Regardless of whether one has been for or against closure of the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center, much of how well plans for its transition proceed depends on how quickly clients find homes.
Though no clients have been placed as January comes to a close, a plan recently released by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services details its goal of transitioning most of them into community settings by the end of the current year.
A reduction from a current campus population of about 123 residents to 18 by the end of this calendar year would help considerably toward meeting the closure date of April 30, 2014, but if transitions are slower than projected, delays could also shift additional attention on where clients would reside if they have yet to be relocated.
One particular issue that has been a concern for several years regarding the installation of sprinklers in a couple of structures could once again impact living arrangements of some of the clients, especially those who live in what is referred to as the Multi-Unit building, according to SORC administrator Jeff Livingston.
This becomes an issue since DHS has decided not to install sprinklers in order to meet an August safety deadline, one that if not met would result in some of SORC’s funding getting cut.
However, Livingston noted that one option DHS might pursue would be seeking a waiver to keep this from happening should there be a considerable number of clients still living in this structure.
Other options in the plan would be temporarily locating clients elsewhere on campus or a chance for up to 20 residents to temporarily move to their sister site NORC in Enid, since the closure date there isn’t until Aug. 31, 2015.
“This was an administrative decision made in Oklahoma City that we would not be sprinkling those buildings,” said Livingston.
“The powers that be seem to think they will ask for a waiver and that since we are closing that it will be granted… only way we could by law stay in the building, otherwise we would lose federal funding.”
Basically the plan notes that once a living area is reduced to eight or more residents, preparations will be made to move them in groups to other living areas with as few moves as possible. Clients would not move to another unit if they are expected to be in a community setting within four weeks, unless it is required to maintain state or federal regulations.
Livingston said the feeling he gets from those he reports to are confident that enough clients will be transitioned to where it will not be an issue.
There are currently 10 to 12 families that look to be the first to leave the campus and once necessary services are matched with each client, the first group could be placed by March.
“Everybody’s on board that they will be the first to go because the families are on board,” said Livingston.
In the end, the plan’s goal of leaving only 18 residents on campus at the start of 2014 would mean leaving only the Turner Hospital building open until the final closure date.
With the beginning of the year, the minimum rate established is about three to four clients each month in need of placement.
Once clients are placed, case managers will make weekly visits for the first month following transitions and frequent visits will continue as needed until placement is stable. There will also be a goal to minimize the number of on campus moves before community placement.
Quality of life surveys for clients will be conducted before movement into the community with another survey at the one year anniversary of the move and again at two year mark.
“The plan’s pretty self-explanatory… we certainly did not have a lot of questions on our end,” said Livingston. “It’s so far gone pretty smooth.”
Editor’s note: This is the first of a two part article on the transition plan. The rest will be featured in a future edition of the PV Democrat.