A House committee has voted to approved legislation which would stop the closures of facilities for the mentally handicapped at Pauls Valley and Enid.
Legislation passed by a unanimous vote in the House Human Service Committee would stop the implementation of a plan to close the Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid and the Southern Resource Center of Pauls Valley.
House Bill 2053, by House Speaker Pro Tempore Mike Jackson, directs the Department of Human Services to cease the implementation of the plan and to take no further action without approval of the Oklahoma Legislature.
The legislation requires that the agency develop a plan for the facilities that considers the concerns of the families and the state’s need for safety net beds for citizens challenged with disabilities.
In November, just days before the agency’s oversight board was voted out of existence, the board voted to close the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center of Pauls Valley and the Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid.
“This closure plan was voted in by a board that has been abolished by a vote of the people,” said Jackson, R-Enid. “I think it is time for lawmakers to step in and address the concerns of these vulnerable citizens and their families.”
The two facilities provide residential services for Oklahoma’s most seriously developmentally challenged adults, most of whom also suffer from serious chronic medical conditions, such as epilepsy, have tracheotomies and use gastrostomy tubes for feedings. Most of the residents have lived most of their lives at the facilities.
Ninety percent of the residents of the facilities are classified as severe or profoundly disabled, compared to 19 percent in community settings.
“Closing these facilities disrupts the care of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable citizens and has not been proven to save the state money,” said Jackson. “I am willing to work with all parties to ensure the best care is given to these Oklahomans.”
Contrary to information that has been circulated, other states have not closed their facilities. Across the nation 1,981 people were admitted into large state-operated facilities in 2009. In 2009, the average daily population of persons with disabilities living in state-operated facilities was 660. Oklahoma’s average was 289 and in 2011 was 250.*
“The costs of these facilities are paid through Medicaid, and the funds are minimal when looking at the overall budget, yet they are critical to the residents and their families,” said Jackson.
House Bill 2053 will now advance to the Calendar Committee for consideration.