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Tight funds worry Oklahoma agencies

BY JULIE BISBEE Modified: December 23, 2008 at 8:36 am •  Published: December 23, 2008
e program began in 2006 and has been funded by a federal grant that ends this summer.

Weaver said the department needs an extra $300,000 to keep staff members who oversee the program. Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of painkiller usage in the country, Weaver said. Oklahomans take about 120 million painkiller pills a year, according to the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. About 83 percent of drug overdoses in Oklahoma are from prescription drugs, he said.

"It’s like a slow cancer in our communities,” he said.

Priorities could shift with limited resources. Common education gets the largest allocation of the budget, with about 40 percent of funds going to schools. The Department of Human Services gets about 9 percent and the Department of Corrections gets about 8 percent.

Smaller agencies hope their needs are not ignored when priorities are set.

The Tourism and Recreation Department gets about $27 million a year and is accustomed to running on a lean budget, said Hardy Watkins, executive director of the agency.

"We’re an economic engine for the state,” Watkins said. "Our appropriation is such a small part of the state budget, so any cuts have the potential to hurt.”