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Lawson, Leewright and Hilbert help recognize “Oklahoma People First”

Oklahoma People First is a nonprofit self-advocacy group run by and for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Members of Oklahoma People First are recognized for their advocacy on the floor of the House of Representatives today by state Reps. Mark Lawson (at the Podium) and Kyle Hilbert (far left) and state Sen. James Leewright (far right). (Photo by Legislative Services Bureau.) Members of Oklahoma People First from left to right: Laura Stutsman, Kelly Zaikis, Amber Helms, Jeremy Clark, Jeryldine Schutt-Pogue, Tasha Hawkins, Karl Toro, Samuel Jenkins, Renetta Bridges, David Bridges, Shannon Holcomb. On stage: Nancy Ward and Mary Holcomb.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Members of Oklahoma People First were recognized on the chamber floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives today by state Reps. Mark Lawson, R-Sapulpa, and Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, and state Sen. James Leewright, R-Bristow.

Oklahoma People First is a nonprofit, statewide, self-advocacy group run by, and for, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Their motto is “Nothing about us without us.” They place an emphasis on moving away from institutional placement and instead advocate for better community-based services.

“The members of Oklahoma People First represent humanity, compassion and doing what is right,” Lawson said. “They are a champion in giving a voice to those who need it most.”

Members of Oklahoma People First are recognized for their advocacy on the floor of the House of Representatives today by state Reps. Mark Lawson (at the Podium) and Kyle Hilbert (far left) and state Sen. James Leewright (far right). (Photo by Legislative Services Bureau.) Members of Oklahoma People First from left to right: Laura Stutsman, Kelly Zaikis, Amber Helms, Jeremy Clark, Jeryldine Schutt-Pogue, Tasha Hawkins, Karl Toro, Samuel Jenkins, Renetta Bridges, David Bridges, Shannon Holcomb. On stage: Nancy Ward and Mary Holcomb.

Hilbert said, “It was an honor to recognize these members of Oklahoma People First who are advocating for their rights to live independent lives with equal access to jobs, health care and other services.”

Leewright said, “The work and advocacy of Oklahoma People First is truly inspiring.  I want to thank them for all they do within this organization to help others throughout Oklahoma and elsewhere live with dignity.”

Oklahoma People First has 18 chapters in the state of Oklahoma. The group’s mission is to promote equality, assist each other in speaking for themselves, to educate their communities, hold meetings to educate themselves and others, support self-advocacy in Oklahoma, and to create public support for people first.

Members of the organization told about recently traveling to Texas to assist self-advocates in that state in advocating to close down their institutes and to instead increase community-based services for people with disabilities. The advocates spoke on the steps of the Texas Capitol and met with Texas legislators to tell their story and answer questions about the value of community-based care versus institutional placements. With their help, they hope the self-advocates in Texas will have their voices heard and that changes will soon be made to improve community services as they have witnessed happen in Oklahoma.

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