Last year, our state government was embroiled in a massive budget crisis that threatened to cut programs for people with disabilities. At the last minute, legislation was pushed through to make up for that shortfall in the 2016 budget. Now, those solutions seem to be falling apart, and they could be putting the services Oklahomans with disabilities need at risk.
Could More Oklahoma DHS Cuts Be on the Horizon?
A major part of the budget that was supposed to fix the $1.3 billion budget shortfall was a cigarette fee of $1.50 per-pack. However, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the fee was an unconstitutional revenue-generating tax. This poked a $215 million hole in the 2017 budget, and now it looks like state agencies supporting people with disabilities may have to endure further cuts because of it.
The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services were the agencies slated to benefit from this fee. Now these agencies are threatened by deep cuts, and many Oklahomans with disabilities simply cannot withstand more cuts.
How Could Cuts Hurt Oklahomans with Disabilities?
A woman speaking to the Oklahoman revealed that if the services her son receives are cut, he will most likely lose the job he has thanks to support waivers. This would mean that her son would be at home all day, and due to a seizure disorder, that woman would have to quit her own job to look after the young man with disabilities. For others, the situation is just a dire.
Thousands of Oklahomans with disabilities are able to live independently thanks to disability services from DHS and other agencies. But cuts over the past few years have made it more difficult to hire the nursing aides needed to facilitate this way of life. Further cuts could force more of these nursing aides out of the market and push many individuals into institutions or nursing homes.
Soon lawmakers will have to decide if these departments will have to endure deep cuts, or if there is another way to find money to support people with disabilities here in Oklahoma. Our Tulsa disability attorneys will continue to monitor the situation and let you know what fate has in store for our state’s disability services.