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Residential quarters at Pauls Valley, OK, center for developmentally disabled face possible closure

Two buildings at the state-owned Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley are in danger of being shut down because the Oklahoma Department of Human Services doesn't have the money to fix their safety problems.

BY ANN KELLEY Published: June 27, 2010
31, so something has to be done before then.

Before Friday, DHS officials had decided to close the two buildings, according to an e-mail circulated by Nicholson on June 8. He wrote the agency didn't have "funding to do the massive work.”

Members of the Southern Oklahoma Resources Center's Parents and Guardian Association say closing buildings is one more step toward eliminating the entire campus where 139 people live.

Targeted for closure
This past legislative session, the center was targeted for closure in a bill passed by a special House budget committee, but stopped before it reached the House floor for consideration. Closing the center would save DHS about $2 million annually, said Rep. Ron Peters, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Human Services.

Mary Ann Paulson, whose son, Larry, lives at the center, said for years DHS officials have allowed the grounds at the center to deteriorate, rather than investing significant money in its upkeep.

She said there are architectural plans to build residential cottages, but no one with the agency seems interested in moving forward with the cottages.

Frank Appl suggests new living quarters could be built with the more than $300,000 the Department of Human Services is holding in oil revenues generated from the campus wells. Appl's daughter has lived at the center for more than 30 years.

"They (DHS officials) have lots of options, but they're not open to taking a real look at them,” Appl said. "If they can't close it all at once, they're going to do it a building at a time.”

Nicholson said he has asked the center's director and area managers to create momentum to move people out of Turner where some of the most profoundly disabled live. This means 18 residents must move from the center to free up space in other living areas on campus, he said.

"Whether people move to the community or Northern Oklahoma Resource Center are options to be considered by teams and families,” Nicholson said in an e-mail. "One option that is not available is to stay in buildings that do not meet life safety codes.”

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