OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Officials say help is coming soon for more than 5,000 Oklahomans who have been waiting 13 years for Developmental Disability Services.
“Our goal is to provide services to every Oklahoman on the DDS wait list, and we can now begin making this a reality, transforming the lives of thousands of families,” said Secretary of Human Services Justin Brown.
On Monday, Gov. Stitt, lawmakers, and officials with Oklahoma Human Services announced a budget agreement to provide funds to end the wait and increase provider rates.
In the past, Oklahomans with disabilities were sent to institutions for care. The state ultimately closed those campuses to allow individuals to be cared for in their own homes.
However, the state doesn’t allocate enough funding to serve everyone, so there is a waiting list.
In fact, Oklahomans who applied for services in November of 2009 are still waiting.
“Oklahoma is so proud to be pro-life,” Ryan McLaughlin, whose daughter died waiting for services, told KFOR. “I truly believe that if you’re pro-life in the womb then you should be pro-life out of the womb. You can’t just champion the child who is unborn and then leave the child and the family when they’re born and they’re in need of services.”
Over the past year, Liberty of Oklahoma has been conducting statewide assessments of people on the wait list.
At this point, officials say it will take $21.3 million to end the wait list based on the assessments.
This week, state leaders announced that the budget will cover the cost of providing services to those on the DDS wait list, and a 25% increase in provider rates by Oct. 1, 2022.
“Ending the DDS waiting list will likely prove to be one of the most significant accomplishments to occur during my tenure as a legislator. I am proud to have served as part of a collaborative team including both chambers of the legislature, as well as the Governor. This accomplishment does not represent the end of efforts to serve this vulnerable population, but the beginning. Having ended the waiting list, we will refocus our efforts on ensuring that Oklahomans with developmental disabilities have access to resources that help them thrive as individuals and members of their communities indefinitely,” said Chairman Paul Rosino.
Currently, officials say there are 5,146 people on the wait list.
“This accomplishment does not represent the end of efforts to serve this vulnerable population, but the beginning. The effort to eliminate the DDS waiting list has been years in the making, and I am proud to announce a successful conclusion to this collaboration between the legislature, the administration of DHS, and Governor Stitt’s office. Today we celebrate with those individuals and families who have been waiting; tomorrow we begin the work of ensuring continued access to resources that help vulnerable individuals live full and meaningful lives,” said Senate Pro Tempore Greg Treat.
People who wish to check their wait list status can email DDS.Waitlist@okdhs.org and an intake worker will contact them.
“This investment is a testament that conservative leadership comes with a heart and places real value on people with developmental disabilities and their families in communities across Oklahoma. As Governor, I said that I would support all pro-life policy, and this is a validation of that commitment. I am incredibly proud to stand with the legislature in solving a decades long issue only made possible because of strong fiscal management over the last four years. I am abundantly grateful for the incredible servant leadership of Secretary Justin Brown and the team at the Department of Human Services who were bold in building a foundation and strategy that has made today a reality for Oklahomans with developmental disabilities and their families,” said Gov. Kevin Stitt.