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DHS program providing at-home care for elderly, disabled could face admissions freeze

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OKLAHOMA CITY – In lieu of state budget cuts, a DHS program providing at-home care for the elderly and disabled could face an admissions freeze.

The state budget will leave the Oklahoma Department of Human Services $33 million short of funding for current operations. In lieu of that, DHS has announced it may freeze admissions to the Advantage Waiver Program.

"To see our state in such a dire situation, I just don't get it,” said Jay Vache, who works for Complete Home Health Services.

Vache works for one of the 82 agencies within the program.

"You're going to have job losses there. More intense than that, families that are going to be able to say 'I got to quit my job. I got to stay home. I got to be within 15, 20 minutes away from mom or dad,'” Vache said.

If it happens, 10,000 jobs could be lost and 3,600 people could be forced into nursing homes this year.

"If the cigarette tax, kind of where we're at right now, if that gets rolled back, it's going to take DHS' deficit hole from $33 million all the way to $99 million. That's just for DHS,” Vache said.

Either way, DHS officials aren’t sure what programs or services will be cut right now.

"We're looking at a variety of options for reducing our budget. We did get an increase in appropriations from the year before, but unfortunately our operating level was much higher than appropriations,” said Sheree Powell with DHS.

In the meantime, agencies like Vache’s are just trying to stay hopeful.

"I look at it as a gift on the day somebody passes away that I was able to give them, my staff was able to give them, the ability to stay in their home and to not have to move into a small room and have the pictures of their family on the window,” Vache said.