Oklahoma DHS expresses concerns about ‘ potentially devastating service reductions’ in 2018

OKLAHOMA CITY – An Oklahoma agency says it will be able to continue to help the elderly and developmentally disabled after receiving supplemental funding from the state.

In January, the Department of Human Services  said the agency could be forced to furlough employees and cut provider rates if it didn’t receive an extra $42 million before the fiscal year ends in June.

DHS Director Ed Lake said the agency needed about $34 million to fund programs for the elderly and developmentally disabled. It also needs additional funding to cover a shortfall in adoption subsidy payments and a court-monitored plan for caring for children in DHS custody.

Last month, the agency released a letter about the ongoing budget crisis after lawmakers asked state agencies to prepare a plan if 15 percent of their budget was cut.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services says the “reduction scenarios at almost every level depicted can be accurately described as ranging from the terrible to the unthinkable.”

Officials say those kinds of cuts would cause “reductions to or elimination of entire programs providing critical health and safety services for vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities, and children.”

“Our circumstances are, in fact, dire, and these fiscal issues must be addressed to prevent the dismantling of critical services,” the letter read. “Please know that even developing a list of these options was unconscionable for us as leaders and we all hope the Legislature will find solutions to the budget shortfall and prevent at least some of these catastrophic cuts.”

The Oklahoma Legislature ultimately approved a plan that  would tap about $30 million from the state’s Unclaimed Property Fund and another $4 million from the Rainy Day Fund to be used to fund the agency.

“We are extremely grateful to the Legislature and to Governor Fallin for ensuring we have the funds necessary to continue providing critical Medicaid home and community-based services to seniors and people with developmental disabilities for the rest of this current fiscal year,” said Lake. “Unfortunately, these same programs and many other services provided by our agency will be in jeopardy given the financial picture the state is facing for the next fiscal year which begins July 1.”

Officials say even if DHS receives a ‘flat appropriation’ for the upcoming fiscal year of $680 million, the agency would be forced to cut more than $50 million in services beginning on July 1.

“With the recent state revenue failure and the lead time necessary to enact many of our budget options, we may have to begin implementing some of these plans sooner rather than later,” said Lake. “We sincerely hope the Legislature is able to come together to find solutions for the state’s revenue shortfall to prevent some of these potentially devastating service reductions from becoming a reality.”