TULSA, Okla. — As the pandemic continues to take a toll on Oklahoma families, state government officials are aiming to help ease some of the financial and emotional burden.
On Monday, Governor Kevin Stitt announced the launch of Community HOPE Centers to help serve underprivileged families affected by COVID-19. The governor approved $15 million in CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) to support the effort.
Each of the Community HOPE Centers will provide mental health professionals, virtual learning tools, free meals and snacks and weekend food backpacks for children ages five to 18.
The first center will be operated by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County. The goal is to expand the resources to 30 sites across the state, including Tulsa.
"We already know in the Salvation Army what hope does for people, and if you introduce that with the level of the funding that backs it as well, you have the ability to impact generations," said Richard White, the executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Tulsa.
He says this time of uncertainty hasn't only affected adults, but children too. White believes part of the reason is being out of school since mid-March.
"Any time they're out of a structured program for a period of time, it's just not good. I'm carrying these days a deep burden for our kids. You sometimes feel like they're in the middle of a lot of stuff they don't have a lot of control over," White said.
He adds that funding for a mental health professional on their facilities would be beneficial for everyone.
"We see kids that you know have mental health issues all the time... but we’ve often discussed wouldn’t it be great to have a mental health resource right there?" White said. "That's where their expertise and training is."
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Tulsa is currently serving up to 220 children a day at their five facilities.
The $15 million being awarded for this initiative is part of the $1.2 billion that was delivered to the state of Oklahoma part of the CRF federal stimulus. So far, Governor Stitt has distributed more than $238 million to different agencies and causes.
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