September 27, 2012
Pauls Valley Democrat
By Ezra Mann
It would be an understatement to say many have been happy with Gov. Mary Fallin’s decision this summer to temporarily halt any possible closure plans for the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center.
Aside from parents or guardians of the clients at the former state school, there are none more relieved than state Rep. Lisa J. Billy, who is confident of the direction taken.
This is especially true after a recent Fallin hosted meeting with those from the Parent Guardian Association at SORC and a similar site in Enid as well as all involved legislators.
“We felt it was a very positive meeting,” said Billy, adding how this is something she feels should finally lead toward a solution after years of fighting just to survive.
“It’s time we as a state find a solution.”
One thing helping the comfortable atmosphere was Billy’s impression that Fallin was ready to think outside of the box instead of going with some of the recent closure plans, which would have had some SORC residents go to NORCE and the rest forced in too short a time to find alternatives in the community.
She was glad everyone got a chance to be heard on issues along the lines of one facility getting upgrades in recent years versus another being denied approval for available money to be used to keep things from falling into disrepair.
“We felt she was very open to our suggestions,” said Billy. “She’s very compassionate.”
Billy believes for the first time client’s and parent’s voices will be heard instead of only depending on one last minute piece of legislation each time they are threatened.
She noted how she cannot fully imagine the fear in their position, only being able to convey how frustrated it made her and state Sen. Susan Paddack feel with people’s lives on the line.
“What I am most hopeful of is we can find a permanent solution and involve the parents,” said Billy. “I think it’s emotionally horrific to put parents through this turmoil.”
One of the reasons the September Oklahoma Commission for Human Services meeting did not feature a vote on the facilities then was due to new commissioners being appointed by Fallin, said Billy.
They felt they needed more time to learn about the issue before making a decision and have postponed doing so until the October meeting where Billy has been told it could, baring additional postponement, be on the agenda.
However, though the chance a vote could be postponed before that meeting cannot be ruled out, Billy believes Fallin is not going to want to drag out the fate of both facilities any longer, said Billy.
If it were postponed until November, a vote on whether or not to disband the commission for a more publicly involved representation could render any commission plans moot.
Billy believes a more positive result could be waiting after efforts by the Pauls Valley Chamber of Commerce initiating a letter campaign to the governor’s office, along with others offering their support, has also not gone unnoticed.
“Obviously the decision will come down to the commission... My understanding is it will be on the October agenda, those commissioners wanted to be brought up to speed,” said Billy.
“I don’t believe Gov. Fallin will continue to kick the can down the road... I believe we will come to a resolution in the next few months.”