Did Oklahomans Just Lose Their Voice to DHS?

Back in 2012, a statewide vote disbanded the commission that oversaw the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS). In the commission’s place, four panels would make recommendations to DHS. However, those panels were only commissioned to last until 2016.

Can Oklahoman’s Still Voice Their Concerns to DHS?

Last year, legislators didn’t renew the panels, a move that came as a shock to Tom Walls—vice chairman of the citizen advisory panel. Walls’ panel was a direct link between the people of Oklahoma and DHS. Instead of having to contact DHS itself or one of their legislator, Oklahomans could air their problems with DHS to the panel. This allowed panel members to make strong recommendations to DHS, and its why Walls believed the Legislature would continue the panel. However, that wasn’t enough.

Once again, the budget crisis of last year has reared its head. Forced budget cuts at DHS are partially blamed for the loss of the citizen advisory panel as well as the panels on administration, aging and issues with child and family services. Without these panels, DHS has lost part of its link not only to people with disabilities, but to seniors, families and children as well.

The director of DHS hopes that when the Pinnacle Plan—a child welfare reform initiated by a federal lawsuit—ends that the citizen advisory panel can make a comeback. Yet budget issues are making the creation of new panels by state legislators highly improbable.

Do you think people with disabilities will still have a chance to voice their concerns without these panels? Do you think the government will bring these panels back once the budget gets back to normal? Voice your opinions on our Facebook and Twitter pages, and stick around to learn more from our Tulsa disability attorneys.



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