On the last day of the legislative session, the Oklahoma state legislature approved state funding for the Oklahoma Area Health Education Centers (OKAHEC) to help it maintain its operations for at least one more year. Last year, OKAHEC lost all of its state appropriated funding from the legislature, which threatened to close OKAHEC offices. The loss of state-appropriated funding last year also endangered OKAHEC's ability to accept federal grant funding for its program because it would not be able to satisfy the requirement to provide state matching funds. The Oklahoma State University - Center for Health Sciences (OSU-CHS) was able to provide interim funding for OKAHEC out of its own budget last year to help OKAHEC continue services for one year and satisfy its state match. This year's arrangement with the Oklahoma State Legislature and OSU-CHS will ensure that OKAHEC has one more year to secure more permanent funding from the state.
Richard Perry, Director of the OKAHEC Program, thanked legislators and the Rural Caucus, in particular, for coming up with a novel solution for ensuring that OKAHEC could remain open. Mr. Perry also expressed his gratitude to supporters who contacted state legislators and the Governor and praised the leadership of OSU-CHS who worked with the legislature to make funding possible. After learning that OKAHEC would be able to continue without closing any regional centers, Mr. Perry stated "We look forward to working closely with OSU-CHS and the OSU Center for Rural Health to encourage and assist the youth of Oklahoma, especially rural, minority, and disadvantaged students, to choose a health career, stay in school, and return 'home' as health professionals to serve Oklahomans."
For more information on how the state legislature and OSU-CHS saved OKAHEC in the waning hours of its regular session, please see the article, Two State Health Education Centers Will Remain Open, which appeared in the Enid News and Eagle on May 26, 2011. For more information on OKAHEC and its programming, please visit the OKAHEC website.