The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

September 21, 2012

Senator deems NORCE meeting ‘positive’

Staff reports
Enid News and Eagle

— Sen. Patrick Anderson said he expects a decision on the future of Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid within a month after a positive meeting Friday morning with Gov. Mary Fallin at the state Capitol.

Anderson met with Fallin, along with Rep. Mike Jackson, R-Enid, Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada, and Rep. Lisa Billy, R-Purcell. The districts represented by Paddack and Billy include Pauls Valley, which is home to Southern Oklahoma Resource Center.

The two state-run facilities for the developmentally disabled have been in limbo for months, as Department of Human Services officials consider their futures. Oklahoma Commission for Human Services had been expected to vote Tuesday on the two centers, but the meeting agenda includes no vote.

“I feel very good about the meeting,” Anderson said. “The governor is very supportive of the future of the NORCE facility.”

Jackson said NORCE is in “pretty good shape” compared to SORC. “I think that the meeting (Friday) went really, really well with the governor,” Jackson said. “She showed a lot of interest.

“I think she was impressed with the personnel and the staff and it gives her a good perspective.”

Fallin did not announce any concrete decision on the fate of the two centers. She made an unannounced visit Sept. 17 to NORCE to get a firsthand account of the operation and care provided. Fallin made a similar visit to SORC the week before.

Anderson previously said he expected Fallin would “announce her decision on how she is going to direct (OCHS) to vote on the issue” at Friday’s meeting. However, a Sept. 17 press release from Fallin’s office stated a decision would be made “later this year.”

“They understand that the can’s been kicked down the alley for a while now, and a decision needs to be made,” Jackson said.

Anderson said he does not have a definite time frame on when a vote will come on the future of NORCE and SORC. With four commissioners joining OCHS in the last six weeks, the delay in a vote may be to allow new members to absorb information to ensure an educated decision.

“We did discuss that a decision has to be made quickly,” Anderson said. “The SORC facility is going to lose federal funding if the structural problems at that facility are not addressed by August of next year. That’s only 11 months away. We either have to decide we’re going to fix those problems or we’re not going to fix those problems.”

Michael Peck, an Enid optometrist and chairman of the OCHS property committee, said Thursday he has been told a vote on the two centers will come at the October OCHS meeting.

At the June OCHS meeting, Peck gave a report in which he proposed closing SORC and transferring clients to NORCE. Both facilities need repairs, but NORCE is in better condition and more capable of housing SORC residents almost immediately, Peck’s report stated.

If SORC is closed, NORCE will need to make minor improvements, Anderson said.

Jackson said NORCE benefits from Enid being a medical hub with specialized services.

“Until you’ve seen the facility and all the staff — including medical — you don’t really understand how in-depth it is and how much of a resource it is for those people,” Jackson said.

Fallin expressed her understanding and concern that residents have a safe place to live, Anderson said.

“She also emphasized that she believed that families needed to have options where their families need to be living,” Anderson said.

“That is a very positive statement for facilities such as NORCE and SORC.”

Fallin also met Friday afternoon with representatives of the parent-guardian associations of NORCE and SORC.

Marcellus Bell, a member of the NORCE group, said there was “not any news” from the meeting, which he called a listening session for Fallin to hear from supporters of both facilities.

“I didn’t learn anything new,” he said. “She did not say anything to lead one way or the other.”

Bell also is a member of the Human Rights Committee at NORCE and the advisory committee for DHS’ Developmental Disabilities Services Division.