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Oklahoma Department of Human Services

Call specialists answer HeartLine Inc.’s various helplines inside the organization’s call center in Oklahoma City.
Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

Two Oklahoma non-profits are struggling to determine how to maintain the state’s social services hotline due to budget shortfalls.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services cut all of the fund for the state's 211 call-in system.

wedding rings
John Morton / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Citing budget cuts, state officials are ending the controversial Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, a 17-year-old program originally aimed at reducing the state’s high divorce rate.

The state Department of Human Services announced it is eliminating its funding for the program because the agency is facing a budget shortfall of more than $100 million this fiscal year. It is implementing $45 million in cuts that include slashing 91 positions and reducing several public-assistance programs and will seek supplementary funding to help fill the remaining gap.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ Human Services Center in Oklahoma City.
Brent Fuchs / Journal Record

Officials from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services say some of the agency’s offices could close or be consolidated. Persistent budget cuts have already forced DHS to eliminate more than a thousand jobs over the past two years, Dale Denwalt writes for the Journal Record.

Bill Weaver is president of Daily Living Centers.
Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

In order to save $25 million before the start of Fiscal Year 2017 on July 1, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services has to make hard choices.

Each month, DHS sends out about 88,000 checks called state supplemental payments. They go to disabled Oklahomans, along with the elderly and the blind. The average payment is about $36.

But as of next month, DHS will only process the payments every quarter, meaning no more money will be doled out until July.

Oklahoma Department of Human Services Director Ed Lake.
Public Radio Tulsa

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services announced Tuesday it plans to shorten contracts and offer voluntary buyouts to hundreds of employees.

The move comes as the agency tries to deal with roughly $68 million in budget reductions over the next year and a half.

DHS faces a roughly $40 million dollar budget shortfall in the next fiscal year. DHS will also lose about $19 million in state funds due to the 3 percent budget reductions asked for after Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger declared a revenue failure , plus an additional $9 million in federal matching dollars.

revolver chamber
frankieleon / (CC BY 2.0)

A pair of foster parents and the nonprofit Second Amendment Foundation are suing the Oklahoma Department of Human Services over an agency rule about firearm possession.

Home health nurse Rita Nuss reads a book to 9-year-old Josiah Melton, who has  chromosomal disorders and is on the developmental disabilities services waiting list.
Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

After decreasing last year, the waiting list for a state program that provides services to Oklahomans with developmental and intellectual disabilities has grown again, to the highest level ever.

As of Oct. 15, the wait time for those seeking state-paid services for their developmental disabilities was nearly a decade, according to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. The number of people on the waiting list grew from 6,992 in July 2014 to 7,239 in October this year.

Oklahoma Department of Human Services

Plaintiffs in a now-settled lawsuit say not enough progress is being made to improve the foster care system in Oklahoma.

The Pinnacle Plan is an agreement to the suit, which claimed the Oklahoma Department of Human Services had policies that led to the harm of abused and neglected children in state custody.

The plan has a list of specific improvements that should be met by 2017, with goals to reach along the way. Monitors of the plan have given mixed verdicts in the agency's success in meeting the benchmarks.

The Tulsa World reports that plaintiffs have written a letter to the monitors, seeking them to intervene to spur faster change.

asenat29

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) and OK Foster Wishes are asking for some last-minute donations to ensure all children in foster care receive Christmas presents. 

DHS partnered with OK Foster Wishes this year to provide thousands of children in foster care with Christmas gifts.  A wish list was made for each child with specific gifts that child needed or wanted. OK Foster Wishes distributed those wish lists statewide to organizations and citizens wanting to help purchase the gifts for children. 

Oklahoma Dept. of Human Services

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services must review plans to develop new foster homes, prepare weekly caseload reports and develop a remediation plan to reduce a Child Protective Services backlog.

Those are among the improvements ordered by monitors supervising Oklahoma's settlement of a class-action lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged DHS victimized foster children by failing to find safe homes for them and inadequately monitored their safety because employees were overworked and poorly managed.

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