Speaker Pro Tempore Gus Blackwell has been singled out for his role in passing drug counseling legislation during the 2008 legislative session and given the “Legislator of the Year” award by the Oklahoma Substance Abuse Services Alliance.
“I am honored to receive this award,” said Blackwell, R-Goodwell.
“Oklahoma’s drug counseling programs and accessibility to them was a major focus of my work this session. The new availability of drug counseling will better and more efficiently serve the health and safety needs of Oklahoma’s citizens and I am proud to be a part of that effort.”
Blackwell filed legislation that allowed licensed people with specialized master’s degrees in substance abuse counseling to be covered by insurance providers when an individual seeks treatment.
“Representative Blackwell really was such an advocate for this legislation, and this would not have passed without his efforts,” said Teresa Collado, executive director for OSASA. “Thanks to all his hard work, drug treatment will be more available and accessible to rural and remote areas.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the total estimated cost of alcohol and drug abuse in the U.S. is $245.7 billion.
In 2005, there were 522 drug overdose deaths in Oklahoma.
“This data is just part of a statistical iceberg that indicates substance abuse in Oklahoma has a significant impact on health care costs and economic costs overall,” said Blackwell. “Oklahoma is a predominantly rural state, which means there is a lack of resources for many Oklahomans. This is why my legislation was so important. By increasing access to substance-abuse treatment, health care costs could go down as health and wellness improve. This win-win solution saves money and, more importantly, saves lives.”