OKLAHOMA CAPITOL -- The Commission for Human Services met for its monthly meeting Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012, in Oklahoma City. Commissioners present were Steven Dow, Jay Dee Chase, Aneta Wilkinson, Richard DeVaughn, Brad Yarbrough, Mike Peck, Linda English Weeks, Anne Roberts and Wes Lane.
Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) Director Howard Hendrick announced he will retire Feb. 29, 2012.
“I could have retired more than a year ago,” Hendrick said, “but I felt I should stay through the resolution of the child welfare litigation. I have many things I want to do, like spending time with my grandchildren, and if I don’t leave now I never will. It’s good for me to stop and take a long breath, go on down the road and do something different. There are a billion books I want to read, and I feel good about this decision,” he said.
“There is never a perfect time to leave. There will always be unfinished business. However, this seems to be the right time for me. I did my best,” Hendrick added.
Upon Hendrick’s announcement, an audience member shouted “We love you Howard.” The audience and Commissioners alike rose for a standing ovation.
Hendrick joined OKDHS on July 1, 1998.
In other news, Hendrick said SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as “Food Stamps,”) numbers have been at an all-time high since the beginning of the fiscal year which began July 1.
“While cases decreased slightly in December, the past six months have seen record numbers of cases and individuals utilizing the SNAP benefit,” Hendrick said. “More than 30 percent of all Oklahoma children are being fed through SNAP. And while case numbers have continued to rise, our staff has done a terrific job handling the increasing amount of Oklahomans who receive these benefits.”
In other news, the Commission heard revised plans regarding the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center and Northern Oklahoma Resource Center. Developmental Disabilities Services Division Director Jim Nicholson presented a modified plan following discussions with the Oklahoma Public Employees Association and the Parent Guardian Association.
“An irreconcilable difference exists over whether or not capital expenditures should be made,” Nicholson said. “The modified plan begins the process to change from an outdated institutional model that would require maintenance of old buildings to the currently preferred model where the money follows the person.”
The Commission decided to continue the discussion and meet again to consider any revisions to the plan.
Four OKDHS employees were recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty following a business meeting last month. Hendrick and Commission Chairman Brad Yarbrough commended Sonya Bradberry, Peggy Ellwanger, Ranea Lantz and Shelly Wood. The four employees were returning to Seminole in early December when they noticed an unconscious woman slumped behind the wheel of her car with the windows rolled down.
They managed to put the car in park and called for emergency assistance. The four employees stayed until paramedics arrived, who determined the woman was diabetic.
“We commend you for your thoughtful service,” Hendrick said. “You undoubtedly helped save the life of this woman by your heroic efforts.”
Following executive session, commissioners set the date of their next meeting for Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012.