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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers

September 10, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Oklahoman. Sept. 8, 2019.

— Suicide: Casting a light on a tough subject

It’s National Suicide Prevention Week, whose focus is a difficult subject but also one that merits every bit of attention it receives. This is particularly true in Oklahoma, unfortunately.

Nationwide, roughly 45,000 people die by suicide each year. A report in 2018 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that suicide rates in the United States had risen nearly 30% since 1999, with increases seen in men and women, in urban and rural areas, and in all ethnic groups. The CDC report showed Oklahoma’s suicide rate since 1999 had risen by 38%. .

According to America’s Health Rankings from United Health Foundation, Oklahoma saw 21.4 suicides per 100,000 people in 2018. The national rate was 13.9 per 100,000, and Oklahoma’s figure also was up slightly from 20.7 per 100,000 the year before. That’s a problem.

So too is the fact Oklahoma’s suicide rates in 2018 far outpaced the national average in most age categories. Among 15- to 24-year-olds, Oklahoma’s rate was 22.5 per 100,000, compared with 13.1 nationally. For those 25-34, our rate was 28.2, nationally it was 16.5. For those 35-44, ours was 29.4, the nation’s was 17.3. And so on.

What will it take to drive these statistics in a more positive direction? There’s no easy solution, although some recommendations stand out.

One is for state policymakers to recognize the importance of adequately funding the state’s mental health agency. It’s estimated that 700,000 to 900,000 residents need treatment for mental illness or addictions, but only about one in three who need help is able to get it. Additional treatment resources are a must.

So too is a willingness to seek help in the first place. Too often, people who struggle with depression or mental illness are reluctant to tell anyone for fear of being stigmatized. Indeed, as we have written many times, the stigma of mental illness gets in the way of suicide getting much attention, even as the number of suicides continues to climb.

A willingness to talk openly about suicide is critical. But so is a willingness to listen, and help. According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, warning signs that someone may need help include extreme mood swings, talking about wanting to die or kill themselves, talking about feeling hopeless, talking about being a burden to others, sleeping too little or too much, and increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.

For those in crisis, help is available through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255), or a statewide hotline, 800-522-9054.

In the Oklahoma City area, help can be found via OKC Heartline 405-848-2273. In addition, people may text TALK to 741741 for help from the National Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s crisis text line.

If you need help, or believe someone you know may need help, grab the phone.

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Enid News & Eagle. Sept. 9, 2019.

— Good things on horizon

Enid recently received a welcome bit of economic news when Koch Fertilizer announced it was planning another big construction project at its local plant.

The project would increase urea production at the facility east of Enid.

The company is in the early stages of the project, having just submitted a construction air permit application to increase ammonia upgrade capabilities due to changes in the distribution system and to better serve the growing demand for upgraded nitrogen products.

The project currently is in the engineering phase.

The plan is for construction to begin at the end of 2020, with startup in 2022. Once finished, the Enid plant will increase urea production to 1.8 million tons annually.

This is the second big expansion for Koch locally in just a matter of years.

In late 2017, Koch Fertilizer completed a $1.3 billion expansion project at the Enid plant.

The project included a tertiary water treatment facility utilizing wastewater from the city of Enid; a 900,000 ton-per-year urea plant; high-speed truck and rail loading facilities; an additional 90,000 tons of urea storage capacity; an electric power substation to supply new power and improve the reliability of existing power to the facility; and efficiency improvements and capacity increases to the existing ammonia plant.

The plant employs about 270 people.

Another highly visible project hasn’t seen a lot of work lately, and that’s had some people wondering. But, there’s nothing to worry about.

Construction at The District, an upcoming dining and entertainment development at the corner of Cleveland and Garriott, has come to a halt after a lot of work happened in a short amount of time.

According to developer Anchored Capital 3 Investments LLC, the halt is just because the developer is awaiting approval from the city of Enid and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality for its proposed sewer and water plans, said Alex Williams of Anchored Capital.

September could be a slow month in terms of work, because ODEQ has up to 30 days to review submitted plans before it either approves or denies them.

As we said, though, there’s no need to worry.

We’re happy with the progress and know once all the procedural issues are settled, work will restart.

Some good things are happening or are on the horizon for Enid — in terms of our economy — with Koch’s expansion and The District.

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Tulsa World. Sept. 10, 2019.

— Improve Our Tulsa renewal would add to Greenwood Cultural Center’s renovation

To tell the story of Tulsa’s Greenwood District, investments must be made in its cultural center and surrounding landmarks.

This year, the 1921 Race Massacre Centennial Commission set a $25 million fundraising goal to create a world-class, interactive experience. This includes fixing existing problems and adding educational attractions.

Plans are underway to include various voices in projects to mark the 100th year of the tragic event. More is needed to ensure facilities are ready for the commemoration.

Renovations to the Greenwood Cultural Center are among the projects in the $639 million Improve Our Tulsa tax renewal package, which goes before voters on Nov. 12.

About 67% of the proposal would be used for transportation, mostly streets and bridges. The remaining amount would be used for quality-of-life improvements and a small emergency reserve fund for the city.

No tax rates would increase if the package is approved.

If approved by voters, the Greenwood Cultural Center would receive $5.34 million for repairs and updates.

Led by former Rep. Don Ross, the cultural center was dedicated in October 1995 after a private fundraising campaign. It has expanded since then through public and private funding.

The center serves as a hub for the preservation of black heritage and promotion of education and culture. It has partnerships with other Greenwood District organizations and member of the Arts Alliance.

It offers a young entrepreneurs program, a leadership program for girls and a Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools program.

Often, the center is host to events aspiring to connect Tulsans through conversations around race.

The cultural center plays a crucial role in the city’s ongoing efforts in reconciliation and progress in bridging our differences.

The center exists as a nonprofit to continue its mission, but the city has an ongoing responsibility there.

The Greenwood Cultural Center has an obvious place in the Improve Our Tulsa renewal package, and we support it.

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