Oklahoma City, Oklahoma —
Governor Mary Fallin praised the Oklahoma Human Services Commission on Friday for its vote to complete the state’s transition from institutional care to community services for Oklahomans with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The commission oversees the Developmental Disabilities Services Division (DDSD) of the Department of Human Services (DHS).
The commission passed a resolution directing that Oklahoma’s two state-run institutions for persons with developmental disabilities, the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center (SORC) in Pauls Valley and the Northern Oklahoma Resource Center in Enid (NORCE), be closed over the next two to three years.
Residents of these facilities will be transitioned to community living arrangements, an option that provides greater flexibility for people with disabilities and is already being used by over 5,000 Oklahomans.
“The vast majority of Oklahomans currently receiving assistance through DDSD are doing so in communities,” Fallin said. “Community care offers more personalized planning and service delivery than institutional care. Additionally, outcomes for individuals in community settings have proven to be better than outcomes produced by institutional care. Completing the transition to community based services allows the state to focus its resources on the highest quality service options available.”
SORC opened in 1907 and was originally known as “The State Training School for White Boys,” while NORCE first opened in 1909 as the “Oklahoma Institution for the Feeble Minded.” Both facilities once had over 1,000 residents.
A third state-run institution, the Hissom Memorial Center in Sand Springs was opened in 1961.
For decades, these institutions were the only state-sponsored service options available for people with developmental disabilities in Oklahoma.
The Hissom Memorial Center in Sand Springs was closed in 1994 when a group of parents filed a class action lawsuit demanding the state create community service options for their children.
Today, NORCE has 108 residents and SORC has 123.
More than 5,000 Oklahomans are currently receiving community based services instead of institutional services. Community services are available in all 77 Oklahoma counties and currently serve those with all level of disabilities, including more than 700 individuals with severe mental retardation and many with severe medical conditions.
Because NORCE and SORC each operate large campuses built for much higher occupancy, both facilities have vacant and condemned buildings. These buildings, as well as the rest of the campus structures, require brick and mortar upkeep costs paid for with DHS and DDSD public funds. These expenses divert money from direct services to individuals.
Additionally, they contribute to a shortage of funds that has led to a backlog of almost 7,000 individuals, currently on a waiting list, hoping to receive DDSD community services.
“We want to make sure that state tax dollars are used to actually help people with developmental disabilities, whether it’s through vocational training and placement, medical services or high quality staff support,” said Fallin.
“Shifting our resources to community-based services will ensure that the greatest number of Oklahomans can get the highest quality of direct support, rather than spending tax dollars on the upkeep of large vacant buildings at the state’s two aging institutions.”
In the months leading up to today’s vote, both Fallin and several of the commissioners visited NORCE and SORC, meeting with staff and residents and evaluating the facilities.
“The staff at NORCE and SORC have done a great service for the state, and they should be commended for their hard work and dedication,” Fallin said.
“As the state shifts towards community based services, it’s our hope that many of these men and women continue their work in community settings.”
In the resolution passed, the Human Services Commission pledged to provide assistance and support to families of NORCE and SORC throughout the transition to community homes. It also directs that no additional expenses are required to be incurred by families or residents.
Finally, the commission asks Governor Fallin to convene a panel of parents, professionals and state agency representatives to develop a comprehensive plan to support individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, as well as to address the state’s growing waiting list.
“We understand that for the men and women currently residing in NORCE and SORC, as well as their families, any transition or change in service can be difficult,” Fallin said.
“It’s important for those individuals to realize, however, that we are transitioning them to community services that are more versatile and can offer them more personalized and flexible options as well as a higher quality of life. The state is absolutely committed to helping them make this transition go as smoothly as possible.
“It should also be clear to everyone that no one will transition out of institutional care until they locate, with the help of DDSD, a high quality community services option to address their individual needs and preferences. No one’s services will be cut off.”
Fallin said she will take the commission’s advice and create a blue ribbon panel to develop future support plans for developmental disabilities services in Oklahoma.
“I accept the recommendation of the commission to create a new panel to explore comprehensive delivery of high quality services to Oklahomans with developmental disabilities,” Fallin said.
“We expect recommendations of the panel to help us with this transition and to set the stage for further improvements in the future.”
More information can be found in the Democrat's story here: http://paulsvalleydailydemocrat.com/local/x1501147376/Countdown-to-SORC-closure-begins