NORCE to Begin Staff Cuts

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Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) has met with employees of the Northern Oklahoma Resource Center (NORCE) to begin the process of staff cuts.

OKDHS plans to cut the direct care staff by 30 before years end.  They met staff members today to offer a buyout. This offer to employees is on a first come first serve basis. Employees who accept the terms of this offer will work until December 3rd.

The Department will provide the mandatory voluntary out benefits listed in Section 840-2.28(A) of Title 74 and optional benefits:

1. Payment equal to the employee’s current health insurance premium, for the employee only, for eighteen (18) months based on the cost of the premium at the time of the voluntary separation;

2. A longevity payment in the amount that would otherwise be paid to the employee on the employee’s next anniversary date;

3. One (1) week of pay for each year of the employee’s service, provided the amount paid to the employee pursuant to this provision will be a minimum of $5,000.00 and a maximum of $26,000.00; and

4. Payment of accumulated sick leave at one-half (1/2) of the employee’s hourly rate not otherwise used pursuant to law for conversion to credited retirement credit.

NORCE is a residential facility and is classified as an intermediate facility for people with mental retardation. Most people living at the facility have severe mental retardation and some have other compounding health conditions. The ideal goal of the facility is to improve development and growth which could lead to more personal independence. The facility also works with individuals who live off campus.

The Southern Oklahoma Resource Center (SOURC) in Pauls Valley will close next year and NORCE will follow in 2015. Residents from both facilities are being moved into private group home facilities.

Family members and Enid legislators were outraged when the Oklahoma Commission for Human Services voted to close the two facilities. During the October 2012 meeting Senator Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, said Commission Chair, Wes Lane, would not let him or other family members address the commission before casting their vote to close the facilities.

“The chairman refused to allow me to speak, to question it not being made public or provided to the Legislature. I was told I was out of order and would not be heard,” Anderson said after the meeting.

Several state legislators claimed they were caught off guard by the vote to close the state run facilities. All of them claim they were not provided with a copy of the proposed plan for NORCE before the vote was cast.

After voting to close both NORCE and SOURC the Commission for Human Services was disbanded when voters passed Oklahoma State Question 765 which eliminated the nine member commission.

Power of DHS was then transferred to four newly created advisory boards and the governor was granted the exclusive authority to hire and fire the DHS executive director.

No legislation has been introduced to fund NORCE and SOURC or provide alternatives to closing the facilities.