The Pryor Times

April 17, 2014

Programs to combat substance abuse


Sen. Sean Burrage

PRYOR, OK — In every community in this state, people’s lives have been forever changed because of substance abuse. Reggie Whitten is one such person. Reggie and my father are partners in an Oklahoma City law firm. Reggie’s oldest son, Brandon, was a handsome young man with a bright future. Popular in school, he was a star football player at Westmoore High School, and he later played college football at Southwestern. Brandon had talked about becoming a lawyer himself one day, and Reggie imagined his son moving back to the Oklahoma City area, practicing law with him and one day giving him grandchildren.

None of that happened. Brandon died in a motor cycle accident in 2002 at the age of 25. As a college athlete, he’d become addicted to valium. He was under the influence the night he died. When I think of my two sons, I cannot even begin to imagine what Reggie must have gone through.

Reggie eventually found healing through helping others, and founded several philanthropic organizations, including one called F.A.T.E., which stands for “Fighting Addition Through Education.” Its purpose is two-fold; to educate people about substance abuse, and to motivate them to be a positive influence in the lives of others.

One program F.A.T.E sponsors is Oklahoma Life of an Athlete (OKLOA).  It’s free and it is available to all Oklahoma schools. Carrying an endorsement by OSU President Burns Hargis, OKLOA includes interactive online training for athletes about the impact of alcohol and other drugs on athletic performance, as well as live presentations and assistance on rewriting athletic codes, developing student leadership, and promoting coaching effectiveness and community support. OKLOA has also been endorsed by the Oklahoma Athletic Trainers Association, the Oklahoma Coaches Association, the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Association, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Jim Thorpe Association and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

In the legislature, we’ve taken steps to better address substance abuse in Oklahoma. I’m extremely proud of the creation and expansion of Oklahoma’s Drug Courts. It’s a community sentencing program that not only holds people accountable, but just as importantly, helps give them the tools they need to turn their lives around and become productive citizens in their communities. We’ve also passed legislation to better address prescription drug abuse, the fastest growing substance abuse problem in our state and in the nation. But there is more to be done.

I deeply admire the work that Reggie Whitten and others are doing to educate people about substance abuse and the terrible toll it takes on individuals, families, communities and our entire state. Whether it is the loss of a loved one, becoming the victim of a crime related to substance abuse, or the cost to taxpayers for incarceration, public assistance or health and mental health services, ultimately everyone in Oklahoma is impacted by substance abuse.

For more information about F.A.T.E., go to http://www.fate.org/.

Thanks again for reading my “Senate Review.” If you have any questions on a legislative matter, please do not hesitate to contact my Senate office at the Capitol by calling (405) 521-5555 or writing me with your concerns at: Senator Sean Burrage, 2300 North Lincoln Blvd. Rm. 537, State Capitol Building, Oklahoma City, OK 73105. I always enjoy hearing from my constituents and consider it an honor to be your voice in the Oklahoma State Senate.  May God bless each of you.