Morrissette says abuse prevention can save pain, money and lives
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Published: 20-May-2009

From CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Children's advocates from across the state came together with public officials at the State Capitol on Wednesday for an in-depth discussion on working together to prevent child abuse in Oklahoma.

The lunch discussion, moderated by Rep. Richard Morrissette, an Oklahoma City Democrat, featured Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, who argued that being "tough on crime" must include strong programs aimed at prevention – especially when children are involved.

"The legislature has historically passed bills that are promoted as being 'tough on crime.' However, in my experience there are many cases where solving the problem does not mean incarceration, but intervention and prevention," stated Prater.

"There are some situations – like child abuse – that we can't incarcerate our way out of.  We have to stop it before it starts, for the sake of our children."

Rep. Morrissette, who has been a vocal advocate for reform in Oklahoma's child welfare system, stated that he wanted to bring together people from different fields to see what solutions would be most effective.

"Right now, we in the legislature are failing our children," he said.  "We're not going to come up with the answers by ourselves.  We have to be talking openly with the people on the front lines of this problem, whether in law enforcement or health care.  That's the only way we're going to inject new ideas into our legislative solutions."

During the discussion, several ideas were presented on how to best prevent child abuse, from one-on-one sessions with parents of newborns, to improving literacy.

"One way the legislature can aid these prevention efforts is with proper funding to create incubators for these ideas to grow," added Rep. Morrissette.

Prater stated that these dollars are an investment in our state's future. "Every dollar we put in prevention now pays great dividends down the road, whether in reduced incarceration costs, reduced unemployment and disability payments or simply in the number of lives we can save," Prater said.

Morrissette concluded, "I'm grateful to all the legislators and advocates who came out, but especially to Mr. Prater, who added a valuable perspective to the conversation."

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