Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

November 20, 2012

Closure steps begin at SORC

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat — The road to closure is far from a new topic of discussion for those close to the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center and has for years been the fear for many whose loved ones call it home.

However, as SORC administrator Jeff Livingston has seen, despite the fact that many are still unhappy with a recent vote to close the two remaining disability institutions, there is not as much dismay on campus as one might expect.

If anything, the initial steps toward shutting down Pauls Valley’s former state school has actually provided much needed clarity on what to expect and give employees an idea how to plan for their own futures.

“I think for us, everybody’s really disappointed with the outcome, but at least there was an outcome,” said Livingston, noting how they knew there was a possibility a vote might take place and there was actually more shock from those connected to NORCE who were only recently brought into the equation as an alternative themselves this summer.

“We’ve been living under a cloud of uncertainty for several years... we were just kind of relieved somebody made a decision one way or another so we wouldn’t be guessing every month.”

Livingston has been pleased with how those with the Department of Human Services have worked with employees and the clients so far.

After an initial meeting with staff leaders to go over what to expect the day after the vote, the process of finding clients alternative living settings actually got going this past week when clients were assigned case managers through the area DHS offices in order to individually determine where clients would get specific needs met.

Some of the areas Livingston has seen benefit already include staff shortages which had before the vote resulted in a few weeks of emergency measures taken.

He still has a few vacancies to fill, but many now know how long they could be employed, which may not be longer than the target closure date of April 30, 2014.

As far as building closures or employee reduction in force plans, those are still in the rough draft stage, though Livingston said the documents releasing detailed plans could be finalized and made public in early December.

In any case, no one is being let go at the moment with employee feedback being used to put layoff offers together and everything that was being offered before will continue until further notice.

Livingston said their role now is to continue their services offered to clients be it their vocational work programs or the various forms of care.

Though staff or anyone else working at SORC will not directly help find homes for clients, they will be working closely with DHS to provide case managers with any information they need in order to find alternatives.

“I’m fairly confident whatever the package will be, it will be a fairly good package for them,” said Livingston. “We won’t personally be active in the transition.”

Each of the client’s needs are something that could determine where they go and while some families will want their loved ones within close traveling distance, others will travel farther if it means the level of care they’re used to continues, said Livingston. He added how there are many unwritten things that are important be it 24-hour care or ensuring those who are used to roaming in the community or on campus still have those freedoms.

In the end, Livingston said the mission hasn’t changed and the next steps will include future meetings to go over transition details on campus. The Parent Guardian Association has already shifted much of their focus to what their next move will be during a meeting held Sunday afternoon.

“Those services are essential and they will have to continue as long as we are a licensed facility,” said Livingston.

“My message from my perspective is we will continue to do things as usual... Our commitment is to be supportive of the families.”