Okla. county commissioners propose paid mental health days for COs
If approved, commissioners said it will help send the message to correctional officers that “we have their back”
By Kiersten Shaun
STILLWATER, Okla. — At a regular meeting of the Payne County Commissioners Tuesday, the officials unanimously moved to create a policy proposal that will offer paid mental health days off for detention and correctional workers throughout the county.
“The details of who will receive what kind of time and when is still to be decided by the budget board,” said Payne County Clerk Glenna Craig .
“The proposal will go to the board in February,” she said, “and at that time, we’ll discuss it and hash it out.”
“Having a mental health day for correction workers is really important for them,” said County Commissioner Chris Reding of District 2 .
Payne County Sheriff Joe Harper was present at this meeting to vouch for the proposal, stating that jail and correctional workers have the highest rates of suicide in public sector professions in the State of Oklahoma because their working environment is stressful, has low pay and has people putting in overtime.
Harper also said, according to a study by the Department of Corrections, in addition to suicides being higher in number, so are divorces and substance abuse — worst is the assumption that jail workers are “hard” or more tough than the average person, so they don’t need to seek help for mental health, and there is a perception that if a person does, that person could be perceived as “weak.”
Therefore, Harper said, seeking help for mental health is stigmatized among these kinds of workers.
Commissioners said if approved, this will help send the message to these public servants that “we have their back” — and that’s by giving them some time to have a free day or a break from the job.
And we’re letting them know it’s OK to get help, Harper added.
In addition to advising the Commissioners on the county mental health day policy proposal, Harper was present to make recommendations regarding the hiring of a new county Emergency Management Director and to discuss with the Commissioners moving the supervision of this office over to the Sheriff’s office, which all three districts motioned to approve.
“It’s to remain a department under the Commissioners, but the supervision is moved to the sheriff’s office,” said Craig.
District 1 Commissioner and Chairman Zach Cavett proposed to accept applications for a new director until Feb. 16 , at which time Commissioners will call for an executive session, with Harper, to discuss applicants, of which all were in favor.
The current Emergency Management Director Jeff Kuhn is retiring from service at the end of March.
The Commissioners also went on the record to discuss “Resolution 2024-02 — the Resolution Opposing the Federal Government’s 30x30 Land Preservation Goal.”
According to a White House Press Release, the Biden Administration is making progress with the “America the Beautiful Initiative” that proposes steps to acquire at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030 through “locally-led and voluntary efforts to conserve, connect and restore lands and waters across the nation that will sustain the health of our communities, power local economies and help combat climate change.”
County Commissioners all declared their resolution in opposing this initiative and said they see the initiative as “great overreach” by the federal government.
With one voice, they passed the motion to pass the resolution opposing the “30x30 Land Preservation Goal” and said the resolution will express the county’s concern over the “land grab” at federal and state levels, with the greatest concern being that the people here “stand as independent people and that no land should be taken without permission of the landowner.”
In other announcements at the meeting, Jeremiah Gregory thanked the Commissioners for his time in serving as the county officials attorney over Payne and Logan counties, with his resignation effective today.
It is expected Payne County District Attorney Laura Austin Thomas will officially appoint the new attorney for county officials at the beginning of February.
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