JULY 2016
Churches and society are confronted by many issues such as poverty, the environment, immigration, education, health, and criminal justice. By working together, individuals, churches, and communities can share information, organize efforts, and share resources. The OCC Social Justice Ministry Network gives us a vitally important tool enabling us to do this.

How does it work? Each representative is kept informed by OCC of important issues, including the work of the OCC 
Committee as it tracks Oklahoma legislation. Where appropriate, we will produce relevant statements and recommend responsible action. Network representatives will then determine how best to disseminate this information to members of their own congregation and other interested persons. To join the Social Justice Ministry Network, send an e-mail to SJMN@okchurches.org.
Click on the embedded links in the paragraphs below for more in-depth information on each topic.

I was sick and you took care of me--Matthew 25:36b

She is 51, a single mother of two grown children, each with children of their own and limited incomes. A great employee and a person willing to help anybody, she has the misfortune of earning an income that places her in the Medicaid gap. She cannot afford the premium required for regular participation in the Affordable Care Act and thus is uninsured. She suffered a catastrophic illness which qualified her for the indigent care that all hospitals must provide in life and death situations; her life was saved via emergency surgery. Indigent care hospital expenses must be absorbed by the hospital's budget, and increase everyone's total cost. There is no funding available for required follow-up care, because it is not considered immediately life endangering. Her church and friends have pieced together the bare minimum interim care she needs while trying to figure out a way to get the other assistance she must have to return to a healthy life.

As we deal with both Poverty and Health this month, which are two of the social justice focus areas of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, we call you to prayer regarding how people of faith can work toward the Common Good for all citizens in these two related areas. Poverty begets poor health, and lack of affordable, accessible healthcare begets poverty. We are called to act where God leads us, and sometimes the cause is the call.

Marilynn Knott, Volunteer Coordinator
Social Justice Ministry Network


So, what is poverty anyway? The U.S. Government first defined poverty in 1963. A person or family was considered to be living in poverty if they had to spend one-third or more of their income on food and sustenance. The official poverty line has changed little since then, and today is primarily used in determining eligibility for government benefits.  Click for a more in-depth look at   the history of poverty thresholds.
Here is poverty "by the numbers" in Oklahoma:

* 16.9% of the population lives below poverty level (2015)

* 24% of children live in poverty

* $46,235 Median Income (2010-2014 average)

* $56,950 is the "living wage" for a family with two adults, both working at living wage, with two children.

Living Wage and Poverty Wage

For another insight into Oklahoma poverty, click this link to read " Why I Was Wrong About Welfare Reform," by Nicholas Kristof from The New York Times. He interviews a grandmother from Tulsa who is attempting to raise her toddler granddaughter without any income.

But there are more dimensions to poverty than just income. From lack of education and nutrition, to lack of adequate healthcare, to failing community structures, it is a cycle with no easy way out. Ensuring standards of living, investing in education, and making healthcare affordable are all steps in the right direction. Progress will only be made, though, through a partnership of governments and faith communities working together for social justice. 
It is regrettable that, earlier this May, our legislature voted to cut the state share of the Earned Income Tax Credit. 

While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies
 in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary.
--Chinua Achebe


In a 2013 report, Oklahoma ranks 44th among U.S. states in the health status of its population ( newsok.com).

This statistic is the result of a complex interplay of issues. To improve the health of Oklahomans, coordination and collaboration is required among all levels of government, communities of faith, not-for-profit service agencies, and the not-for-profit and for-profit health industry. 

As already noted, poverty begets poor health and poor health begets poverty. Poor eating habits lead to obesity and obesity leads to many serious illnesses. Coronary heart disease is the #1 cause of death in the state; stroke is the #3 cause. Oklahoma ranks 6th among adults and 4th among teenagers in use of tobacco. Lung disease and lung cancer are two leading causes of death in Oklahoma.

* In 2014, 17.7% of Oklahoma adults and 10% of children had no health insurance, according to the U.S. Census.

* Only seven counties in Oklahoma have the recommended number of primary care physicians. Six counties have less than .5 per 10,000 patients, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

* Only 25.15% of the need for Mental Health Care Professionals was met in Oklahoma in 2013, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

* Oklahoma is expected to have a shortage of more than 3,000 nurses, 600 lab technicians, 400 physical therapists, 300 surgical technologists and 200 occupational therapists in the near future, according to the Oklahoma Health Care Workforce Center.

* In the past 12 months three rural hospitals in Oklahoma have closed. More are expected with the ensuing budget cuts.

OCC's IMPACT Committee and the Social Justice Ministry Network have previously dealt with the Health as a subcategory under Poverty. However, Health became a separate focus area this past year. The availability of and access to adequate physical and mental healthcare and rehabilitative services is necessary for Oklahomans to thrive. During 2017 we will continue to monitor relevant legislation related to health and, where applicable, suggest appropriate action.

301 N.W. 36th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73118
www.okchurches.org    |  405-525-2928 
The Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee, Executive Director