Art therapy can help future Oklahoma workers

Sen. Bill Coleman

Sen. Bill Coleman

We’re wrapping up work on interim studies with just a handful left. Again, the agendas for all the meetings can be found at https://oksenate.gov/committee-meetings.

Our committee also learned how art therapy can help students. Presenters shared how our public schools work to help students deal with generational trauma and how art therapy has proven successful in helping improve the mental health of youth. It’s proven to reduce school suspensions and expulsions, keeping kids in the classroom instead of dropping out.

Some may have thought it odd I heard this study which mostly focused on a school-related issue, but we have to remember our students are our future workforce. If their mental health needs aren’t addressed at a young age, they’re more likely to struggle finding and keeping a job as an adult. Statistically, most of those with unresolved mental health issues into adulthood turn to drugs, alcohol, and criminal behavior. A majority of our prison inmates have mental health problems. Sadly, the mental health of our student population is the worst it’s ever been, and we have to find solutions to help them now, so they can become independent, productive adults.

Art therapy is a regulated mental health profession in 15 states, along with the District of Columbia. Presenters proposed doing the same in Oklahoma through state licensure, which would attract such professionals to the state and not only create a new revenue stream but also lower state spending on mental health, social services, and the justice system.

The Oklahoma Organized Retail Crime Task Force also recently held its first meeting. The committee was created this past session to bring together business leaders and law enforcement to see what action we may need to take to prevent the mass robberies and increased organized crime seen in other states, like California. We must do all we can to protect and support our business community, and let the nation know that such crimes will not be tolerated in our state. Committee members include leadership or representatives from Home Depot, Quik Trip, OnCue, Lowe’s, the Attorney General’s Office, a local district attorney, Indian Nation Wholesale, the Oklahoma Grocers Association, the Oklahoma City and Tulsa Police Departments, and the Wagoner County Sheriff’s Office. I’m looking forward to seeing the future work of this task force.

On Oct. 31, our Select Committee on Business Retention and Economic Development was scheduled to meet to discuss the planned closure of the Michelin Tire Manufacturing facility in Ardmore that was announced Oct. 26. This is disheartening news for southeastern Oklahoma and the state as a whole.

In closing, having access to high-speed internet is one of the top things companies look at when deciding to relocate to a state, which is why we have put so much work into expanding services statewide. The Oklahoma Broadband Office is currently accepting public comment on how the state’s nearly $800-million grant through the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program should be utilized. You can email your ideas and suggestions to BEAD@broadband.ok.gov.

If I can be of any assistance, please contact me by calling 405-521-5581 or emailing Bill.Coleman@oksenate.gov.

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