Cathy Costello makes it no secret that she wants to work toward ending the stigma around mental health issues after the death of her husband, former Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Mark Costello.
She said that is one of the main reasons she made the decision to run for the office of Labor Commissioner, but not the only one.
On Aug. 23, 2015, the Costello’s son, Christian, stabbed Mark Costello to death at a restaurant in Oklahoma City. Cathy Costello was there when it happened, and she held her husband as he died in her arms. Christian Costello had a long battle with schizophrenia.
Cathy Costello said her son would often be medicated to help with the mental health disorder, but it was difficult to keep him on the medication, and he also struggled with keeping steady employment.
“One of the things that I learned about Christian is how valued he felt when he had a job,” she said. “He would stay on his medication, work hard and was more likely to keep appointments to help with his disorder.”
Costello said the main reason people have low productivity at work is because of mental health issues, such as depression.
“Studies show it is actually the number one reason people aren’t as productive at work as they can be,” she said. “Mental health is the second-highest reason for chronic absenteeism at jobs and costs millions of dollars in disability payments.”
Costello said she works tirelessly to end the stigma around mental health issues, and she would continue to do so if elected as Oklahoma’s Labor Commissioner. But that is not the only area she wants to continue to work on.
As a conservative Republican, she also understands that one of the main jobs as Labor Commissioner is to address licensing for professionals in Oklahoma, continuing to focus on workplace safety and assist employees with wage disputes.
“I know from being married to Mark what a Labor Commissioner’s job entails, better than anyone in the field,” she said. “One of the biggest things I want to work on is closing the gap on the general understanding that just because someone has a license to do a job, that doesn’t necessarily mean that person has a certain level of education. That’s not always the case.”
Costello said many fields of work require a license, but that is something she feels can be frivolous.
“Licensing is an important job for Labor Commissioner to do, but we issue too many licenses in Oklahoma, costing the workforce millions of dollars in fees,” she said. “I worked with a task force to look at all the licenses that Oklahoma issues, and there is no question we need to reform. I plan to do that if I am elected.”
Melissa McLawhorn Houston was appointed Labor Commissioner after Mark Costello’s death. Houston said she does not plan to seek re-election. Cathy Costello’s opponent in the June primary election is state Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, who announced her decision to seek the office in August.