The legislative, executive, and judicial are co-equal branches of government. They serve as a check on one another’s power. We need an independent, nonpartisan office like LOFT to provide the Legislature with real numbers as we make decisions on how to get the best outcomes and returns on each and every tax dollar,” Treat said.

GOVERNOR-ELECT KEVIN STITT ANNOUNCES TRANSITION TEAM

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OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (Nov. 13, 2018) – Governor-elect Kevin Stitt today announced formation of Oklahoma’s Turnaround, the transition team for the Stitt administration.

The transition team will work with Governor-elect Stitt to recruit Oklahomans to serve in a Stitt administration and to build out Oklahoma’s Turnaround transition team to include issue-centered advisory committees on the following seven topics: Education, Economic Growth, Government Efficiency, Infrastructure, Health, Public Safety, and Native American Partnerships.

Oklahoma’s Turnaround Team will develop policy proposals for the upcoming legislative session, prepare the governor-elect’s budget proposal, and ensure an orderly transition to the new administration.

“I am grateful for the talented Oklahomans who are rolling up their sleeves and already getting to work on making our state Top Ten. The transition team will be focused on recruiting fresh, new leadership to assist in Oklahoma’s turnaround,” said Governor-elect Kevin Stitt. “Over the next week, we will be expanding the team to include committees focused on policy priorities for the first Legislative session.”

For those interested in applying for Oklahoma’s Turnaround or to serve in a Stitt administration, Oklahomans are encouraged to visitwww.OklahomaTurnaround.com.

The executive team is as follows:

Marc Nuttle will serve as chair of the transition team. Nuttle is a lawyer, author, consultant and businessman who has had a varied career. He has represented and advised Presidents of the United States, leaders of foreign countries, state officials and corporations. Nuttle has worked on government policy and has predicted economic trends.

Matt Pinnell is Lieutenant Governor-elect. Pinnell is a small business owner with his wife, Lisa. Most recently, Pinnell was tapped to lead the transition team for Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel. Prior, Pinnell served as Director of State Parties for the Republican National Committee from 2013 to 2017 and served as Chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party from 2010 to 2013.

Melissa Houston serves as Labor Commissioner, appointed in 2015. Before serving as labor commissioner, Houston was chief of staff and policy adviser in the state attorney general’s office. She has also served as the chief of staff for the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security for nine years and an attorney for the Truth in Sentencing Policy Advisory Commission.

Aamon Ross was the Campaign Manager for Stitt for Governor 2018. Before serving as Campaign Manager, he was a consultant to a variety of companies and industries and negotiated large scale contracts. Additionally, Ross has owned several small businesses and led numerous teams while working in medical device sales for over 14 years.

Sean Kouplen is Chairman and CEO of Regent Bank in Tulsa. Kouplen holds numerous statewide leadership positions including Chairman of the OSU-Tulsa Board of Trustees, Chairman of the Hospitality House of Tulsa, and Board of Directors for MetaFund, Salvation Army of Tulsa, and SouthPoint Church.

Mike Mazzei is the President of Tulsa Wealth Advisors | Raymond James. Mazzei is a former member of the State Senate, representing Senate District 25 from 2004 to 2016. Mazzei previously served as the Senate Finance Chairman from 2008 to 2016.

Corbin McGuire served as Chairman for the Stitt for Governor campaign. McGuire started RNM Recruiting 14 years ago and serves as Managing Director. RNM Recruiting is a technology search firm that focuses on permanent placements nationwide. Corbin graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1995 and currently resides in Tulsa.

Geoffrey Long was general counsel for the Stitt for Governor campaign and will serve as the General Counsel to the transition team. Before entering private practice, he previously served as an attorney for the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, Oklahoma Attorney General, and other state agencies.

Donelle Harder was Deputy Campaign Manager and spokesperson for the Stitt for Governor campaign. Before joining the campaign, Harder was Vice President at the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association and had previously served as Communications Director for U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and for the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. She comes with more than 10 years of experience in political advising, strategic communications, and government relations.

The transition office is scheduled to open on Thursday. The office is located on the first floor of the State Capitol and will be open Mondays thru Fridays, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except for on holidays. The transition office phone number is 405-522-8804.

House Democrats Name Emily Virgin as Minority Leader

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The House Democratic Caucus today elected a new leader for the 57thLegislature.

Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, has been chosen to lead the caucus as Minority Leader. She served as the Caucus Chair during the 56th Legislature.

Virgin’s election is historic as women now lead both Democratic Caucuses in the Oklahoma Legislature.

“It’s humbling that the caucus has faith in me to lead during this important time in Oklahoma’s statehood,” Virgin said. “I am proud to represent women in this endeavor, but make no mistake, our caucus is focused on including all Oklahomans in the conversation regardless of gender, race or income level. This caucus moved the state in a positive direction the last session and helped guarantee the largest teacher pay raise in state history. We will fight to build on this success – not only in education but also in access to health care, expansion of mental health services, criminal justice reform, and providing opportunities for quality employment in Oklahoma communities.”

Oklahoma Senators take oath of office

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Twenty-four new and returning members of the Oklahoma State Senate were sworn into office at the Capitol Wednesday with Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, President of the Senate, presiding over the ceremony. The oath was administered by the Honorable Douglas L. Combs, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

New members taking the oath of office include David Bullard, R-Durant; Chuck Hall, R-Perry; Bill Coleman, R-Ponca City; Darrell Weaver, R-Moore; Mary Boren, D-Norman; Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City; John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton; Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City; John Haste, R-Broken Arrow; Brenda Stanley, R-Oklahoma City; Brent Howard, R-Headrick; and George Young, D-Oklahoma City.

Returning members include Senators Marty Quinn, R-Claremore; Mark Allen, R-Spiro; Roger Thompson, R-Okemah; James Leewright, R-Sapulpa; Frank Simpson, R-Springer; Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City; Darcy Jech, R-Kingfisher; Michael Brooks, D-Oklahoma City; Kim David, R-Porter; J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso; Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City; and Jason Smalley, R-Stroud.

The full Senate will officially convene for an organizational day on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, and the First Session of the 57th Legislature reconvenes on Monday, February 4. The deadline for requesting bills for the upcoming session is December 7. Those measures must be filed by January 17.

The Senate website has streaming video from all committee rooms and the chamber. Legislation, the Senate Journal, biographical information on members, high resolution photos, committee and floor agendas, votes and press releases can also be accessed at www.oksenate.gov.

Senate Report from Sen. Chris Kidd

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 State Treasurer Ken Miller announced more great economic news for our state this week. State gross receipts surged by 14 percent in September, the tenth month of double-digit growth in the past year.

We had gross receipts of $1.2 billion last month – the highest September total in our history. Twelve-month gross receipts were $12.5 billion, which is also a record. 

This is great news as we approach the upcoming session and begin work on the FY’20 budget. A majority of agency budgets haven’t yet been restored to the level they were before the national recession and oil bust that devastated our state’s economy between 2009 and 2016.  The increase in revenue will help stabilize our state’s budget and fund core government services

Work hasn’t stopped at the Capitol since session adjourned in May.  Interim studies and the joint legislative marijuana working group are ongoing. The marijuana meetings began in July and take place every Wednesday and will continue through November.  The group has been working to develop recommendations on a permanent regulatory framework for the implementation of SQ 788. 

All of the presentations and information provided in both the working group and interim study meetings are available at www.oksenate.gov under Committees and Interim Studies.

If you have any ideas, comments or concerns regarding implementation of medical marijuana in Oklahoma, you can share those with the working group at sq788@oksenate.gov.

Aside from the joint legislative marijuana working group, many of the interim studies have been about education.  One dealt with SB 1435, which would have authorized school districts to adopt alternative disciplinary actions in lieu of out-of-school suspension. Members looked at the possible creation of a formalized student appeals process for alternative forms of discipline, which was an issue brought up by the bill’s opponents.

Another study looked at OSSAA classification reform. The committee discussed different variables (student financial assistance and selective admissions) which some believe result in inequitable class success for both public and private member schools.

Charter schools have been a hot topic at the Capitol the last few years. Two studies examined the Funding Formula for virtual (charter) and brick and mortar public schools. It was evident there are differing opinions and viewpoints concerning charter schools. It is clear the outcome of these studies is that the Funding Formula needs to be reformed and simplified.  

Several other interim studies focused on the topics of school bonding flexibility, anti-bullying laws and innovation in education.

Other interim study topics included, work-based learning initiative and workforce development; Oklahoma’s veteran suicide rate; attracting and retaining neurologists, gerontologists and neuro-psychologists; and licensure of radiologic technologists.  There were also meetings on law enforcement video storage and retention; and telecommunication services for the deaf and elderly.

            At the State Senate, I can be reached by writing to Senator Chris Kidd, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 411A, Oklahoma City, OK 73105, emailing me at kidd@oksenate.gov, or by calling (405) 521-5563 and speaking to my assistant Suzanne Earnest.

Budget Surplus for Next Year?

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 Last session, the Legislature raised taxes on cigarettes, motor fuels and production from new oil and gas wells. This provided enough money to fill a budget hole that loomed for much of the year. It also raised enough to fund an average teacher pay raise of $6,100 – the first raise in a decade – as well as give additional benefits to teachers and funding for textbooks and classroom materials. Money also went to DHS to support in-home care for elderly or disabled adults. Medicaid providers saw reimbursements increased. The Department of Health was able to reinstate funding for child abuse prevention services. Also, money was appropriated to the Department of Corrections to give their employees and guards a very modest pay raise. And, legislators were able to appropriate enough dollars to the Transportation Department to continue its 8-year plan for roads and bridges.

I’m hearing arguments that the state Legislature raised taxes too high last year. I’ve heard some say there will be a billion-dollar budget surplus next year.

I hate to argue, but it’s too early to tell. The taxes the Legislature raised last year have already been spent to fill the $800 million budget hole and provide funding to areas of the budget that needed it. We may, for the first time in several years, have enough to fund core government services instead of cutting services to the vulnerable among us. Enough to keep our teachers in classrooms, fund healthcare, mental health and elder care, put a dent in the disabled services waiting list, sufficiently staff our state public safety agencies, continue the push to fully repair state roads and structurally deficient bridges, and more.

The good news is our economy is trending positive. According to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES), the past two months’ data shows 2 percent growth above the amount the office estimated for the current fiscal year. This is good news, but we simply do not have enough data to predict a massive surplus at this time.

Let’s assume receipts keep coming in at the same rate as the past two months for the entire year. That would be an overall surplus of 2 percent. The total appropriated state budget was around $6.5 billion last year. A 1 percent change equals around $65 million; 2 percent growth would be a surplus of $130 million – certainly not chump change, but not the excessive billion-dollar amount some are arguing. To reach that amount, receipts would need to come in at more than 15 percent over estimates.

We are moving ahead with the audits of state agencies to find duplication of services and efficiencies. This is good, but the Legislature must make a concerted effort to scrutinize spending across-the-board to stretch our budget and fund what really needs to be funded.

Thankfully, we made a significant dent in our structural budget deficit problem. The policies the Legislature enacted over the past two years have allowed a shift from using one-time, erratic funding sources to more stable recurring sources of revenue. This will help stabilize our budget, but there is still much work to do. We need the economy to hold like it is or get better so we can focus on long-term planning to help us save dollars instead of focusing on filling budget holes. 

Fortunately, we shouldn’t have a budget hole next year, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be flush with cash.  For now, growth is positive based on the two-months of data we have, but much can change and in a short time, in Oklahoma – as we all know.

New Oklahoma Documentary Chronicling Opioid Addiction Epidemic

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Killing Pain, a seven part documentary series chronicling the state’s opioid addiction epidemic launched this week and is available to view, free of charge, on https://www.killingpain.com/.

The in-depth documentary explores the public health crisis in Oklahoma from its origin to steps the state is currently taking to stem the epidemic. The series is presented by Fighting Addiction Through Education (FATE) and produced by Lampstand Media.

The series also features personal stories of addiction, the economic cost of the crisis and the biology of addiction.

Attorney General Mike Hunter appears in multiple episodes to discuss the state’s response and the lawsuit filed by his office last July.

“Killing Pain is a pioneering series that shines light on the tragic story of how our state got in this position and why we are close to ground zero in terms of the addiction epidemic,” Attorney General Hunter said. “I encourage all Oklahomans watch this gripping documentary that covers the many tragic aspects of the crisis and how it impacts all of us. Although the reality of the story is painful, the good news is, Oklahoma is rising to meet this challenge. State officials, business leaders and community organizers are tired of watching our families suffer and are stepping up and doing something about it.

“I appreciate Reggie Whitten and his organization, FATE, for presenting this project and Lampstand for the wonderful care and craftsmanship in which they took in producing it.”

Whitten, who is also a law partner at Whitten – Burrage, founded FATE after the tragic overdose death of his son, Brandon.

“This documentary is part of my ongoing personal mission to show Oklahomans this epidemic is real and it is on our doorstep,” Whitten said. “I also want people to know there is hope and there is help for those who are struggling. No parent should ever have to go through the pain and suffering of losing a child. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Brandon. I want people to know his story and the thousands of other stories that are similar. The more people we can get to understand the realities of the crisis, the more lives of Oklahomans we will save.”

Other prominent Oklahomans interviewed for the series are U.S. Sen. James Lankford, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, Commissioner for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Terri White and Assistant Clinical Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry, Behavioral Sciences at Oklahoma State University-Center for Health Sciences Dr. Jason Beamon and more.

Founded in 2010, Lampstand tells powerful stories through film to move people to action and change the world around them. Lampstand works with a variety of clients from corporations to nonprofits, long form docs to social campaigns. The company’s work has been featured on Netflix, PBS, National Geographic and with client around the world in over 30 countries and on six continents.

FATE is a nonprofit educational outreach program that seeks to shed a light on the dangers of addiction and substance abuse in Oklahoma. FATE also focuses on motivational efforts to encourage individuals who are suffering from addiction to get help.

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