Oklahoma City, Oklahoma — House Speaker Kris Steele and a bipartisan group of five representatives today unveiled the first steps of a strategy to reform the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
The House’s aggressive, four-pronged strategy is designed to improve DHS through significant study of and potential reforms to governance structure, agency structure, personnel policy and resource allocation. The plan is in response to a shared desire between House members, agency officials and other stakeholders to improve delivery of services by DHS, particularly for children in state custody.
“Today we begin working together to find a better way,” said Steele, R-Shawnee. “The Legislature has made incremental DHS reforms over the years, but more improvements are needed. The comprehensive reform we seek is only achievable if we all truly cooperate and work toward a common goal. It won’t be easy, but what we’re saying today is we’re going to buckle down and get there together.”
Steele has asked a bipartisan group of five representatives to engage in a strategic review of DHS to develop policy to consider next legislative session.
Leading the group will be Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, who has spent this summer and past years reviewing DHS to look for potential reforms. Other members of the group are Reps. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa, Pat Ownbey, R-Ardmore, Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City, and Wade Rousselot, D-Okay. All members of the group have certain areas of expertise in human services.
“Make no mistake: This is no typical legislative committee. There will be no sitting in hearings making motions and watching PowerPoints all day,” Nelson said. “DHS faces serious challenges that necessitate us getting out of the Capitol and into the field.”
The group will operate in a unique manner, with much of its work occurring in small meetings with DHS workers in the field, where the group will observe how policies are implemented and analyze organizational strengths and needs. The group will also meet with other agency officials and leaders, DHS commissioners and other stakeholders.