Oklahoma City (Nov. 14, 2017) – The TSET Board of Directors voted Tuesday 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 that impact senior citizens and children in need of mental health services. These one-time infusions will assist state agencies in the current fiscal year.
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.
“Our Legislature has struggled to fund essential core services during special session, and by our board voting to fund additional partnerships with health-related state agencies, we are reducing catastrophic cuts to vital services and avoiding more costly interventions down the road,” said Bruce Benjamin, vice chair of the TSET Board of Directors. “This support fits within TSET’s mission and constitutional framework.”
Due to a loss of $69 million dollars from their operating budget, DHS planned to reduce funding for several programs, including state funds used to provide meals and other services for seniors.
“This funding cut would have resulted in the closures of several meal sites and up to one-third of seniors could have lost their services,” said Sheree Powell, DHS spokeswoman. “The Department of Human Services is very grateful to TSET for voting to help fund such a vital program which provided more than 1.3 million meals at senior centers and an additional 1.3 million home-delivered meals to Oklahomans over the age of 60 in fiscal year 2017.”
The mental health services program served 2,711 children and youth from July 1, 2016 to June 30, responding to calls related to mental health crisis, substance abuse crisis, family crisis and foster care stabilization. This program works to provide services to children and youth in an effort to avoid in-patient hospitalizations, disrupting foster care placements or additional traumas that could impact a child and cause further mental health, social and emotional issues.
“This program helps reduce stress and trauma on children across the state,” said Jeff Dismukes, a spokesman for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “Because these services remain in place, fewer children will be admitted to crisis centers or be hospitalized.”
Members of the TSET Board of Directors are appointed to represent the state’s congressional districts and are appointed by the Governor, State Treasurer, Attorney General, State Auditor and Inspector, Superintendent of Education, Senate President Pro Tempore and the Speaker of the House.
TSET was created by a constitutional amendment in 2000 to improve the health of Oklahomans by preventing and reducing tobacco use, cancer and other tobacco-related diseases. The constitutional language also prioritizes programs that enhance the health and well-being of senior adults and improve the quality of life for children.
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.
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The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) serves as a partner and bridge builder for organizations working towards shaping a healthier future for all Oklahomans. TSET provides leadership at the intersections of health by working across the state, by cultivating innovative and life-changing research, and by working across public and private sectors to develop, support, implement and evaluate creative strategies to take advantage of emerging opportunities to improve the public's health. TSET. Better Lives Through Better Health.