By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Legislation setting regulations for facilities that could house clients of two soon-to-be-closed state-run centers for the developmentally disabled almost wasn’t heard as scheduled Tuesday at the state Capitol.
House Bill 1867 by Rep. Lisa Billy, R-Purcell, was scheduled for hearing and a vote.
“The bill requires certification by preferred entities for any home the people residing in NORCE or SORC are assigned to,” said Trish Frazier, a member of Oklahoma Public Employees Association. “They are the most vulnerable. They require the most care.”
The state plans to close Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid and Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley — SORC in 2014, and NORCE in 2015. Clients will be moved to community-based group homes.
Billy said she did not know her bill was reassigned to another committee until Tuesday morning. She said she was able to get the bill assigned back to the Public Health Committee after some “discussions” in a timely manner. Billy said she was concerned because she invited a number of parents and guardians of NORCE and SORC clients, who had driven to the state Capitol to attend the hearing.
Billy was able to speak about her bill and answer questions. She said she received a fair hearing on the bill and is confident it will pass the committee. However, because it had been reassigned, no vote could be held Tuesday.
“I’m confident it will receive a favorable vote, but in my opinion, why wouldn’t we want the best accommodations for the most vulnerable in the state?” Billy said.
The bill calls for CARF (Committee on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) certification for all future housing for NORCE and SORC residents. Billy said the firm is a third-party organization that will look at policy and settings and perform background checks.
She said language is needed in the statutes to establish a level of trust among Department of Human Services and the parents and guardians of NORCE and SORC clients. Billy said at present, those parents and guardians do not trust the state.
“There is no trust here. Today didn’t help. A lot of these people are elderly who have driven from all over the state. It’s difficult for them,” Billy said.
“The DHS has its own evaluators to check on the facilities, and they prefer to use them,” Billy said. “The parents and guardians don’t feel comfortable with the DHS using its own evaluators.”
Billy said she and Jackson, Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, and Paddack have talked to Gov. Mary Fallin, urging her to have a safety net available.
Billy said caring for the residents is the right thing to do.
“It’s a moral obligation to care for the people who truly can’t care for themselves,” she said.
Frazier said three other bills concerning NORCE and SORC are waiting to be heard: two by Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada, and one by Rep. Mike Jackson, R-Enid.