The Oklahoma Department of Human Services plans to keep open two state-run centers for the mentally disabled but cut the number of residents from 242 to 112.
DHS commissioners on Tuesday approved a “plan in principle” that will move most residents at the Pauls Valley and Enid centers into community settings by Aug. 13, 2013.
State legislators earlier this year passed a law requiring the agency to come up with a plan by Jan. 1 to either change or discontinue the operation of the state-run resource centers.
Many of the residents at the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley and the Northern Oklahoma Resource Center in Enid have lived there for years. Some have been there for decades.
Most of their relatives wanted DHS to let the residents stay.
In a report to commissioners, one parent predicted his daughter will be heavily sedated, locked in a room or dead in a year if she is moved to a community setting. “Our daughter has lived at Pauls Valley since September of 1961 and it is the only home and family that she knows,” the parent said.
Another resident's family said in the report, “The primary concern is that in a group home the client will be put in a bean bag chair and left while the ‘caregiver' watches ‘Wheel of Fortune.'”
DHS Director Howard Hendrick said the agency has no choice but to make changes because the Legislature won't provide funding to repair the aging campuses.
“I think we have a clear message,” the director said of the Legislature.
Repairs can't be made
The Pauls Valley facility opened in 1907 as the State Training School for White Boys, commissioners were told. The Enid facility opened in 1909 as the Oklahoma Institution for the Feeble Minded.
Commissioners were told DHS doesn't have the $34 million needed to make capital improvements such as replacing sewage lines.
“We can't both avoid capital costs and continue the same level of operation,” Hendrick told commissioners. “There's probably no way you're going to make people happy.”
Another vote ahead
Most affected will be the Pauls Valley center. The plan calls for the population there to be cut from 127 to 15.
The plan basically lets DHS close residential buildings that do not meet certain safety standards. The agency would have to make certain repairs such as installing sprinkler systems by Aug. 13, 2013, in order to keep the buildings open and continue to get Medicaid funding for residents' care and treatment.
DHS took over the two centers from the Mental Health Department in 1963. The population then at the centers was 2,298.
DHS already provides services to more than 5,000 developmentally disabled Oklahomans in community settings. Another 6,400 are on a waiting list.
Some commissioners had concerns about the plan, and the commission will vote on it again after it is finalized early next year. The Legislature can reject the plan but must do so by March 1.