Drastic Cuts To Oklahoma DHS Could Hurt Children, Elderly, Disabled
TULSA, Oklahoma - The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is warning of catastrophic cuts. It's expecting to lose up to $150 million from next year's budget.
DHS is the latest agency to warn the public about reduced services as the Oklahoma budget failure looms.
The agency said it may have to close some offices, layoff workers, increase fees and cut programs that help the elderly, disabled and parents.
DHS spokesperson, Mark Beutler said, "This is unprecedented in the history of the Department of Human Services."
The cuts could harm Oklahoma children, too, as $100 million to $150 million will be cut from DHS funding.
"It will impact the providers. It will affect the clients we serve. It's already affecting employees of the DHS. It is absolutely very detrimental to our clients and to the State of Oklahoma," Beutler said.
DHS already lost out on $64 million in state and federal funding this fiscal year. Next fiscal year, the shortfall could more-than-double, impacting child support services - like parents who put their kids in daycare, or child care subsidies for low-income, working families.
Beutler said, "All the services that we provide - they will all be affected."
DHS has already cut 1,200 welfare positions during the past two years and more job cuts could be on the way.
It isn't just the state budget crisis causing concern for DHS; increased costs to serve children mean DHS will spend $46 million more next year.
DHS Director Ed Lake released a statement saying, "This news cannot be sugar-coated. The results will be painful, barring...some kind of fiscal miracle."
DHS said cutting 25 percent of the payments to Medicaid providers could have a big impact on nursing homes as well.
The department said 80 percent of those patients rely on Medicaid to pay their bills.
DHS said the cuts could force nursing homes in Oklahoma to close, potentially putting people like Leona Miller out on the street.
"I didn't have anywhere else to go when I came here. I don't have anywhere to go if I leave here, except under a bridge," Miller said.
DHS said once the cuts are made, there could be only 20 nursing homes still open in Oklahoma.