NORMAN, Okla. —
Around 71 percent have been diagnosed with some form of “mental retardation,” the DHS reported, ranging from mild to profound, with profound meaning they have the intellectual age of an infant. Forty-seven percent need a visiting nurse or regular visits to the doctor; more than 12 percent have a life-threatening condition.
Most of those on the list under 18 get some services at school, and many participate in other DHS programs such as Medicaid and vouchers to give caregivers a respite, Lee said.
Still, the other services often are not enough, Lee said.
Searching for Solutions
Felty became an advocate for those on the waiting list after her own ordeal trying to get services for her daughter.
Her daughter, Kayla White, is 24 years old and is mostly blind, has limited communication skills and requires around-the-clock care.
Felty tried to hold down a job at a local church while her daughter was at a public school during the day. But school officials kept calling, saying she needed to come in and help take care of her daughter. The constant care Kayla required at home and school proved too much.
Felty said she began desperately calling government officials.
“I remember getting to a very emotional state where I thought ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be able to keep being mom,’” Felty said.
White eventually moved up on the waiting list and became one of the first to get both care and independence-skills training at home.
Felty and her family live near Little Axe. White receives in-home care from a provider agency during the day, allowing Felty to work. Felty has since made it her mission to help others on the waiting list.
Lee said the waiting-list issue comes down to money.
“We can’t say (to those on the waiting list), ‘Yes, you will get services,’ or, ‘No, you won’t,’ until we work the case,” Lee said, “and we can’t work the case until there’s money there provided by the Legislature.”