OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Providers who care for certain people with disabilities will start receiving higher reimbursement rates this month.

In May, the Oklahoma Legislature passed a bill that eliminates the 13-year waiting list for Developmental Disability Services.

By July, Oklahoma Human Services said over 5,100 Oklahomans were still waiting for assistance.

However, the agency says the wait is almost over.

OKDHS announced that the wait list will end in approximately 16 to 22 months.

DHS says providers who care for people with waivers administered by the Oklahoma Human Services Developmental Disability Services division started receiving higher reimbursement rates on Oct. 1.

During the legislative session, lawmakers provided for a 25% increase in the reimbursement rate as part of an effort to stabilize the care network.

“This is an important day for people across Oklahoma who need DDS services and for those who make it their job to serve,” Interim Director of Oklahoma Human Services Samantha Galloway said. “When the Legislature provided the funds to serve everyone waiting as of May 1, 2022, lawmakers understood raising reimbursement rates was a critical part of ensuring we have a workforce ready to step in and serve.” 

“The work we do is vital for people who need help caring for a family member, as well as for people who have developmental disabilities but do not have families and must live independently,” Sheree Powell, government liaison at Sequoyah Enterprises Inc., said. “For many years, community provider agencies like ours have faced rising costs without a corresponding increase in reimbursement rates. Since the pandemic, we have all faced a direct care workforce crisis. This historic 25% rate change is the largest one-time increase nationally. It means we can increase wages, recruit and retain desperately needed workers, and keep people safe and thriving in their homes.”