About 40 states in the U.S. have waiting lists for individuals with developmental disabilities who need home and community-based services, and our state is among them. Here in Oklahoma, some 6,000 individuals are waiting for services, and many have been waiting for years—our state’s list stretches back more than a decade.
But the good news is, thanks to leadership here within the Senate, the Department of Human Services (DHS), and with Secretary of Human Services and Early Childhood Initiatives, Justin Brown, we have begun a crucial step in finally helping Oklahoma eliminate it’s waiting list. On September 1, case-by-case assessments began to be conducted by Liberty Healthcare of Oklahoma to give us accurate data on individual needs and the cost of eliminating the waiting list.
Secretary Brown said in addition to the assessments, the state has contracted for a new case management service and has requested a proposal for analysis of a healthy rate structure to ensure people can get the services they need. In addition, a request for proposal has been requested for consultation by a national expert to help Oklahoma modernize its overall service array to better meet the needs and expectations of self-advocates and families.
I want to applaud the work of my dear friend and mentor, Senator Paul Rosino, who serves as vice chair for both the policy and Appropriations subcommittees for Health and Human Services, and Senate Appropriations chair Roger Thompson, for their efforts to make sure some of our state’s most vulnerable individuals can get the services they need and that will empower them to be valued members of their families and communities. As vice chair of appropriations, I know this has been and will continue to be a top priority moving forward. This is simply the right thing to do.
I’m also continuing to work with my fellow members of the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding, the bipartisan, bicameral committee that will make recommendations on the use of nearly $1.9 billion in federal pandemic relief funds for the state provided through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
Four working groups in the areas of Economic Development and Workforce; Health and Human Services; Government Transformation and Collaboration; and Transportation, Infrastructure, and Rural Development, will hold hearings in their respective areas with preliminary presentations focusing on how the COVID-19 pandemic has already impacted our state, what the current situation is, and looking at possible uses for these funds to move the state forward.. I’m co-chair of the Government Transformation and Collaboration working group. Certainly, the pandemic has highlighted our need to invest in digital transformation and other modernizations throughout state government, and this is something we’ll be studying as we determine how best to use these one-time resources.
Funds must be allocated by December 2024 and expended by December of 2026. Additional information, reports and the proposal submission form will be available online at www.oklahoma.gov/arpa.
Please feel free to contact my Capitol office with any questions or concerns you may have about legislation or other issues impacting our state at 405.521.5628 or at Chuck.Hall@oksenate.gov.