Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

February 11, 2013

Transition protection key for residents

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat — With some of the first transitions to community settings from the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley and its sister site NORC in Enid set in motion, one of the main concerns being addressed is ensuring safeguards are in place.

Taking the initiative to make sure everything from larger group homes to smaller living arrangements for former clients can be held accountable for the services provided, state Rep. Lisa J. Billy will soon introduce legislation that requires them to be evaluated on a regular basis.

Set to be first considered for a vote on the floor on Tuesday, Feb. 12, House Bill 1867 asks that anyone providing residential services, day services, day habilitation or vocational services to former state school residents meet accreditation requirements by a third party, specifically one along the lines of the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).

“Our goal is to provide everyone the best protection possible,” said Billy, who feels there should be something written into law as transitions do not look like they’ll be prevented.

“Unless Gov. Fallin changes her mind there’s nothing we can do.”

The bill might have actually been voted on already if it weren’t for some confusion that removed it from that path by some of Billy’s colleagues in the House. However, after a recent House committee meeting it is back on track.

One of the reasons Billy chose this particular organization is the track record she has observed providing evaluation of services for other entities from elderly care centers to medical rehabilitation.

She actually felt it was necessary to put something like this in place because there is not any kind of state required evaluation for arrangements like group homes with many of them only providing their own evaluations.

“I was surprised to find out they didn’t already do this,” said Billy. “I do have a positive feeling that this will pass.”

Billy feels confident this is the right move because this kind of requirement will provide a little bit of everything from background checks for providers to random validation surveys or compliance investigations for those who have been accredited.

Billy is even seeing more cooperation from the Department of Human Services, whereas before when she suggested putting transition safeguards or simply mandated accountability in place she would not see the discussion open up. She plans on using this ability to negotiate to help get something in place more quickly should the measure gain enough votes to pass.

The closure date for SORC is still set for April 30, 2014 and for NORCE that date is Aug. 31, 2015.