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Director’s Column: Budget Crisis Prompts Partnership with Agencies Serving Priority Populations

Earlier this month, the TSET Board of Directors voted to provide funds for senior nutrition services at the Department of Human Services (DHS) and mobile mental health crisis teams for children through the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS).

The Board of Directors approved a total of $3.08 million in one-time funds to maintain programs for the current fiscal year that impact senior citizens and children in need of mental health services.

TSET’s $1.81 million grant to DHS will help maintain services to 189 senior nutrition meal sites in 77 counties across Oklahoma. In addition, a one-time infusion of $1.27 million to ODMHSAS will support mobile crisis response teams that provide behavioral health services to children in crisis across the state.

The Board of Director’s approval of the partnership will reduce catastrophic cuts to vital services. The funding cut would have resulted in the closures of several senior meal sites and fewer children will be admitted to crisis centers, hospitalized or experience disrupted foster care placements.

The Legislature struggled to fund essential core services during the first special session that wrapped up on November 17. With a potential second special session approaching, the funding of these partnerships with health-related state agencies prevents more costly interventions down the road, saving our state money in the long run.

This funding fits within our mission as well as our constitutional framework to support programs that improve the quality of life for children and seniors.

TSET receives a portion of the state’s annual payment from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco industry. TSET’s portion of the payment is invested in an endowment and only the earnings are used to fund grants and programs to improve health.

Earnings from the TSET endowment also provide the state share for programs that recruit, train and retain doctors in rural and underserved areas, support cancer research for adults and children at the Stephenson Cancer Center, fund the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) that provides tools and support needed to quit tobacco and fund community-based grants across the state.

As always, I invite you to learn more about the work we do here at TSET by visiting