The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

May 7, 2013

Appoint special commission to study NORCE, SORC issue

Enid News & Eagle

— Much has been accomplished during this year’s legislative session.

Oklahoma lawmakers agreed on a tax cut, workers’ compensation reform, a way to fix our crumbling state Capitol and a budget.

In our April 28 edition, 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.

Gov. Mary Fallin’s May 2 announcement of a budget deal included this targeted increase: “$44 million for the Department of Human Services to support operations, including the implementation of the Pinnacle Plan and the reduction of the waiting list for services offered to individuals with developmental disabilities.”

On Monday, the state Senate unanimously approved a resolution requiring the Department of Human Services to use any savings from the closure of the Northern Oklahoma Resource Center in Enid and the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley to provide services and programs for those with developmental disabilities, The Associated Press reported.

Funds saved by closing two state facilities for Oklahoma’s most severely developmentally disabled residents reportedly would have to go toward providing services for the disabled under a measure approved by the Senate. We thank our elected officials for this positive development.

In a politically unpopular decision to privatize, the Oklahoma Commission for Human Services had voted last year to close SORC by April 2014 and NORCE by August 2015. The two facilities have 231 residents who will be transitioned to community-based settings over the next two years, leaving uncertainty for parents and guardians.

We still want NORCE to stay open. We recommend the state appoint a special commission to study the issue this summer before it’s too late.