By Sean Murphy, Associated Press
Enid News and Eagle
OKLAHOMA CITY —
The Oklahoma Commission for Human Services voted Thursday to close two state facilities for Oklahoma’s most severely developmentally disabled residents, in a move that drew fierce criticism from parents of the more than 200 residents who live at the centers.
The nine-member commission voted 6-3 to shut down the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley by April 2014, and the Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid by August 2015. The centers’ 231 residents will be transitioned to community-based homes.
“This commission has invested a tremendous amount of time studying this issue,” said Chairman Wes Lane, who proposed the resolution. “Every commissioner has asked himself or herself: ‘What would I do if this was my loved one.’ Each of us have agonized over what the right decision is.”
Lane said the estimated $30 million price tag for necessary repairs at the two facilities also was a factor.
“Can we in good conscience put that much money into buildings when there are nearly 7,000 families caring for loved ones with disabilities at home who are waiting for community services?” Lane asked. “Or do we transition the residents out of the resource centers into homes in communities where they can live like a majority of Oklahomans with the same developmental disabilities.”
Several parents of children at the facilities expressed outrage that the commission decided to close the two facilities.
“It’s a shock. I think it’s wrong,” said Sheila Day, of Oklahoma City, explaining her 21-year-old son, Justin, has lived at the Pauls Valley center for 12 years.
“It will be very traumatic for him. I hope they can live with their decision,” she said.
The meeting also was the first for the Department of Human Services’ newly appointed director Ed Lake, who took over the 7,000-employee state agency effective Thursday. Oklahoma Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger, who had been serving as interim director, was reappointed Thursday to his previous position as director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.