Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

December 11, 2012

Transition of SORC is manageable task

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat — Much of the apprehension following a decision to close Oklahoma’s two disability related institutions has hinged on the lack of a full announced plan on transition into the community.

However, despite the fear that clients would not have similar needs met comparable to what they received somewhere like Pauls Valley’s Southern Oklahoma Resource Center or its sister site NORCE in Enid, there are those who believe it’ll be much smoother than one might think.

Take Ben Williamson, area III manager for the Developmental Disabilities Services Division of the Department of Human Services for example, who not only believes it can be done but has seen it work for the more than two decades he has worked for the local office.

“Pauls Valley has done a really good job transitioning people into the community already,” said Williamson, noting how things have improved and people have done well since he started working in the 1980s. “We’re working with them to make this as smooth as possible.”

One of those areas Williamson is confident needs will be met is anyone who may wish to continue living within Garvin County.

Williamson said that if all of the 120 plus clients that need to be moved were going to live in Pauls Valley, there would need to be a significant infrastructure overhaul here to make it possible, but he has actually seen trends to the contrary.

As case managers assigned to the clients have been working with them, Williamson has found how a majority of them are actually going to be near parents or guardians who live outside the county.

For those who wish to keep relatives close to this area, they are presented with existing providers be it in a group home network like the Garvin County Community Living Center or smaller family owned operations.

Williamson noted there are options where clients can have any level of freedom they were accustomed to before and as confirmed by the official state resource center transition plan, accommodations exist through providers be it vocational work programs to the ability to rent an available property in town. If a home is not ready to meet needs of a client, that too will be handled through this transition and homes will be modified depending on a person’s disability.

“These aren’t state homes… They rent from a landlord like we would,” said Williamson, adding how each county in the state has providers and DHS employees who already handle care of disabled clients in every community. “It may be a matter of finding a place to rent.”

Williamson also wishes to clear up a misconception that those who are the most profoundly disabled will not be able to get the same round the clock attention.

Options existing that would work in this scenario include a shared home environment chosen by guardians that includes nurses or other medical professionals from nutritionists to physical therapists who are there in rotating shifts even if needed for all 24 hours in a day.

As far as meeting the closure date of April 30, 2014, Williamson notes how this is more of a goal set through the vote than an absolute certainty. However, while it could take longer than the date to place everyone, he feels it is entirely possible to have all residents placed in communities of their choice by that time, if not earlier.

In the end, Williamson said the DDSD office has even learned from the previous institution, Hissom that closed near Tulsa, and can promise it will go much more smoothly with no mandate to close it before all clients are placed.

He fully expects transitions to begin early in 2013 with talks on options underway the moment the closure vote was cast and he said it will take a lot of cooperation from everyone involved.

“We don’t do this overnight,” said Williamson.

“Oklahoma’s gone through one institution closing and there was a deadline and we’ll meet this deadline... They won’t leave people out there just to meet a deadline.”