Health agency 'bloat' included effort to remake public health
Seven years ago, with Oklahoma stuck near the bottom in key public health rankings, the Oklahoma State Department of Health and Gov. Mary Fallin set out to reshape the strategy for markedly improving health outcomes for Oklahomans.
The approach would involve new health department initiatives, partnerships, educational efforts and other programs.
There was just one problem: The money to pay for them could run out. And ultimately, that's what started to happen.
Whether health department leaders and Fallin foresaw those financial risks early on is unclear. But department officials, including the current interim health commissioner and other agency leaders who raised alarms, said this attempt to try new approaches to improving Oklahomans' health was a factor in the department's tumble into a cash crisis in late 2017.
"These were initiatives that there was interest in from the governor's office as well as almost from a national level of how to approach public health," Interim Health Commissioner Preston Doerflinger told Oklahoma Watch.
The work and funding put strain on the health department in carrying out the programs, he said.