OKLAHOMA CAPITOL -- The Commission for Human Services met for its monthly meeting Tuesday, May 22, 2012, in Oklahoma City. Commissioners present were Wes Lane, Jay Dee Chase, Aneta Wilkinson, Richard DeVaughn, Brad Yarbrough, Mike Peck, Linda English-Weeks, Anne Roberts and Steven Dow.
Preston Doerflinger presented the Commission with his report as Interim Director. Doerflinger said he felt as if he had been “sequestered” for several days working with the Legislature on budget issues. “I would commend the Governor’s Office and both chambers of the Legislature for their commitment to get this agency the funding it needs,” Doerflinger said.
Key priorities for the OKDHS budget in the upcoming fiscal year include:
- $25 million to implement the new Pinnacle Plan
- $17 million for maintenance of effort funds
- $4 million for legal fees
- $1.5 million for rate increases for the Developmental Disabilities Services Division (DDSD)
- $1 million for people on the DDSD waiting list
Doerflinger also commented on solutions that are underway to correct problems with the agency’s Child Abuse and Neglect hotline. In some instances, callers have waited on hold for more than an hour. But statistics show up to 35 percent of all the calls coming in to the hotline are not abuse/neglect related.
“People are calling looking for services in other areas of DHS,” said Sheree Powell, OKDHS Director of Communications. “However, that pushes the child abuse and neglect calls back. Workers are having a difficult time getting to the calls.”
Doerflinger said some “triage” mechanisms are now in place. “We are getting to the root cause of this problem. We are committed to (fixing) this. If this is not run well, that means a child is not getting the attention they deserve,” he said.
Deborah Smith, Children and Family Services Division Director, said last month the number of cases assigned for investigation or assessment hit a year-long high, at 2,960. Total referrals for April were 5,948 representing about 12,000 children. Of those, 2,988 did not meet abuse/neglect criteria.
Finance Director Phil Motley said SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly “Food Stamps,”) participation continued a recent trend and declined again in April. A reduction of 1,195 cases was noted from March to April.
Commissioners discussed the search for a new Director, saying they had received more than 55 applications, and have interviewed two candidates. A professional executive personnel search firm has also been hired to solicit additional candidates.
The Commission set the date of their next meeting for Tuesday, June 12.