I grew up in the small town of McKinney, Kentucky. I have never had a huge interest in politics, but I have always been a people person. I get this from my dad, he can talk to anyone and make anyone feel special. He taught me empathy, kindness, and to always love others. This has guided me throughout my life. In 2013 I moved to Oklahoma and have since then made it my home away from home. In the last year, I became disappointed in the mental healthcare available in Oklahoma. Rather than just complain I decided to do something about it. I decided to run for state house representative for my district, District 43. I want to be a voice for all and I want to make sure everyone in my district and state feels they have a voice.
We’re all in this together. Nobody is an island. We’re all part of a neighborhood, a town, social circles, our state, our country, … And those groups we are part of overlap. There will always be more that bonds us than separates us. That is why I chose to run as an Independent. I don’t want to get bogged down in partisan politics. Principles and common sense tends to get lost when politics becomes just a matter of what ‘team’ you are on.
Improving Our Mental Healthcare
We all can contribute a little to make mental healthcare better. By removing the stigma mental health issues carry with them and having kindness and compassion for those who suffer. Beyond how we view the problem, more needs to be done in a systemic way. I am very passionate about mental healthcare and ensuring access to it for both children and adults. Mental healthcare is often overlooked because so many people believe they will never be touched by a mental health crisis. Our mental healthcare system is failing both our adults and children. More often than not rather than taking an adult with mental health issues to get treatment at an adequate mental health care facility they will end up in jail. This puts a major strain on our jail system while not addressing the mental health needs of the individual. The red tape to getting children mental health treatment can be even more complicated with parental disagreements and the desire to medicate before assessing the child’s needs. After a personal experience regarding someone close to me I find that so many of Oklahoma’s mental health treatment facilities were often indistinguishable from prisons, this included the part-time treatment facilities for small children. Adequate mental health care must begin early. We need to ensure that we begin to increase the number of medical healthcare beds in our state to ensure we aren’t furthering mental illness by placing individuals into incarceration where they spend much of their time in solitary confinement which can only exacerbate their conditions. We must not use punishment in place of treatment, which is only far more costly in the long-term. Here in Oklahoma, we operate on a point system, this means that only the patients who meet the criteria of being the “most mentally ill” will receive treatment at facilities. Patients who rank in the 1st or 2nd category will receive treatment, however, for those who are 3 or 4 only get treated if there is money and beds available. Can you imagine someone telling you that your ache or pain isn’t achy or painful enough for you to be treated? Maybe your cancer hasn’t spread far enough for you to be treated…that is not how medical care works, so why does our mental health care have to be under this standard? Imagine the countless Oklahomans who are homeless, incarcerated, or have died by their own hand because we did not have adequate care for them. Many Oklahomans struggling with mental illness do end up in prison, receiving inadequate treatment, and constantly cycling through the prison system. An inmate staying in the prison system with mental illness can cost anywhere between $19-30,000 per inmate per year according to DOC estimates provided on their website. According to OKpolicy.org, it costs $5,400 for mental health court, and mental health court has shown less recidivism than those who are incarcerated. With a massive difference in cost, it would be beneficial to invest in our mental health system, not only to decrease the strain on the prison system but to reduce the costs. Compassion should be our guiding principle when considering changes to the current mental healthcare options. Furthermore, the COVID-19 crisis is bound to increase the demands on our mental healthcare system. Even after we defeat the virus there will be a lasting impact on the mental well-being of many our fellow citizens; children, and adults alike. It is vital that we prepare for this to avoid even bigger problems down the road if we don't act now.
Make Voting Easier
Ever wondered why Election Day falls on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November? It’s because back in 1845 when that was established it was the most convenient time for rural farmers to travel to the city after completing their fall harvests. Makes sense doesn’t it? Times have changed though and Election Day is now smack in the middle of our workweek. Making voting more convenient for our modern-day society is common sense too. This can be done by making Election Day a paid holiday. This would not only give voters more flexibility when casting our votes but also reduce lines at polling places. Oklahoma already has great no-excuse absentee voting in place. I believe that as an added benefit the combination of making Election Day a paid holiday and our State’s absentee voting laws voter turn-out will increase. If more people participate in our democratic process it strengthens our democracy. Something else that is common sense and also increases voter participation: Automatic Voter Registration. If you go to get a driver’s license, apply for car tags, get a state id, renewal of licenses, doing any of these things will automatically register you to vote. Unless you choose to opt-out. An added benefit is that it creates more accurate voter rolls which lower the risk of voter fraud and reduces confusion on election days. It’s common sense to make voter registration and voting as simple and easy as possible. I will work hard to not let legislation that aims to achieve these goals die in some committee and make it a reality for any future elections in Oklahoma.
The technology that powers the internet does not play favorites. Whether you are shopping online, watching a movie, video chatting, online banking, … the hardware and software that powers the internet treat all that data the same. It is one of the reasons why the internet has not only become so popular but also so successful. Keeping the internet neutral matters so that no groups can start picking favorites or downright blocking access to certain information. Many Oklahomans have only one or two options when it comes to picking an Internet Service Provider (ISP). What is commonly known as the last mile or the local loop, the connection between the Internet Service Provider (ISP) and our homes, makes your ISP essentially a gatekeeper to how you access the internet. This duopoly (and in some areas a monopoly) risks creating a situation where your ISP could pick favorites, by reducing the speed at which we access certain websites. For example, your ISP could reduce the speed at which you access Netflix in favor of another streaming service. This is why net neutrality matters. So how can we achieve it at a state level? The local loop could be unbundled. This would require large ISPs to sell access to this last part of their infrastructure. This would allow smaller providers to emerge providing lower prices, better quality, and create more room for innovation. And if you have several choices when choosing an ISP the risk of one limiting access in any way is greatly reduced. Common sense dictates that competition tends to be the great equalizer when it comes to how consumers are treated. Therefore I want to introduce legislation that unbundles the local loop here in Oklahoma. It’s a practical solution that guarantees net neutrality for all Oklahomans while at the same time improving infrastructure investments and innovation. This will benefit us all and also make our state more competitive when trying to attract tech companies.
Right to Repair
You cannot always repair what you own yourself or choose who repairs it for you. Doesn’t seem right, does it? However, that is all too often the reality in the consumer electronics market. But the problem reaches beyond consumer electronics. It also for example hampers our farmers when it comes to tractor repair. Manufacturers should not be allowed to limit repairs. As consumers, we deserve a choice in our repair options. That’s just common sense. As an added benefit increased repair options benefit the environment and our wallets since fewer devices are simply replaced. When elected I plan to introduce legislation that will give Oklahomans the right to repair.
Our public education system deserves to be properly funded. Without the proper funding, none of the issues that have been plaguing our public schools for years will get solved. Proper funding allows us to pay and support our teachers as professionals. What does that mean? Teachers should be paid what similarly educated professionals make. This is fairly straight forward and increases the retention rate. It also makes the profession more attractive to younger people. Better support for our teachers requires a multipronged approach. For starters, our teachers should also have the supplies, technology, and support staff to perform their job well. However we need also smaller class sizes, so we need to hire more teachers. We also need to start supporting our students better. We need to hire more counselors. Every kid below grade level should have a tutor. Free breakfast and lunch for all children regardless of income. This kind of comprehensive support within the school for students allows them to better focus and participate more in the classroom. This in turn helps our teachers perform better at what they signed up for: teaching our children. Too often lip service is being paid to some of these goals but nothing more. This needs to change. A change to education will not happen overnight, but the steps to correct the neglect of education for over a decade need to start sooner rather than later.