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DHS Closes State-Run Centers For People With Developmental Disabilities
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK-- In two years time, Oklahoma will no longer have a publicly funded center for people with special needs.
"They made a mistake today," said Rosella House, mother of a patient at the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center.
The Human Services Commission today voted approve a new community service initiative for those intellectual and development disabilities. As a result the two remaining state-run institutions will close.
The Northern Oklahoma Resource Center in Enid (NORCE) and the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley (SORC) will stop operating by 2014. The current 231 resident will be transitioned into community homes. House says these community homes are not right for her low-functioning son.
"You take a higher functioning person, they can do that," House explained, "but our son can't."
The Human Services Developmental Disabilities Services Division (DDSD) is already providing these type services to more than 5,000 people with disabilities of all levels. DDSD's services allow them to live in their own homes and communities.
"We realize this is an emotional decision involving change for the residents and their families as well as the employees of the facilities," said Wes Lane, Chairman of the Human Services Commission. "We determined after studying this issue in depth for the better part of a year that this is the right decision at the right time.
House says after many months fighting to keep SORC and NORSE open, she believes the commission is not listening to the families affected.
"Did they consider us parents?" she questioned, "about what we really wanted for our children? Did they consider any of that?"
Lane says the commission toured numerous facilities and heard testimony from many families before making its decision.
"DDSD has spent the past 20 years developing a comprehensive community service system that provides care and support to the vast majority of people receiving services who have all levels of disabilities," said Lane. "Community services offer more personalized care and a higher quality of life to individuals, making institutional care a thing of the past."
The Oklahoma Public Employees Association (OPEA) disappointed not only in the decision, but in the manner of which the commission voted. The organization said no public comments were heard from family members of the state's most vulnerable citizens.
"OPEA is disappointed that the commission is taking action on an issue of such importance a few days before this board might be voted out of existence via State Question 765," said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley. "After all that has transpired in this and other issues, we were under the impression that the culture had changed to that of inclusion and transparency."
"This is just an unfortunate turn of events," Zearley said. "The actions today reek of desperation and a lack of transparency of a commission that could be voted out of existence next Tuesday. We believe the closure of both centers threatens our state's most defenseless citizens and that's just wrong."
The Governor however, praised the commission for the vote today. She says those at these facilities will now have more options and greater flexibility on where they live.
"The vast majority of Oklahomans currently receiving assistance through DDSD are doing so in communities," Fallin said. "Community care offers more personalized planning and service delivery than institutional care. Additionally, outcomes for individuals in community settings have proven to be better than outcomes produced by institutional care. Completing the transition to community based services allows the state to focus its resources on the highest quality service options available."
She points to the decline in residents at SORC and NORCE as one reason the centers needed to close. The two facilities opened more than 100 years ago and once both had over 1,000 residents. Today, only 108 stay at NORCE and 123 call SORC home. Fallin also points to the fact that DDSD offers services to all 77 counties in Oklahoma.
As part of the resolution passed Thursday, DHS pledge to provide transition assistance and support to those families with residents at NORCE and SORC. They also said no the families will not see any additional expenses. Commissioners asked Governor Fallin to create a panel of parents, professionals and state agency representatives to develop a comprehensive plan to support all individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. This panel will also be asked to address the state's growing waiting list.
"Every commission member understands the families' concerns and we know that any change in living arrangements can be hard," said Lane. "We emphasized today that we are committed to helping individuals and families make a smooth transition and that no one will be moved until all the necessary supports are in place. As we have seen with previous transitions of former NORCE and SORC residents, the families acknowledge their loved ones are better off and they have a much higher quality of life."
Posted: Thursday, November 1 2012, 10:43 PM CDT
IN OKLAHOMA NEWS
Okla. grand jury returns new charges on ex-judge
May 23, 2013 23:32 GMT
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Oklahoma's multicounty grand jury has returned new indictments against a former Lincoln County judge who already faces embezzlement and cattle theft charges.
The grand jury handed up the indictments Thursday against 47-year-old Craig S. Key of Chandler.
Key turned himself in last month to Lincoln County authorities who set bond at $10,000.
One indictment accuses Key of harboring a fugitive by allegedly encouraging a client facing criminal charges in Lincoln and Jefferson counties to flee the state to avoid prosecution.
Another charges Key with five counts of delivery of a forged note and accuses him of forging the name of a woman whose signature was required on escrow account checks that Key was also required to sign.
Key's attorney, Cheryl Ramsey of Stillwater, says the additional indictments are no surprise.
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