BEFORE Wes Lane and five other Oklahoma Department of Human Services commissioners cast their votes to close two group homes for adults with developmental disabilities, they already knew they wouldn't make everyone happy. That's often the case for public bodies, but nowhere is it more true than at DHS.
Even when the decisions of the commissioners and the agency's top executives aren't a matter of life and death, those decisions have far-reaching and often lifelong impact. The choice commissioners made Thursday was difficult, for them and for the families with members at one of the homes.
The 6-3 vote sets in motion the eventual closure of the Northern Oklahoma Resource Center in Enid and the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley. Together, the centers house 231 residents who would be transitioned to community-based homes, according to DHS plans.
Families of some of the disabled residents were understandably angry. Change is hard, but perhaps even more so for those challenged with disabilities. Their strong reaction doesn't mean the commission made the wrong choice.
The board deserves credit for making a tough decision in incredibly challenging circumstances. Criticisms that the board acted too quickly or before receiving adequate input from those affected are unfounded. They've spent months studying the issue. Proponents for keeping one or both centers open have been active and vocal.
We urge those same people to stay active and vocal as this plan plays out. The Pauls Valley and Enid centers are scheduled to close in 2014 and 2015, respectively. In pursuing the closures, commissioners committed to a variety of supportive measures, including individual case managers and financial assistance. Commissioners also asked the governor's office to establish a panel to create a plan for supporting the developmentally disabled and their families and to figure out how to help those seeking services either in home or private care.
These aren't the actions of callous or politically motivated individuals but rather a compassionate group of Oklahomans who believe a community private-care strategy will better serve some of our state's most vulnerable residents.
Many political accusations were thrown around last week. The commission would have been playing politics if it had further delayed a decision that was already overdue.
The transition won't be without hardship for the home's residents, their families and employees. The state simply must make good on its promises to make this change as smooth as possible for all involved.