Column: From the Desk of Sen. Jessica Garvin
This year, the governor formed the Helping Every Life and Parent (HELP) Task Force to study, evaluate, and make recommendations for state policies, programs, and legislation to better support mothers in unplanned pregnancies. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, it’s imperative that states provide additional resources for these families whether they choose to be parents or pursue adoption. One of the top reasons women choose to end their pregnancies is lack of proper finances to raise a child, so states need to come up with better programs to help women get their GEDs, pursue a higher education or get higher paying jobs so they can support their families. If a woman simply isn’t ready to be a mother, there must be more resources on how to navigate the adoption system, whether through the state, public or private organizations. So many areas need to be addressed to properly help women and families facing unplanned pregnancies.
The HELP Task Force proposed two policy changes. They want the state’s income threshold for full-scope pregnancy-related benefits to increase from 138% to 205% of the federal poverty level (FPL). Also, they want the state to take advantage of a new program through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that allows states to provide new mothers with up to one year of continuous postpartum coverage. Currently, Oklahoma’s SoonerCare only provides these benefits for 60 days for women at 138% FPL. By extending the postpartum coverage, Oklahoma can receive the enhanced 90% federal financial participation rate for mothers who would qualify for the Medicaid expansion. I’m anxious to see what other recommendations they make.
This year, I’m honored to have been chosen to be in Leadership Oklahoma’s Class 35. This ten-month program was created to bring together state leaders from the business community, nonprofits, government, and other fields to help them better understand the current issues facing our state and how they can work together to address them and make our state better. Instead of simply watching videos about the state’s needs and issues, participants travel to various communities to get a first-hand look and hands-on experience with military issues, sovereignty, tourism, criminal justice, state government, education, economic development, agriculture, and energy.
We just completed our first program weekend at Ft. Sill in Lawton to learn more about the U.S. Army. Our class received the new recruit experience, from being awoken at 4:30 a.m. by a drill sergeant and participating in the physical fitness testing, to eating an “MRE” (Meals Ready-to-Eat) and repelling down a 40-foot wall in their obstacle course. I was sore Sunday and had a new appreciation for our service members. There is so much to share about this experience, but one of my top takeaways is how much of an investment the military is making into the mental health of our nation’s soldiers.
Fort Sill’s Two Star Commanding General Major General Ken Kamper spoke to our class about the shift from focusing on the mission to focusing on the people and the relationships of those serving. He expressed how important it is to focus on people first, so that we’re providing a better life for service members and their families. I believe the emphasis on these relationships will partner well with the mental health facility the state legislature approved during session. The facility will provide mental health access to Oklahoma first responders and military service members to better address their trauma and reduce the number of suicides and individuals with substance abuse addictions.
Please contact me at Senator Jessica Garvin, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 237, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, Jessica.Garvin@oksenate.gov or (405) 521-5522.
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