The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 24, 2012

Transition plan made available for NORCE

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — An action plan for Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid and Southern Oklahoma Resource Center issued by Oklahoma Department of Human Services (available HERE) describes the transition for the closing of SORC April 30, 2014, and NORCE Aug. 31, 2015.

Those dates are the latest times the two facilities may remain open.

The transition of residents of both facilities into community-based homes will be a gradual process, and buildings will be closed at projected dates up to the deadline, according to a transition plan presented to parents and guardians of residents and obtained by the Enid News & Eagle.

Individual transition plans will be developed for each person based on individual needs. They will be moved only when services and support are in place following a review from Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ Office of Client Advocacy.

Each resident and his or her family or guardian will be assigned a case manager who will work with and guide them through the transition process, according to the plan.

Case managers will meet with every resident and family. Depending on the decisions made, clients and their families will need to make a number of other choices involving the selection of roommates, houses and service providers. Case managers can help coordinate services and help with decision-making about where they live, who they live with and other life decisions.

If the residents and family or guardians decide to live in a part of the state where services are not available, they will be advised of alternative areas where services are available.

Community living homes reportedly will be designed to meet the demands of residents, the information said. Transportation will be provided if required, and homes will be modified to meet accessibility needs and adaptive equipment provided, including medical supplies and incontinence supplies. Each resident will have a physician and a dentist. Hospital services are provided when needed. Therapies often are provided in the home.

For those with significant medical needs, three or four individuals will share a home that has 24-hour staffing, including nursing. Families and guardians will decide together to select a provider of residential services. Typically, staff will include a nurse to work each shift. Day programs are provided outside the home based on the residents’ abilities, needs and interests.

Those who have significant needs, but do not require significant nursing, may be served in a comprehensive support home, which is staffed 24 hours a day. Typically, three to four people share a home. Increased staffing may be provided based on need if circumstances support it, the document said. A variety of day programs are provided outside the home based on needs.

A specialized home is selected when there is a need for nutritionists, home health nurse, occupational therapist, speech or physical therapist. Necessary medical supplies and equipment are provided though a community waiver included in the care plan. The plan is reviewed annually, or more often if needed.

There are a number of adult day services and employment opportunities for those who are able to work. A number of sheltered workshops may provide subcontract work or training.

Background checks

Under frequently asked questions, the issue of abuse is addressed with the following question: “How do I know that my loved one will be safe?”

“Unfortunately, abuse occurs in all types of settings,” according to the plan. “There are many layers of external oversight in community settings to provide maximum safety.”

Background checks are performed on all employees by community service providers and include reference and criminal history checks. DHS community services worker records are screened prior to employment. Reporting requirements regarding abuse, neglect, verbal abuse, financial exploitation or financial neglect apply to facilities and the community.

The state of Oklahoma takes significant measures to protect individuals who are served in community home settings, the plan said. Employees must meet specific requirements and pass a background check.

DHS’ Developmental Disabilities Services Division, DDSD, has training requirements for community-based staff, including requirements for incident reporting.

Oklahoma Advocates Involved in Monitoring (AIM) is an independent monitoring service that involves residents, family members and guardians as monitors of quality of service. The Office of Client Advocacy, an independent entity within DHS, provides oversight through special advocacy services, conducts investigations and maintains grievance programs to promote client safety.

DDSD serves 5,041 people with intellectual disabilities. Of that number, 721 have profound mental retardation, 714 are people with severe mental retardation, 1,297 are people with moderate mental retardation and 2,047 are people with mild mental retardation. Two hundred sixty-two have an unspecified level of mental retardation.

Currently, there are 110 private community service provider agencies in Oklahoma with facilities in all 77 counties. Those facilities offer a range of services, from community residential to employment. They can be found on the DDSD website.

Time frame for change

There are an estimated 240 clients in NORCE and SORC who have to find new homes.

Time frames for transferring clients differ depend on medical needs and modifications that need to be made on the homes selected, said Sally Randall, NORCE administrator.

No home has yet been selected for clients. Guardians and parents of clients will meet with providers and determine which facility will best suit family members’ needs, Randall said. She said clients identified at NORCE and SORC — not the centers’ most medically fragile — live in buildings that have no sprinkler systems. Those buildings will be decertified once all of their clients are removed.

Randall had funding planned to install sprinkler systems and budgeted for it a few years ago.

“We were working on encumbering the money within our budget to take care of the sprinkling issue,” she said. “At the time, we were told to hold off.”

Oklahoma DHS was required — under terms of legislation passed by the Legislature in 2011 — to come up with a plan for the future of NORCE and SORC. Both facilities care for residents with severe developmental disabilities.

DHS submitted a plan in January calling for SORC to be scaled back to a 15-bed hospital and keeping NORCE in operation. That plan was rejected by the Legislature in February.

In June, Michael Peck, an Enid optometrist and chairman of the Oklahoma Commission for Human Services property committee, proposed closing SORC and transferring many of the residents there to NORCE. Under Peck’s proposal, other SORC clients would have been placed in community-based group homes.

When that proposal came up for a vote in July, Gov. Mary Fallin requested the vote be delayed. After two more months without a decision, Fallin toured both NORCE and SORC in late-September and met with legislators from Enid and Pauls Valley.

A vote finally came Nov. 1, when OCHS voted to close both facilities.

State Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, was supportive of the governor throughout the process, believing the Peck plan would be voted on and would pass. He was caught off guard by the closing announcement.

“Closing down NORCE doesn’t make any sense,” Anderson said.

At the time, Anderson said he knew there were no available group homes to place clients in and said that was not an option. He said he feared clients’ families would file lawsuits, because they are worried about the future of their loved ones.

He accused Fallin of intervening in the activities of OCHS until she packed it with her own appointees. Then, OCHS voted to close both facilities, while Fallin avoided any blame, Anderson said.

The commission refused to hear public comments from the standing-room-only crowd, and Chairman Wes Lane shut down Anderson as he attempted to address the panel.

State Rep. Mike Jackson, R-Enid, who will serve as speaker pro tempore in the next legislative session, said he was angry about the way the process was conducted.

Fallin said residents of NORCE and SORC will be transitioned to community living arrangements that provide greater flexibility for people with disabilities.