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Woodward News: Attorney General speaks at chamber luncheon

Woodward News: Attorney General speaks at chamber luncheon

By Rachael Van Horn Staff Writer Aug 15, 2017 

Attorney General Mike Hunter was the speaker at the Woodward Chamber of Commerce luncheon Monday. (Photo by Johnny McMahan)

The opioid crisis, among other subjects, such as Dodd-Frank were among topics discussed at the Woodward Chamber of Commerce luncheon Monday.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter offered a presentation about the current status of the Oklahoma Attorney General's office since his appointment by Gov. Mary Fallin. Hunter replaced Scott Pruitt, who is now serving as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Before Hunter spoke, Assistant Curator of the Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum Robin Hohweiler discussed the current status and plans for the museum in the coming year.

According to Hohweiler, unlike many museums in the state, Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum does not charge visitors. And the museum is still in a growth mode as well as considering new programing to extend its educational reach. He said were it not for the generous donations to the Woodward museum from many, the museum would not be in its current state of growth.

"We were recently awarded a grant that will allow us to move forward on digitizing and moving on line some 40,000 negatives, slides and prints from the old McDonald Studio downtown," Hohweiler said.

Images included people, locations and events that shaped much of Northwest Oklahoma, he noted.

Several new artists are scheduled to exhibit in the coming year - a different artist every month - and the museum is extending its outreach through the annual photography contest slated for October.

"If you've not been to the museum lately, we ask that you stop in again," Hohweiler said. "We are changing a lot of the exhibits and moving pieces of the collection out into the public view that have not been seen in a long time."

Hunter began his comments by discussing his own roots in Northwest Oklahoma as a child growing up on a farm and attended Pioneer High School.

"Played three sports there. It's no big deal, we only had 30 people in each class so if you had a pulse, you were on the team," he said.

In Hunter's role at CEO of the American Bankers Association, he helped represent the community banks, who were the bulwarks for area communities during the 2008 recession.

His office still hopes to continue work toward pressing for changes to Dodd-Frank, which, after the recession, set up a system of strict regulations meant for the large banks that caused the bubble, but in some cases were so burdensome that it closed the doors on some small community banks. Others simply stopped offering mortgages.

Hunter said his office has been key in creating a commission on the abuse of opioids.

When we really dug into the nightmarish data around the opioid epidemic, I was convinced it was something we really needed to tackle and tackle in a comprehensive way," he said. "So let me share some data points with you."

He said there are 19.9 death per 100,000 people in the third quarter of last year. The New York Times predicted that the opioid deaths in the U.S. will exceed 60,000 this year.

"In Oklahoma, opioids have claimed almost 3,000 Oklahomans in the last three years," he said. "In 2014, over 10 million prescriptions were opioid prescriptions - enough to give every Oklahoman 50 pills."

He said the problem has reached critical levels and his office intends to look into the aggressive conviction of those who distribute, as well as holding fully accountable physicians who fail to comply with new standards.

"So the first thing we did during the last legislative session, was we got blessings from the House and Senate to form a commission on Opioid abuse. We are going to get started this month. Everybody is at the table who needs to be at the table - law enforcement, medical groups and state leaders," he said.

He said the commission will present the Governor a comprehensive, systematic approach that includes enforcement as well as treatment programs.

"Because addiction is an illness, and in order to deal with supply, you also have to deal with demand," he said. "And these folks need help. And honestly, the state and also the federal government are going to need to invest in treatment programs."