August 12, 2015

Rate Cut Approved for Providers to Developmentally Disabled

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Oklahomans with disabilities and professionals who care for them attended the Oklahoma Health Authority Board meeting.

Warren Vieth/Oklahoma Watch

Oklahomans with disabilities and professionals who care for them attended the Oklahoma Health Authority Board meeting.

Sue Shelton of Pryor got up early Wednesday to take part in a three-hour caravan headed for Oklahoma City. She had something important to say to the board of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

“I am scared,” she told the eight grim-faced board members.

If the board endorsed provider rate cuts already approved by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, she said, the health care workers who help her live independently might leave their jobs.

“I am afraid I will have to go back to an institution, and so will my friends,” said Shelton, who has cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities. “I don’t want to go backwards. I want to go forward.”

Sue Shelton of Pryor addresses the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

Warren Vieth / Oklahoma Watch

Sue Shelton of Pryor addresses the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

Leanne Hill, senior support coordinator for Central State Community Services in Pryor, said most of the workers who help care for Shelton and other clients earn $8.35 per hour. Their supervisors earn $10.35, she said. Staff turnover is high.

The OHCA board went ahead and approved the 3.5 percent rate cut for developmental disabilities service providers. The action will reduce spending on the programs by $11 million. That includes about $7 million in federal funds and $4 million in state funds.

And so it goes, as state agencies absorb the budget cuts caused by reduced legislative appropriations and reduced funding from other sources.

In addition to the $11 million reduction in funding for developmentally disabled providers, the Health Care Authority also approved a $5 million cut for health care providers who serve aged, blind and disabled Oklahomans. That includes about $2 million in federal funds and $2 million in state funds.

The provider cuts were a last resort for the Department of Human Services, said Communications and Community Relations Director Sheree Powell.

DHS had to cut its budget by $45 million this year, Powell said. The Legislature reduced appropriated funds by $12 million, and the department experienced a $33 million reduction in other funding.

The department absorbed most of the reduction by reducing administrative costs, Powell said. Among other things, it cut its staff by 87 people.

If DHS did not reduce its provider rates, it would need to eliminate many more jobs, she said.

The reduction in provider rates “was a very concerning decision to us,” Powell said. “We value the provider agencies that are here today. We consider them partners.”

OHCA’s endorsement of the rate cuts was the last step in their implementation. The board voted unanimously to approve them.

Board Chairman Ed McFall of Porum said he regretted the action, but saw no alternative.

McFall told the scores of people attending Wednesday’s session that the problem did not lie within DHS or OHCA.

“The problem is at 23rd and Lincoln,” he said, referring to the Capitol. “You know where that is. Go register and vote.”

  • Becky Spencer

    This just sickens me!!! Of the money they r taking away, who’s pocket does it go in?? The disabled community has a hard enough time as it is, now this. And the support ppl that work with these disabled folks, what r they expected to do/or handle this funding cut? The state legislature r idiots and the biggest one is Mary Fallin…….let her & the others in office learn to live, pay bills, eat, get meds, etc…on what these ppl do! Let’s see how they like it. Or even a better idea, MAKE these ppl in power take an aide job for a disabled person just one day a week. See how this is actually done in real time!!!

  • Darron Vanman

    I just spoke with an administrator with the DDS department the other day who said that there is currently a 7,000 person waiting list to get services if u are developmentally disabled unless there is an “emergency” situation like the care giver/support person
    dies. I was totally shocked by this. We are spending millions of dollars to lock people up
    but then we don’t have enough money to fund programs like DDS. It is truly disappointing, sad and criminal.

  • Janet Schaffner

    Sue Shelton is afraid she might have to go back to an institution – — but there are no institutions to go back to! What is going to happen to people who can no longer find care givers? Maybe they can move into the Governor’s mansion? or the state legislators’ homes?

    • Gail Barabasz

      Perhaps they can move an rv behind the mansion like the governors daughter did.

  • i would at a place that helps the people with these disabilities in ponca city oklahoma it saddens me that this is happening to them i have a son that is on a waiting list but for them to take away the funding that helps them its wrong we have a roof over our head and can find another job if needed but they cant some on the places for them is all that they have some dont even have family that can help them this world is getting bad when they decide to stop helping these people it makes me so mad i have work with the ones i do for almost 10 yrs now i wish there was something we all could do to help them