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Oklahoma House committee hears concerns over upcoming closure of residential care facilities

Two Oklahoma residential care facilities for severely disabled individuals are slated to close in the next two years. Some advocates and medical professionals argue that moving those patients into private community-based facilities is not the easy answer many claim it to be.
by Graham Lee Brewer Modified: October 17, 2013 at 8:25 pm •  Published: October 18, 2013

Lawmakers heard from health care professionals and the parents of severely disabled individuals Thursday concerned about the closure of two residential care facilities.

The discussion took place during an interim study the House Human Services Committee held to explore options for patients at both the Northern Oklahoma Resource Center (NORCE) in Enid and the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center (SORC) in Pauls Valley.

“These are individuals, these are human beings,” Rep. Mike Jackson, R-Enid, said. “We're going to have to find a place. And, at the end of the day I think the only solution in certain instances is heavily subsidized living areas.”

NORCE currently houses more than 50 patients with developmental disabilities and is scheduled to close in August 2015. SORC houses 84 and is scheduled to close its doors April 2014. Jackson, who called for the study, worries that those individuals are going to be hard-pressed to find adequate care before their facilities close.

“What you want to make sure is you are actually able to provide those services for everybody, and just based on the last year, year and a half, that they have been trying to move people out, there's still 140 people left in the facilities,” Jackson said. “They only have a few months to actually get 84 people out of the SORC facility, which is obviously not going to happen.”

In November 2012, the Human Services Commission voted 6-3 to close the facilities and many — both in and outside of the Department of Human Services — argue that those patients should be moved to privately owned community-based facilities. That commission has since been dissolved.

Dr. Michael Peck, former DHS Commissioner from 1999 to 2013, said not only do those individuals need very specialized care that may not be available at community facilities, removing them completely from state care creates financial uncertainty.

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by Graham Lee Brewer
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Graham Lee Brewer began his career as a journalist covering Oklahoma's vibrant music scene in 2006. After working as a public radio reporter for KGOU and then Oklahoma Watch, where he covered areas such as immigration and drug addiction, he went...
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