Oklahoma health department requests emergency $30 million from state legislature

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OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma State Department of Health requested an emergency $30 million from the legislature. Without the money, vital services could be shut down and the agency could fail to meet payroll in the next few weeks.

The announcement came Monday from Preston Doerflinger, who took the position of interim health commissioner last week.

After an initial assessment, Doerflinger said he discovered, since 2011, the department has been annually overspending on programs it can’t afford.

The mismanagement flew under the radar as money was moved around through several internal systems to keep operations afloat.

“The budgets being presented to us were balanced budgets,” Doerflinger said. “At the end of the day, it is fund accounting, but we had monies being moved from various funds - in some cases, restricted funds - to be utilized for operations.”

Now, he said Governor Mary Fallin is expected to sign an executive action to establish a joint commission on public health that will lean out the health department. He’s also suggested the legislature create better systems for oversight and transparency within the agency.

“This shows that there is a need for a different level of visibility into agencies that receive federal funds,” Doerflinger said.

Meanwhile, he’s gone to both the House and Senate, and the governor’s office to request the $30 million he said is needed immediately.

Without it, he said services would see immediate deep cuts and employees would be left without a paycheck.

“If we do not get the cash infusion, we are at risk of not making payroll at the end of the month, which would be the 29th,” Doerflinger said.

The money would also give the agency time to identify and address programs and positions he said the health department simply cannot afford right now.

“The reduction in force, though, will be approached very strategically and, again, goes hand in hand with looking at program areas we may not continue to provide,” Doerflinger said.

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