The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 29, 2013

Take the summer to study plans to close NORCE, SORC

Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — The controversial closure of Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid continues to make statewide headlines.

Recently, the Tulsa World reported state Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, said Gov. Mary Fallin and her staff are freezing him out. Fallin refuses to take our senator’s calls or meet with constituents about plans to close NORCE, a state care center for the developmentally disabled.

Last fall, the Oklahoma Commission for Human Services voted shut down the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley by April 2014, and NORCE by August 2015.

As the state transitions from institutional to community-based care, we’ve learned Oklahoma has a gigantic waiting list with no end in sight.

Oklahoma Watch reported the waiting list for Oklahomans seeking state-paid care for developmental disabilities has jumped to more than 7,000, and some families have been on that list for nearly a decade.

The list’s numbers reportedly increased 24 percent since 2010, when our state had the third largest delay in the country, according to a University of Minnesota study. Nearly half are children; most come from low-income families. That’s sad.

Privatization can be desirable in many areas. Ultimately, government has the moral obligation of serving as a safety net to provide care if no other viable resources are available.

We must live up to our responsibility to provide funding to 7,000 vulnerable children and adults on a waiting list — often for too many years.

Caring for the severely challenged costs money, whether it’s through the private sector or via state-owned facilities with state-employed caretakers.

We recommend taking the summer to examine the state’s options. This issue requires more study and a viable plan.

Letting the private sector take care without providing the appropriate funding is not a realistic alternative.