State-run children’s center to reopen after closing in June

OKLAHOMA CITY – Officials say children with intellectual disabilities and severe emotional disturbances who are in DHS custody will soon have a place to go.

On Monday, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and Liberty of Oklahoma announced the reopening of the Laura Dester Children’s Center.

Since the closure of state-operated emergency children’s shelters, DHS soon realized that there weren’t enough treatment services in Oklahoma for children with intellectual disabilities and behavioral challenges.

In fact, officials say several young people were sent out-of-state for treatment that didn’t exist in Oklahoma.

“I am excited that our community has decided to fill the gaps that exist in our current mental health system,” said First Lady-elect Sarah Stitt. “I am also excited to see how we will change the lives of these children.”

The Laura Dester Children’s Center will serve as a short-term residential treatment program for children with intellectual disabilities and severe emotional disturbances. It will serve up to 24 children in three cottages, which should start opening in early 2019.

“Our goal for the children who will receive treatment here is to help them get back home with their parents or in another family setting as quickly as possible,” said DHS Director Ed Lake. “We believe that every child deserves a family. We are also excited about the opportunity to repurpose this beautiful campus in a way that still meets its original purpose–to provide a safe haven for our state’s the most vulnerable children.”

“We have the opportunity to serve children here and intervene earlier,” said Dr. Hugh Sage, Director of Liberty of Oklahoma. “We hope to improve the quality of lives for these kids.”

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