Health in rural areas a key issue

Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Leslie Osborn, shown here in PV this week, says rural healthcare is an issue that must be addressed in this state. (PV Democrat photo)

Rural healthcare has been a pretty big topic in the Pauls Valley area for some time now. Many believe it's the biggest issue for all of Oklahoma.

One person with that opinion is Leslie Osborn, who's still in the early stages of her first term as the state's labor commissioner.

During a visit this week with local chamber of commerce board members, Osborn said healthcare in rural places like Pauls Valley and Garvin County is one of the important issues that must be addressed if Oklahoma is going to take a positive step forward.

A couple of others are mental health care and career tech training.

According to the labor commissioner, these are among the issues that have a direct impact on the investment dollars and number of companies expressing interest in coming into the state and the jobs they bring with them.

Right now the impact is more on the negative side as improvements are desperately needed.

Osborn says we as a state must first begin to invest in ourselves.

“We change the trajectory with these things when we invest,” Osborn said.

“That's how you become a top 10 state. You don't become a top 10 state by saving your money or with rhetoric and beautiful speeches.

“You become a top 10 state by investing in four or fives of these things. Sometimes you have to make the dirty decisions that change your future.”

When Osborn first thought about running for labor commissioner she admits to viewing the office more as a union and non-union kind of thing. She was quick to learn that's not the case in Oklahoma.

Instead, it was more about a focus on safety, especially at the workplace.

“Most people don't know what the labor commissioner does. We have a lot of free services we offer to the state,” she said about a variety of training meant to improve safety on the job.

“We do a lot for work safety. We're here to serve the workforce of Oklahoma. A healthy and safe workforce is what we do.

“Last year we collected about $1 million in back wages for workers.”

The labor department also has a focus on child labor laws and working to investigate those times when businesses overlook or violate those laws.

“The rest of what we do is all about safety – the safety of citizens and the safety of workers,” Osborn said.

“We're one of the best states in the low rates of people being injured on the job.”

Other duties of the department include checking the safety of elevators, amusement parks and even boilers and commercial hot water heaters.

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