House appropriations subcommittees began meeting this week with state agency directors regarding the budget crunch. The Department of Human Services gets an hour on Thursday. A month might not be enough time.
DHS is the mammoth agency charged with housing Oklahoma’s foster children, feeding the state’s poor and caring for its elderly and infirm. It’s currently embroiled in a federal lawsuit over the job DHS has done protecting foster children. It is dealing with an ever-growing demand for food stamps — the number of recipients in October was up 26 percent, to nearly 547,000, over a year ago — and is bracing for what will be a burgeoning senior population in the coming years. The latter is a compelling issue that was explored recently by The Oklahoman’s Ron Jackson and John Clanton. They focused on adult day services, which serve the developmentally disabled and functionally impaired. Adult day services comprise a small part of the state’s elder care and a tiny piece of the DHS budget. Advocates are concerned about cuts to the program, which they say needs to be enhanced, not trimmed. The adult day services budget for this fiscal year was $3.3 million, which was distributed to 32 centers across the state. The centers also go after federal funding and rely on donations from local charities. It costs the state an average of $129 per day to house nursing home patients. Adult day centers receive $45 per client based on a six-hour day. The rate hasn’t increased in seven years. Mary Brinkley, who heads the Oklahoma Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, says that many legislators "don’t even know what adult day service is.” A few have gotten the message.