OKLAHOMA CITY – After the governor signed the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, a state agency is breathing a sigh of relief.
For years, state agencies, like the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, have been asked to do more with less.
In March, DHS officials asked for a $48 million increase to the agency’s operating budget.
“Right now, our greatest need is something to help us with the rates that we pay providers, so they can meet the requirements we have of the contracts so they can treat children and adults effectively,” DHS Director Ed Lake said. “It’s been so long that providers have not had rate increases that it’s really affecting their businesses, and I think, as a state, we have to look seriously at that.”
Last week, Gov. Fallin signed a multi-billion budget bill into law. Under Senate Bill 1600, DHS would receive a $34 million increase for the upcoming fiscal year.
Officials say the measure, along with an expected increase in the state’s federal matching dollars for Medicaid programs, will allow the agency to provide services to individuals with developmental disabilities on the waiting list, increase provider and foster parent reimbursement rates, and provide employees agency-wide with pay raises.
“We are extremely grateful to Governor Fallin and the Legislature for this increase which will allow us to restore some detrimental cuts and provide increases to foster and adoptive families, child care providers, and agencies serving children in our custody and seniors and people with developmental disabilities,” said Lake. “We appreciate the advocacy efforts of the people and families we serve as well as our partner agencies. Their diligence in telling their stories helped ensure the needs of vulnerable Oklahomans were not forgotten this year.”
Officials say the $34 million increase will allow them to do the following:
- Restore the 5% rate cuts to foster care and adoption payments made in 2017 due to the budget shortfall. Rates will be increased an additional 5%, including therapeutic foster care.
- Provide employee pay raises and increase the salaries of child welfare specialists.
- Dedicate $2 million for patients with developmental disabilities on a waiting list for services. DHS estimates that it will be able to serve approximately 200 individuals who have been waiting the longest for Medicaid home and community-based services.
- Increase provider rates for child welfare contract group homes by 7%.
- Increase provider rates in the Advantage Medicaid waiver program for direct care, state plan personal care, and case management by 7%. Increase provider rates in all developmental disabilities services Medicaid waiver programs by 7%.
- Increase child care subsidy reimbursement rates.
- $100,000 will be used to implement a program to provide respite for caregivers of persons with intellectual disabilities who qualify for Medicaid and meet the Intermediate Care Facilities for individuals with ‘Intellectual Disability’ level of care.