Oklahoma DHS Commission may vote on closure of state centers

After more than a year of study and repeated delays, DHS commissioners are expected to vote Thursday on whether to close Oklahoma's residential centers for adults with developmental disabilities.
by Randy Ellis Published: October 31, 2012
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After more than a year of study and repeated delays, state Department of Human Services commissioners are expected to vote Thursday on a plan to close Oklahoma's two residential centers for adults with developmental disabilities.

The agenda for Thursday's DHS commission meeting states commissioners will discuss and possibly vote on plans to close both the Northern Oklahoma Resource Center at Enid and the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center at Pauls Valley.

Residents would be transitioned into community-based settings.

The plan represents a shift from a proposal submitted by Commissioner Michael Peck last June to close just the Pauls Valley center and move some of its residents to the Enid center, while transitioning others into community-based settings.

There are 123 residents at the Pauls Valley center and 108 at the center in Enid.

The meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday in room C-48 of the Sequoyah Office Building, immediately northeast of the state Capitol.

Unsure about options

The proposal has parents and guardians of residents in an uproar.

“I'm scared, and I don't know how to help my child now,” said Shelia Day, parent of Justin Day, a 21-year-old resident of the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center.

Shelia Day said her son has the mind of a 3-year-old and is visually impaired but is better off than most of the other residents because he is mobile and can talk.

She said her son has made remarkable progress at the Pauls Valley center and she is afraid he will suffer setbacks if forced to move.

Parents and guardians would have a prominent role in selecting community-based services for residents, but Shelia Day said she has had a difficult time finding out what options are available.

Commission Chairman Wes Lane said if commissioners decide to close the institutions, parents and guardians won't be expected to make overnight decisions.

“Any plan to close an institution would be a plan that contemplates taking over a year to do that,” Lane said.

Individual plans would have to be developed for each resident by DHS employees working closely with families and guardians, he said.

Ken Talley, president of the Parent Guardian Association for the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center, said he would like DHS commissioners to delay the vote again, but said he has been told his group won't be allowed to address the commission this time.

Legal action may be considered, he said.

“We would like to speak,” Talley said, adding that one thing his group wants to know is why the commission never answered a proposal his association made in July.

That proposal asked commissioners to immediately install fire suppression sprinkler systems in occupied residential buildings at the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center and prepare a report on how residents have fared who have left that center and similar institutions in Enid and Sand Springs.

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by Randy Ellis
Capitol Bureau Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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