Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

February 12, 2013

Assisted living setting community standard

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat — Parents or guardians of clients are still working out necessary details as transitions from the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center and its sister site NORC in Enid to community options begin, but there are a few misconceptions as to what awaits former residents.

One of the most common misconceptions seen by community providers like Garvin County Community Living Center CEO Cathy Cash is that many simply assume group homes are the only option and how money is spent to provide their services.

As trends have changed in more recent years, the type of arrangements where a larger group of individuals would share a single structure mirroring the standard at one of the former state schools is itself transitioning to smaller options, more like an assisted living arrangement.

Joining Cash in the explanation of how this is not the case was Gayla Roberts, Area III program manager with DHS’s Developmental Disability Services Division, specifically for the region that includes Pauls Valley.

She noted how a lot of the reasons for not having as many transitions going toward group homes is that the state funding that helps operate them is not as readily available compared to assisted living where clients often receive more funding through a federal option like Medicaid.

“Group home openings don’t come around very often,” said Roberts, adding how fewer structures in communities are being built for group home purposes as funding is cut and there is no more immediate funding expected to open up any time soon.

“It’s a better way of life, more opportunities.”

The assisted living options also end up being more economical than group homes due to ability for residents to split up their monthly costs from rent to the purchase of food and amenities like furniture, versus a larger regular fee overall for residents of a group home, according to Cash.

Where one might see as many as 6 to 12 living in a group home, only three in assisted living end up sharing what is basically a standard home modified for their disabilities.

Roberts noted how it is not much different than if anyone not disabled had roommates and the combined monies they are provided goes a lot further since renting expenses are usually less than residence at the state level.

Much of that is due to the rules and regulations for the state facilities requiring more expensive options and can provide even a chance to get a nicer place than if they had gone to a group home.

Cash admitted that while it is unlikely that many of the clients will end up transitioning to their services from SORC since it depends on if all needs can be arranged, they have transitioned around 60 from the facility since they started operating back in the 1980s. They currently have around 35 former SORC clients living in either one of their community homes or at least involved in their vocational work program.

“We’ve had a lot of the same clients who have been here for a long time,” said Cash, adding how some of have spent time at the Living Center for 25-29 years so far.

In the end, Cash wants to make it clear agencies like the Living Center will not take clients just to take them off the hands of SORC and it will take a lot of time to make sure all the needs are there before placement.

She also said someone won’t be turned away simply because they are too disabled and where clients goes depends on what limited homes in each community have space that can accommodate.

“It’s quite a process, it doesn’t just happen,” said Cash.

We wouldn’t tell them no just because of their disabilities… We will take people if we can provide care and a place.”

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two part article; the rest on types of care in the community will be included in a future edition of the PV Democrat.