The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 8, 2012

Oklahoma DHS decision to shut down state-run facilities does not make a bit of sense


Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — We’re shocked, upset and concerned about the Oklahoma Commission for Human Services’ surprise resolution calling for the closing of two state-run facilities for the developmentally disabled.

More than anything, this decision doesn’t make sense.

In September, Gov. Mary Fallin made an unannounced trip to Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid to get a firsthand account. She had made a similar sojourn to the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley.

In June, Michael Peck, an Enid optometrist and chairman of the OCHS 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 and touring both facilities, Fallin had positive meetings with legislators from Enid and Pauls Valley.

State Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, said the Peck plan was not allowed on the agenda three times at the request of Fallin. Why? (The six commissioners voting to close NORCE and SORC were appointed by the governor.)

Anderson was totally shocked by the proposal to shut down SORC by April 2014 and NORCE by August 2015. Stakeholders at NORCE and SORC expected some consolidation and were equally blindsided.

We agree with state Rep. John Enns, R-Enid, that many residents with critical needs will be traumatized and negatively impacted in other ways by the closure of these two centers.

“I daresay some will probably die because of this decision. ... Politics is playing a role. It’s not sound policy,” Enns said.

Adding insult to injury, Commission Chairman Wes Lane shut down Sen. Anderson as he attempted to address the DHS commission. Anderson accused Lane of making “a mockery” of the process.

“Wes Lane has been meeting with the governor about the plan. … I feel like I’ve been lied to, and the public not well-served by the way this was done by the governor’s office,” Anderson said.

We’ve heard the explanations from Fallin, but we’re not satisfied with her rationale.

State Rep. Mike Jackson, R-Enid, the new Speaker Pro Tempore-elect, said legislative steps are possible. Considering Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb’s position, maybe our Enid lawmakers can turn this around.