Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

December 27, 2012

SORC closure a real heartbreaker

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — Members of a Pauls Valley community board are among the many who are devastated by last month's announcement that a local facility housing those with developmental disabilities is scheduled to close in 2014.

For one member of PV's chamber of commerce board of directors the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center, better known as SORC, means a lot on a very personal level.

Schales Atkinson is a member of the chamber board and for a 10-year period served as the medical director of SORC before retiring a couple of years ago.

During a recent board meeting Atkinson offered some of his thoughts on the difficult news a facility that means so much to him is now set to close in the near future.

“I wish I had better news but I will keep you informed,” Atkinson said about the planned future of SORC.

“I'm not an employee but I am representing SORC,” he said to his fellow board members.

“When you lose something like that you lose something significant.”

Atkinson believes the loss of what he calls “home for people with developmental disabilities” and a move to a community based facility could represent a real threat to many of the SORC residents, especially those living there for decades.

In fact, Atkinson said a move for some residents could pose a serious threat to their health and possibly even their lives.

“It's a tremendous affect this is going to have on the lives of the people living out there.”

It was back in early November when the Oklahoma Commission for Human Services voted by a 6-3 count to close both SORC and its sister site in Enid clearing the way for a transition of developmental disabilities care to a more community based system.

Atkinson stresses others impacted in a big way by the decision are the families and guardians of the SORC residents.

To illustrate his point, he encouraged the public to attend one of the meetings of SORC's Parent Guardian Association.

“The vote is wreaking havoc with these parents and guardians with loved ones out there,” Atkinson said.

“If you've never been to a Parent Guardian Association meeting I encourage you to do so,” he said. “The anguish you'll see from them will just break your heart.

“You should go to one of those meetings and see how it affects these people.”

According to Atkinson, some of those PGA members are still looking into what they can do to fight the plan to close SORC no later than April 30, 2014.

“There's been an ongoing program to close that place down for 30 years,” he said.

“This is a very political thing. I don't know what they intend to replace it with.”

One of the rumors circulating for years now is to replace SORC with some type of prison facility, which is something Atkinson said no one knows for sure.

What he does know is he personally would rather have SORC stay right where it's at.

“I'd rather have a home for developmental disabilities out there than a penal institution.”

Also impacted by the closure will be the economics of Pauls Valley and the region.

Atkinson told the group SORC is currently the second largest employer in Garvin County.