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Bill Creating World-Class Diabetes Center Heads to Governor

Legislation clearing the way for the creation of a world-class diabetes research and treatment center in Oklahoma is now on its way to Governor Brad Henry for his signature.

Senate Bill 1056, authored by Senators Cal Hobson and Glenn Coffee and Representative Thad Balkman, authorizes the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents to build the center, which would have locations at the OU Health Sciences Center campuses in both Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The measure was approved by both chambers on Friday.

"When we talk about improving the quality of life in our state, we must acknowledge that we have some very serious health issues to address," said Hobson, D-Lexington. "Oklahomans have more diabetes per capita than any state in the nation. It impacts the health of our citizens and it's a drain on our resources. We can turn that around with this world-class research and treatment center."

In addition to the locations in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the diabetes center would also have outreach programs that would serve the entire state.

"The Centers for Disease Control has estimated that of the children born in this country in the last five years, one in three will develop diabetes by the time they are adults," said Coffee, R-Oklahoma City. "This is a national epidemic and it is even worse here in Oklahoma. But we have an opportunity to help our citizens by the steps we are taking today."

While the measure is strictly authorization for construction of the center, supporters have projected the facility will ultimately need start-up funds of approximately $15 million, with $10 to $12 million for bricks and mortar and the remainder for operations, researchers and matching grants. Several tribes throughout the state have come forward with pledges of financial support for the center, and it is hoped the final budget agreement will include additional resources.

"This legislation represents an incredible opportunity for Oklahoma," said Balkman, R-Norman. "We are on the cusp of creating something that will improve the health not only of our own state, but attract diabetes patients from across the country and possibly from around the world, presenting the additional benefit of spurring economic growth in medical research and development."

OU President David Boren has championed creation of the center throughout the legislative session. He said he was extremely gratified to see the legislation clear its final legislative hurdle.

"My concern is that virtually every single Oklahoma family is now impacted by this terrible disease," said Boren, who himself has diabetes. "It's the number one cause of adult blindness, kidney failure and the loss of limbs in our state. But with this world-class research and treatment center, we can bring help and hope to those who need it and possibly, ultimately even a cure. I want to thank the legislature for their support of the diabetes center, and I really look forward to Governor Henry signing the measure into law."