Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

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June 20, 2014

Another round of buyouts for SORC

emann@pvdemocrat.com — Transitions out of the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center have reached yet another milestone.

The latest drop in population at the former state school brings the resident population down to 32 clients. The Disability Services Division of the Department of Human Services announced a second round of voluntary buyouts.

“Three meetings are set for Wednesday, June 25 at the Damron Center,” said DHS Public Information Manager Kevan Goff-Parker. “Employees eligible for the VOBOs are encouraged to attend.”

It will be the second such buyout this year, this time impacting positions for all 209 employees left.

The number of those eligible is much larger. There are up to 79 individuals able to accept the buyout and will be offered to 180 in total.

Goff-Parker noted that the decision came down to the number of clients not matching the number of individuals needed to maintain their care.

There are currently 100 direct care employees left. Out of that 33 of them will be eligible for the buyout with the rest going to other positions.

To put it in perspective, there is an average of seven care staff for each client at SORC. That’s compared to four per client at the sister site NORCE. There are 15 clients and 62 employees at NORCE.

“The reason we’re offering this is because of staffing levels,” said Goff-Parker, noting how any decision is subject to change.

“As we move forward and the client numbers reduce, another voluntary buyout may be offered.”

Goff-Parker noted how DHS does not expect it to take too long, much like the offer in January. Employees had filled the 30 available slots in a couple of days. She said they believe they will receive most if not all-voluntary buyouts in maybe a week.

Details of the buyout include 18 months of employee health insurance or $7,000 toward another provider.

Longevity pay will be based on the employee’s next service anniversary. It will be paid at one week of pay for each year of service. That will be up to $26,000 or $5,000, whichever is greater.

There will also be payment of accumulated sick leave at half the employee’s hourly rate.

Goff-Parker reiterated that there is no plan to shut down SORC until the last client has been placed. No matter how long that takes.

As far as the buildings used on campus, when they drop to 28 clients or below, Multiple North will be closed.

This will leave a few cottages and Turner as the last living quarters.

“Severance is also the same as voluntary buyout,” said Goff-Parker. “Neither state run school will shut down until each client has been placed with the provider of their choice.”

DHS will start accepting buyout candidates on a first-come first-serve basis at noon Thursday, June 26.

Assistance will then arrive through the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission rapid response team. They will help those leaving with everything from seeking employment to calling it a career.

“I do understand that a lot of people are thinking about going back to school or retiring,” said Goff-Parker. “We do have some people who are going to work for providers.”

Final separation for these employees will be Aug. 15.

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