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State's attorneys and Terri White, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner led by Attorney General Mike Hunter, center, take to the media after Judge Thad Balkman delivered his decision in the opioid trial at the Cle
Chris Landsberger / Pool

An Oklahoma judge has ruled that drugmaker Johnson & Johnson helped ignite the state’s opioid crisis by deceptively marketing painkillers, and must pay $572 million to the state.

Oklahoma sought $17.5 billion, blaming Johnson & Johnson for fueling the crisis that has claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people in the state.

The question of whether to expand Medicaid and extend health insurance to thousands of Oklahomans promises to be a major topic over the next year.

The Healthcare Working Group, a bipartisan legislative committee charged with deciding whether to endorse Medicaid expansion or other policy moves, kicked off its work last week and is expected to unveil recommendations before next year’s session. Meanwhile, a signature-collecting drive is underway to put a state question on a 2020 ballot to accept expansion.

Medical Boards Lack Process For Opioid Complaints

Aug 9, 2019
Narcan, also known as Naloxone is an opiate overdose antidote.
Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

The ongoing court case against opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson highlighted the role that doctors, and the medical boards who regulate them, have played in the continuing public health crisis.

Judge Thad Balkman presides over the proceedings as Terri White, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner, speaks as a State’s witness with attorney Reggie Whitten during the opioid trial at the Cleveland County Court
Chris Landsberger / The Oklahoman

A global megacorporation best known for Band-Aids and baby powder may have to pay billions for its alleged role in the opioid crisis. Johnson & Johnson was the sole defendant in a closely-watched trial that wrapped up in Oklahoma state court this week, with a decision expected later this summer. The ruling in the civil case could be the first that would hold a pharmaceutical company responsible for one of the worst drug epidemics in American history.

Ryan LaCroix / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

The federal government is seeking its slice of Oklahoma’s recent $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharmaceuticals, and the bill could be millions of dollars.

Oklahoma Air Quality Dips After Years Of Steady Gains

Jul 1, 2019
Vehicles threaten Oklahoma's air quality with a range of pollutants, including carbon monoxide, ground-level ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and dust and other particulates.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma’s air may be getting worse.

The newest data from the Environmental Protection Agency shows air quality throughout much of the state was down during each of the past two years. That bucked a trend in which Oklahoma, like most of the country, had seen significant strides in making the air healthier during much of the past decade.

Oklahoma Supreme Court chambers
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday a campaign to expand government health insurance for low-income residents can move forward. KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley discuss the court's decision, which came just hours after hearing oral arguments.   

Judge Thad Balkman speaks during discussions of the settlement between the state of Oklahoma and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. during Oklahoma’s trial against drugmakers blamed for contributing to the opioid crisis, Monday, June 10, 2019.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

The first case in a flood of civil litigation against opioid drug manufacturers is in its third week in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter’s suit alleges Johnson & Johnson, the nation’s largest drugmaker, helped ignite a public health crisis that has killed thousands of state residents.

The Cleveland County courthouse in Norman, Oklahoma, where the state’s opioid trial will take place.
Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

A case that could signal the outcome of a flood of litigation against opioid drug manufacturers begins May 28th in Oklahoma.  

The bench trial is poised to be the first of its kind to play out in court. 

Supporters of Medicaid expansion gather at the state Capitol on April 24, 2019.
Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

A couple of hundred people rallied in support of Medicaid expansion at the state capitol on April 24. The rally was organized by a coalition of groups called Together Oklahoma, with the goal of pressuring state lawmakers to pass a bill expanding Medicaid in some form this legislative session. Supporters were bused in from Tulsa, Norman, Ardmore, McAlester, and Lawton.

An optometry office in Duncan, Okla.
Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

A bill allowing optometrists to practice in big-box stores like Walmart is quietly making its way through the state legislature. It may look familiar to Oklahoma voters, who defeated a similar state question last fall.

Anti-Abortion Strategy Splits Oklahoma Lawmakers

Apr 18, 2019
Anti-abortion advocates listen to speakers decry a proposed abortion trigger bill at the Oklahoma State Capitol Feb. 25, 2019. Instead, they rallied to outlaw abortion immediately, rather than waiting on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

Energized by new conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court, abortion opponents believe that the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the U.S. could be overturned. If that happens, the regulation of abortion returns to the states. Some state legislatures led by liberal Democrats, such as New York, have decided to protect the right to an abortion.

CDC director Robert Redfield touring the Infectious Diseases Institute at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City. The institute is one of two federally funded HIV clinics in Oklahoma; the other is in Tulsa, the state’s second-l
Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma may soon see more money to help fight the AIDS epidemic. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently visited health care facilities that offer treatment in Oklahoma, one of seven states where the rural transmission of HIV is exceptionally high.

The Red Bud dispensary in Marlow, Oklahoma.
Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Red Bud Dispensary in Marlow, Okla. looks like an Apple store, with white walls and track lighting. The dispensary is packed with people, but they aren’t here to buy medical marijuana. The dispensary hasn’t technically opened yet, so it doesn’t even have THC products – the mainly middle-aged crowd is standing around empty glass cases. They are here for something else – a doctor’s recommendation.

With a huge freshman class and a promise for less gridlock, Oklahoma lawmakers filed more than 2,800 bills this legislative session. With a third of the session now over, the StateImpact team has an update on some bills we’re following.

Lena Chatmon, 21, prepares a meal for her fiance and sister, who live with her in a house in north Tulsa. Chatmon said potential employers were turned off by her criminal record.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Like many other Oklahomans who have a criminal conviction, Lena Chatmon has struggled to rebuild her life since pleading guilty to motor vehicle-related and larceny charges in 2017.

Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

Kjelsea McDonald just finished her shift as a nuclear medicine technologist at the Seiling Regional Medical Center. She’s still wearing her teal scrubs at the Crooked Arrow Cafe during the dinner rush. She worked as a waitress here for years, including when she was a junior in high school — and pregnant.

A Preview Of The Big Issues StateImpact Is Watching In 2019

Jan 4, 2019
Teachers rally at the state capitol during the teacher walkout.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Twenty-nineteen means a new governor for Oklahoma and a fresh class of state legislators — nearly 40 percent of whom have zero political experience. It’s a new year, but the state government’s slate hasn’t been wiped clean.

Here’s a roundup of some of the biggest policy issues on deck for the upcoming year and legislative session.

Taylor Lott, of the Latino Community Development Agency in Oklahoma City, worked as a navigator assisting people with enrollment in the federal health-insurance marketplace. She says many people still need help because of confusion over the process.
Mashuir Rahaman / Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma bucked expectations as enrollment on the federal health-care marketplace climbed to a record level for the upcoming year.

Dan Straughan, executive director of the Homeless Alliance stands in their day shelter in Oklahoma City during lunch. If the Medicaid work requirements are approved, it will mean more administrative costs for non-profits like his, which connects homeless
Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

This year the Trump Administration said it would support states imposing “community engagement” requirements on Medicaid. That means, for the first time in the program’s history, states can require people to work a certain number of hours to be eligible for the government health program for low-income Americans.

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