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For The Children Weekly Column

Lawmakers Make Good on Promise, Support OICA Priority

May 23, 2022

“For the Children” Weekly Column by Joe Dorman, OICA CEO

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy

Telephone: (405) 833-1117

Email: jdorman@oica.org

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Legislature has essentially finished the main part of their work for the year.

They did call themselves back for a special session to discuss legislation for distribution of federal funds tied in with the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and this will happen following the Primary Election Day on June 29. With the remainder of this current session, all they have remaining this week is the potential consideration of whether to override any governor’s vetoes of bills.

This past week, lawmakers had some controversial issues before them, ranging from the high-profile legislation establishing the nation’s most stringent abortion ban, to dealing with the question of access to school bathrooms by students based upon gender identity. Normally, the budget would take up most of the conversation during this time of year, but with the coverage on these other policy items, some of the good things which passed were not often visible.

Among the ideas that the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy monitored and supported was one of our top priorities from our Fall Forum. This was the funding for the Developmental Disabilities Service Division (DDSD) waiting list, which made it into the budget.

I want to extend heartfelt appreciation to the lawmakers who have put in place the needed dollars to lower the time for those who qualify for the developmental disability services waiting list. With the additional work being done to review cases and remove those who either no longer need the assistance, moved out of state, or passed away, this funding will finally address the needs of all individuals struggling who receive this type of care.

If you are not familiar with this program, the waiting list was established many years ago to allow Oklahomans to apply for support for a family member who requires an extremely high level of care in the home. Caring for a person who is on the DDSD list prevents many from holding down jobs and therefore providing financially for their family. The combination of additional state and federal-matching funds through this service will go to support services by caregivers and eliminate the long waiting list.

With the funding allocated by the Legislature, more than $32 million, the waiting time will be slashed from the current 13 years down to a brief time for processing and evaluation for needs. Additionally, a portion will go to increase provider reimbursement rates to attract more workers into this field or have qualified workers move here from other states. This second part is vital to ensure support is found throughout the state.

It was nice to see lawmakers make good on their promise from last year to those who qualified for these services. Much thanks go to Reps Mark Lawson and Kevin Wallace, along with Sens. Paul Rosino and Roger Thompson for seeing this across the finish line, along with the many other lawmakers involved. Those include Reps. Cyndi Munson and Jon Echols, who have led a bipartisan caucus of lawmakers exploring ideas for helping with this issue.

To learn more about the Home and Community-based Services Waiver, you can go to https://oklahoma.gov/ohca/individuals/programs/ltcs/developmental-disabilities-service-division-ddsd-home-and-community-based-services-waiver1.html for further information.

Finally, the deadline to register to vote in the June 28 Party Primary Election is June 3. If you turn 18 or are older on or before Election Day, you can submit your registration before your birthday. Go to https://okvoterportal.okelections.us/ to check your registration or become an Oklahoma registered voter.