TULSA, Oklahoma - The Oklahoma Department of Human Services will stop using Tulsa's Laura Dester Children's Center as a shelter for abused and neglected children starting in September.

DHS hopes to transition the facility to a treatment center for children with intellectual disabilities and behavioral issues by November.

The center had become a last resort place to put children DHS could not find placement for, according to a news release. Typically, it involved children with “intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness and extreme behavioral challenges.”

No child has been placed at Laura Dester since March 8, according to DHS.

For several months, the department has been working to develop new placement options for children with higher needs. It’s also started the application process to get a “targeted Medicaid waiver to serve children with intellectual disabilities in community homes.”

The news release says more staff have been hired and trained to provide care for the children at Laura Dester. It says other measures have been taken to ensure the safety and well-being of the residents.

“DHS is currently in a competitive bidding process to identify a qualified provider to operate a Medicaid Intermediate Care Facility for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF-IDD) using the Laura Dester Children’s Center campus. The goal is for the new ICF-IDD to be in operation by November 2018,” the release says.

Laura Dester was supposed to close in 2015 as part of the Pinnacle Plan, but it has remained open because DHS has not been able to find enough appropriate placements for children with behavioral problems or disabilities.