Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

Local News

January 31, 2013

Employees part of SORC transition plan

emann@pvdemocrat.com — As the transition over to community care gets in full swing at the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center, part of the process has been the consideration on how current employees’ roles will change.

Detailed at length in a plan released recently by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, is a statement that as clients find homes throughout the state, there are procedures for severance that will be set in motion.

If things proceed by the projected closure date of April 30, 2014, the number of employees currently at about 284 individuals will by the end of 2013 need to be decreased significantly to make it more feasible.

Much of this will come as less staff will be needed in each department, some areas entirely eliminated, with the goal of having no more than 18 clients living on campus primarily in the Turner Hospital building by December 31, according to the plan.

The biggest drop as the client population reaches that number will be direct care staff and other areas not as vital to the most severely disabled.

“The way it will go as numbers decrease, at some point certain positions will be identified to be reduced,” said SORC Administrator Jeff Livingston.

“In theory if this works by December you will have 18 residents and 50 staff.”

However, the plan does note that for direct care staff, those levels will be maintained at least with the most experienced as long as clients are there.

Other jobs like vocational training, housekeeping, maintenance and food services will continue until facility services are discontinued.

In other words, sufficient staff will be kept to maintain grounds, repair or provide support services until closing where only a few will be needed to help close everything.

Once the client population starts to decrease significantly as the year progresses, the two expected courses for employees will be either voluntary buyout offers or a reduction in force.

For Livingston, a buyout is obviously going to appeal to those who have spent a great number of years working for the institution since the benefits add up significantly over a longer period of time.

Those who have not been with the facility that long may be inclined to wait.

The buyout package is expected to include 18 months of the employee insurance plan when they leave, longevity based on employee’s next anniversary, one week of pay for each year of service up to $26,000 or $5,000 or whichever is greater and payment of accumulated sick leave at one half of employees hourly rate.

The plan notes how some of those positions that are expected to see little to no decrease at first will be those in medical care jobs like LPN or RN nurses.

Some of those employees eliminated like case managers or in social service focuses will have the chance to remain as employees of the Developmental Disabilities Services Division in community services programs.

Some may also be eligible for unemployment benefits and job training under displaced worker program.

Most of the questions Livingston has been asked have been related along the lines if one accepts a buyout how long before the can apply to work for the state of Oklahoma again, which is one year.

In the end, Livingston is confident that despite the reality and somberness of knowing a final date, most are prepared to stay as long as they are needed.

He said it’s not the outcome that makes everyone happy, but reiterated a point he’s made before in that most at least have an answer that helps employees have a better idea of how to plan for the future.

“I think the sentiment across campus is everybody’s going to ride this through,” said Livingston, noting how it is feasible that these dates could change since they are ballpark figures and since SORC itself has not had direct involvement in plan, could not guess how exactly DHS will adjust if other factors delay the process long enough.

“I think the mood is because of the benefit package, the tenured employees will see it through because it is a really good package.”

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