OCPA president: Give Oklahoma voters a say on TSET funds
By Jonathan Small

It costs just $51.45 per person per day for the state of Oklahoma to fully fund all state share costs of a nursing home bed.

The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust spent $653,150 in fiscal years 2015 and 2016 on a project called Free The Night, which offers “promotional opportunities to smokefree bars and clubs.” That same $653,150 could have been used to fund 12,694 days for nursing home beds for Oklahoma’s most vulnerable.

Think about that number for just a moment. That’s 12,694 days for vulnerable Oklahoma grandmothers and grandfathers.

Shouldn’t TSET’s money and energy be refocused on things like critical health care, critical health and human services, or critical mental health and substance abuse services? Absolutely. In fact, some of TSET’s mandates include “Programs … designed to maintain or improve the health of Oklahomans” and “Programs designed to enhance the health and well-being of senior adults.”

TSET needs to be refocused on paying for core services to the most vulnerable Oklahomans, especially during tough economic times, rather than questionable grant programs and harassing Oklahomans about their personal lifestyle decisions aside from smoking. With more than $1 billion in the bank, investment earnings of about $40 million per year, and additional income of $50 million per year from the sale of cigarettes, it’s obvious TSET offers state leaders an opportunity to shore up core services.

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