OKLAHOMA CAPITOL -- The Commission for Human Services met for its monthly meeting Tuesday, July 24, 2012, in Oklahoma City. Commissioners present were Myron Pope, Aneta Wilkinson, Richard DeVaughn, Wes Lane, Mike Peck, Linda English-Weeks, Brad Yarbrough and Brandon Clabes.
Commissioners offered a moment of silence in honor of Commissioner Jay Dee Chase, who passed away July 1.
New Commissioners Brandon Clabes and Myron Pope were introduced, and Wes Lane presided over his first meeting as Commission Chairman.
After approval of the minutes for the June 12 meeting, Interim Director Preston Doerflinger and Chairman Lane presented commendations to OKDHS employees Kara Alexander and Vicki Parsons for their role in helping save a client’s life. A commendation was also presented to Commissioner Richard DeVaughn thanking him for his years of service. DeVaughn’s term expires August 1. A posthumous commendation was presented to the family of Jay Dee Chase; Commissioner Aneta Wilkinson accepted on behalf of the Chase family.
Deborah Smith, director of OKDHS Child Welfare Services, addressed the Commission with a report on state fiscal year 2012. Smith also commented on the initial phases of the agency reform plan, known as the “Pinnacle Plan.” She acknowledged several new Deputy Directors and presented a new district map.
Smith said the focus for State Fiscal Year 2013 is to complete vertical integration outlined in the Pinnacle Plan. She also wants to substantially increase the number of resource homes statewide, hire and train new child welfare staff and stabilize and support the current workforce.
Also announced were pay raises for foster parents and child welfare employees.
“We appreciate those foster parents who have stepped up and provided safe, loving homes for so many children,” Smith said. “But we still need 500 additional foster families and we are committed to improving the experience of new foster parents. The rate increase is just one of the new initiatives we plan to implement to improve our response to people interested in fostering and to improve our services.”
The amount of the increase will range from $38.48 to $41.78 per month, depending on the age of the child. Therapeutic foster parents will notice an increase from $16.63 a day to $17.97 a day. And contracted foster care agencies will see rate increases from $39 per day to $40.40 a day.
Commissioners heard comments from representatives concerning the Northern Oklahoma Resource Center in Enid (NORCE) and the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center (SORC) in Pauls Valley.
The NORCE/SORC Parent Guardian’s Association addressed the Commission, as well as representatives of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, and James Nicholson, representing the OKDHS Developmental Disabilities Services Division.
At the June meeting, Commissioner Peck outlined a proposal for closing SORC by Summer, 2013, and moving residents into community-based homes or in some cases, transferring them to NORCE. Deteriorating conditions at SORCE led Peck to his proposal. No vote was taken by Commissioners, but representatives on all sides were allowed to voice their opinions and concerns.
After entering into Executive Session to discuss private agency matters, the Commission returned to Regular Session and set the date of their next meeting for Tuesday, September 25.