OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Two Oklahoma lawmakers have introduced legislation to improve transparency about who is being served by the state’s Developmental Disabilities Services.
People currently on the DDS waitlist are facing an average 13-year wait for at-home and community-based services.
The Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency, or LOFT, presented the findings of their 12-month study last year into why the DDS waiting list continues to get longer despite more funding.
In December, Oklahoma Human Services announced that the number of people receiving Developmental Disabilities Services exceeds the number of people on the waitlist for the first time since 2009.
Currently, there are 5,531 people receiving services and 5,499 people on the waitlist.
Now, lawmakers say they want to make the program more transparent.
Senate Bill 1293, authored by Sen. Julia Kirt, would require DHS to publish a monthly update on their website about services.
The measure would require the agency to release how many people are being served through home and community-based waiver services, what services they are receiving, how many people have stopped receiving these services, why service has been terminated, how much the state is spending on these services, and the revenue sources for that spending.
“As the Legislature, we have to make critical financial decisions to serve more people,” Kirt said. “These bills make sure that we have consistent, publicly available information to guide those decisions. This data will help families see when we make progress and when we stall. It will help families hold us accountable.”
The bill also requires an annual report to be published on the website and sent directly to legislative leaders that articulates strategic plan goals, progress toward those goals, and how much service providers have been paid as they work to reach those goals.
“The LOFT report on DDS validated concerns we’ve heard from caregivers across the state,” Kirt said. “Families have expressed confusion and frustration, and releasing this data consistently is an opportunity for DHS to be clear and to bring families into the process so they better understand what strategies the state is implementing and why.”
“I remain concerned we still do not have answers to many central questions about delays in services,” Rep. Cyndi Munson said. “I will always seek open communication between the Department of Human Services and the individuals and families waiting for services—a key component to truly understanding the experience and needs of families in the process to obtain services.”
Senate Bill 1292 would require that monthly data be published during any assessment of people on the DDS waitlist. The report would include the total number of people waiting, new applications, closed cases, and demographic information.
“Every member of the Oklahoma Legislature has a constituent waiting for services, so it is vital that those constituents and we, their representatives, receive consistent, accurate data reflecting the work being done to connect services to Oklahomans,” Munson said.
“People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are valued citizens of our state,” Kirt said. “Their wellbeing impacts our state’s wellbeing, and our communication and systems should reflect that by making sure people know what services are available to them and where they stand in line.”
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