The Oklahoma Public Employees Association is asking a judge to decide if efforts to privatize operations at the Griffin Memorial Hospital in Norman fall within the state law.
The employees association said this afternoon during a news conference that the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services failed to follow state law when it entered into a contract with Red Rock to manage and operate a unit of the hospital. The lawsuit names the department and Commissioner Terri White.
State employees are being asked to transfer to other locations, take pay cuts or accept less desirable shifts to accommodate the privatization effort, said Sterling Zearley, OPEA executive director.
"They've not completed the process and the only recourse we have for patients and employees is through the courts," Zearley said.
White called the allegations in the legal filing, "absolutely unfounded," and said that officials with the Department of Mental Health on several occasions have attempted to meet with members of OPEA to discuss changes at Griffin.
White said no state workers will be displaced by organization changes at Griffin prompted by cuts to the department's budget this past legislative session. She did say some maybe asked to transfer to different locations.
Letters between officials with the Department of Mental Health and OPEA show that the department attempted to discuss the issue with OPEA several times before the request for injunctive relief was filed, according to correspondence obtained by The Oklahoman.
Zearley said its unclear how many state workers are affected by the restructuring. He said the group has asked for a cost analysis on why it might be cheaper to go with a private mental health group and have not received any information.
OPEA has also requested a copy of the contract the Department of Mental Health's board approved in July and has not received it.
If the privatization effort goes through it could also impact the Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health, Zearley said.