ODMHSAS Chapter Hosts Local Legislator

OPEA’s Lawton chapter of the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is off to a great start, taking the initiative to invite a local legislator to a recent lunch meeting.

Representative Joe Dorman joined employees at Lawton’s Jim Taliaferro Behavioral Health Center, and said he appreciated the opportunity to speak honestly about issues facing state workers. Taliaferro employees pressed Dorman on issues relating to privatization, as well as reductions-in-force, furloughs and voluntary buyouts.

“I was appreciative of the tough questions employees asked, and to put real faces with the problems we’re seeing with the budget cuts,” Dorman said. “It certainly makes you consider all the options we have before us. Some of these we need to address immediately. We have a lot of great state employees in Oklahoma and they shouldn’t be afraid to speak up. OPEA chapters need to work hard to elect the best candidates who will represent public employees.”

The Taliaferro lunchroom was crowded, and chapter officers were on hand to facilitate the meeting. Chapter Vice President Hank Swearingen said “it’s the responsibility of every state employee to educate their community about the services that state workers provide.”

Other chapter members, including Treasurer Marjorie Mayes and member Steve Graham, said they are excited about their new chapter and look forward to engaging legislators in further dialogue.

“The threat of privatization is a very real threat,” said OPEA Membership Representative Brandon Watkins, who helped organize the Lawton event. “Privatization would have damaging and immediate effects to those who work in state government, not to mention the long-lasting detriment it would have on the community.”

OPEA members are encouraged to talk to their co-workers about the advantages of membership, and help them see OPEA is an affordable way to protect their jobs and their benefits.

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