By Ezra Mann CNHI News Service
Enid News and Eagle
PAULS VALLEY —
Keeping cool under pressure is a tested strategy for members of Parents Guardian Association (PGA) for Southern Oklahoma Resource Center.
It was a little over a month ago when Michael Peck, an Enid optometrist and chairman of the Oklahoma Commission for Human Services’ property committee, gave a report during an OCHS meeting in which he proposed closing SORC and transferring clients to Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid. Both facilities care for developmentally disabled clients.
Both facilities need repairs, but NORCE is in better condition and more capable of housing SORC residents almost immediately, Peck’s report stated.
Since then, PGA members have gone back to the planning board to prevent SORC from closing, and have prepared their own suggestions for the next OCHS meeting set for Tuesday. A vote to close SORC is expected to take place at Tuesday’s meeting.
“Our whole concern is the community has no had a chance to address these issues,” said PGA President Ken Talley, adding how some of the tactics to encourage closure have created a fear for survival between both facilities.
“We’re not interested in being pitted against NORCE,” Talley said.
Addressing Peck’s report, a statement from PGA noted how one of the biggest arguments to close SORC centers around a misconception there is not enough money to install sprinklers as a part of an August 2013 deadline to keep Medicaid funding for clients.
This is incorrect, as are estimates that it would cost the campus millions up to code, according to PGA’s statement.
According to PGA’s plan, one structure at SORCE, the Turner Unit, has had sprinklers installed, and the cost to finish the rest is $250,000 — well within the $450,000 existing mineral rights money owned by the campus.
The first step in PGA’s plan is to install sprinklers in the other buildings using the mineral rights money.
The second part of the document asks Department of Human Services to prepare a report checking up on former clients of SORC, NORCE and the now-closed Hissom facility to find out how their transition into a community setting went.
Talley said having that information is important, since Peck’s report suggested around 80 residents at SORCE would not be transferred to NORCE, but instead be put into homes or other non-institutional settings.
Such suggestions of alternative care have been suggested in the past, but parents of SORC clients have said they are uncomfortable getting behind the idea, since the full scope of transition success has not been documented, said Talley.
Hesitation also comes from the belief it will cost even more to transition SORC residents to another type of care, since a majority of clients’ disabilities require all-day monitored medical care.
The plan’s third recommendation asks DHS to appoint a decision-making group made up of DHS staff, family members or guardians and employees of both facilities to consider long-term plans.
Talley said PGA members hope Tuesday’s OCHS meeting does not include a vote on the future of SORC or NORCE, to allow time for the best answers to be found.
“There’s never been plans put in place that should have been done for over a decade,” Talley said. “It looks like there was some decision long ago without getting people’s feelings on that.”
Mann writes for the Pauls Valley Democrat.