Rep. Morrissette sponsors interim legislative hearing on brain and nutrition health

OKLAHOMA CITY — “The brain is simply another organ in the body,” says Teri White, commissioner of Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

State Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma city, will host an interim legislative study Wednesday (October 14) to examine issues relating to brain development and health, and proper nutrition.

According to “Alive & Thrive” – a research repository based in Washington, D.C., and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — adequate nutrition for pregnant mothers and infants is necessary for normal brain development.

Pregnancy and infancy are important periods for the formation of the brain, laying the foundation for the development of cognitive, motor and socio-emotional skills throughout childhood and adulthood. Children with restricted development of these skills during early life are at risk for later neuropsychological problems, poor school achievement, early school dropout, low-skilled employment, and higher rates of incarceration and poor care of their own children, thus contributing to the intergenerational transmission of poverty.

“653,820 Oklahomans are now food insecure; 17.5 percent of all Oklahoma County residents are going hungry,” said state Rep. Richard Morrissette. “To continue to ignore this connection between our high levels of mental illness and physical malady – and these powerful statistics which indicate that our citizens, including expectant mothers, are chronically undernourished – is nonsensical. And, if you want to give teachers a raise, feed the students’ bodies before their minds and their grades will improve,” the Oklahoma City Democrat continued. “For every one of our state departments and agencies struggling to keep up – and that includes Mental Health, the Corrections Department and the Department of Human Services – this subject should be a part of every budget discussion!”

Morrissette’s interim legislative this week will outline the physical process by which brain pathways diminish and disappear as a result of even brief periods of undernutrition among Oklahoma child populations, as well as a by-the-numbers review of the resulting impact to community resources and to the state’s budget shortfall.

The study will also identify solutions such as free and available nutritious foods, the cost of not tackling food waste logistics, and processes by which Oklahoma schools might become after-hours redistribution points for charities donating fresh foods directly to parents, now that House Bill 1418, the Josephine Meade Anti-Hunger Act, and shared-use legislation, have both been passed into law by the Oklahom Legislature.

Presenters from most of the state’s agencies and key private sector organizations and non-profits will participate in this study. 

The meeting agenda follows:
Interim Study 15-045
Children, Youth and Family Services Committee
Chairman Rep. Sally Kern
HOST: Rep. Richard Morrissette, District 92
Contact: Jacklyn Brink-Rosen, Legislative Assistant
(405) 557-7404 office or (405) 250-6263 cell
Budget Impact: Poor Nutrition and Brain Development
Date & Time: November 7th, 2015 Time: 10 AM-1:30 PM
Place: Room 206, Oklahoma State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City 73105


Opening Remarks – Rep. Richard Morrissette, District 92
Nutrition and Brain Development from Conception
Kim Bilger, MPH, RD, CSP, LD
Dr. Ashley E. Weedn, MD – OU Pediatrics
2nd Highest Rate of Poor Mental Health
Steven L. Buck, Deputy Commissioner — OK Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Community Treatment Needs Traci Cook, M.S. Exec. Director National Alliance on Mental Illness
Dr. Jana Morgan, Chief Mental Health Officer – DOC
Education Outcomes
Leondra Moore, Admin of Counseling Services for Rob Neu, Superintendent — OKC Public Schools
Carrie Williams, Rainbow Fleet
Paige K. Whalen, Tulsa Area Community Schools
Jan Figart, DHA, RN JumpStart Tulsa…a Smart Start Oklahoma community partner
Smart Start OK Community Partnership
Neglect and Food Insecurity
Debi Knecht, Programs Manager
Child Protective Services – OK Dept. of Health and Human Services
Workforce Health
Susan Robinson, Ed. D, CHES OK Health and Wellness
Overall State Ranking: Health and Well Being
Terry Smith, CEO
Institute for Child Advocacy


Nutrition Education: Certified Healthy Schools
Mark S. Newman, Director of State and Federal Policy – OK State Health Dept.
Food Waste, Shared Use: In-School Fresh Food Pantries and Community Gardens
Joey Abbo, NEEDS Foundation

Parking for presenters and the public is on the south side of the State Capitol in the area designated as VISITOR PARKING – enter through the southeast entrance, visit the security checkpoint and then take the elevator in front of you to the 2nd floor.

Exit the elevator, turn right and follow the hall heading west to the end. Turn right at the corner; see glass doors on the left. Meeting room 206 is just inside on the left.