Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

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February 7, 2014

Transition met with more calm

emann@pvdemocrat.com — Though it has taken a while to reach this point, there is now a relatively steady and comfortable flow of community transitions going on for the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center.

One area that has recently reached this ease is the employees, who only weeks ago agreed to the first voluntary buyout offer that will take effect in March and with this has almost eliminated the understaffed problem, according to SORC Administrator Jeff Livingston. He explained the situation of the reduction of nonessential staff as calm and an acceptance to keep things as smooth as possible as things gradually shut down.

“There was virtually no anger or animosity,” said Livingston, noting how while the early end of employment offer for 30 was filled up immediately, they actually lost around 27 as a few moved to other needed positions. “They were there to learn to make a decision for the future.”

To put it in perspective, it was common practice for years where direct care staff would have dual roles where they would combine the everyday duties for the clients and handle medication administration, according to Livingston.

This is something that would otherwise be handled by separate employees in an environment like a hospital and this added to the problem of staff only being trained to be able to work in one particular building on campus.

“It was very difficult for them to do both,” said Livingston, adding that the current client population is 55. “They have really helped.”

The environment is now not quite as stressful as it was for employees even near the end of 2013 as measures have now been put in place to alleviate the workload of essential staff like who have to remain as client numbers decrease.

This has happened through the ability to contract out jobs like LPNs or Certified Nurse Assistants through options like Sooner Medical, reducing the problem of overtime along with staff able to devote more attention to fewer patients and now those who remain are cross trained to be able to go among all the buildings still open.

As far as buildings, those being used now include Multiple Unit North, Multiple South with about five clients, which is the next to close; a few campus houses and Turner, said Livingston.

Ultimately it will come down to the Turner building closing last, whether or not the original closure deadline of April 30 is replaced with a new date.

If anything presents significant difficulties as the client population reaches this level, it is some of the veteran employees having to say goodbye to clients they have worked with as long as decades.

Livingston himself recently bid farewell to a client who transferred into the community, who would stop by his office every day to chat or bring by a magazine.

“We have lots of folks who made it a career and still on board,” said Livingston, who started what was his second stint at SORC back in 2002 before becoming the administrator in 2005 and the eventual goal is one unified unit for a majority of the clients.

“When you work with somebody for 17 years there’s some emotion that goes with that…It’s tough, like sending a kid off to college.”

In the end, whether some of these employees leave in March or when the last client leaves, they will be offered a similar severance package to what was offered in this recent VOBO. As it is new territory for the state, there is still some uncertainty how it will proceed from this point on and when another group of employees will get a similar opportunity.

“We’re all going to get the same thing eventually,” said Livingston. “It’s just a matter of when.”

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