OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – After 13 years, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services said help is on the way for some Oklahomans on a lengthy waitlist for Developmental Disability Services.
“We’re picking up speed as we go,” said Dr. Deb Shropshire, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Department of Health and Human Services.
DHS said they have divided up the nearly 4,993 Oklahomans who have applied for developmental disabilities services from DHS based on when they applied.
The first group, or cohort, has waited the longest.
“We aren’t waiting to fully complete one cohort before you move into another. We’re running parallel tracks,” said Dr. Shropshire. “We’ve already begun processing cohort three, which is actually triple the size of cohort one.”
DHS explained a breakdown of cohort one.
So far, 50% of the group declined services, decided to go another route, were not eligible for services, or DHS simply could not find them.
“After really diligent searches, we can’t connect with them,” said Director Beth Scrutchins. “If you’re on the DDS waiting list, please reach out to us. There’s a place to update your information on our website right now.”
DHS said 106 families have been approved and are getting help, like Lori Weider’s children who suffer from rare genetic disorders and will need life-long care.
“We are hoping that we are able to start physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and other things that will help our children,” said Weider.
DHS said it can take 6-9 months for services to kick in after being approved.
Democratic Lawmaker, Ellyn Hefner, has a son with disabilities. She said the process will take time.
“Being on the waiting list, as a parent, I wasn’t alone in so knowing that even though we’re going through cohorts, it’s going to take a while,” said Hefner, D-OKC. “because we don’t have service providers or caregivers to take care of our kids, it’s going to take a while because of the wage increase.”
Hefner wrote HB 2716, which requires DHS give data to LOFT quarterly about the people who are coming off the DDS waitlist.
Last year, the legislature boosted the pay to care providers by 25%. DHS hopes it will help.
“We need people to step into this space in terms of their profession. It’s a good, important place to do work. It’s a noble work,” said DDr. Shropshire.
As for the people who applied for help after DHS started this plan, May 1, 2022, the agency said they’re working with contractors who assess new applicants and offer them resources in their communities.