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DHS budget woes threaten services for Oklahoma's needy

By Nolan Clay Published: September 24, 2008
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State Department of Human Services officials predicted Tuesday they'll need $2 billion next year to keep providing the same level of care to the needy, elderly and children.

They also worried there's no way they'll get that much.

"This is not a pleasant picture,” Director Howard Hendrick said.

The welfare agency relies on state and federal funds to provide such services as food stamps for the poor. The DHS current budget is almost $1.78 billion. About $560 million of that total is from state funds.

DHS officials estimated Tuesday they'll need almost $266 million more from the state to operate at the same level next year.

A key issue is increased costs faced by service providers hired by DHS, such as those who take food to the homes of the elderly. Officials said the recent hike in the minimum wage and rising gas prices could make these providers quit if they aren't paid more.

Human Services Commissioner George Young said they will have to look for ways "on cutting back on some of this.”

Officials said some DHS programs save money. Providing medical services to the elderly in their homes costs a third as much as keeping the elderly in nursing homes, they said.

DHS also revealed Tuesday that Oklahoma lost more than 400 licensed child care homes and about 19 licensed child care centers last year because of tighter regulations.


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