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Oklahoma Department Of Human Services Could Face Some Office Closures

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ Human Services Center in Oklahoma City.
Brent Fuchs
/
Journal Record
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ Human Services Center in Oklahoma City.";

Officials from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services say some of the agency’s offices could close or be consolidated. Persistent budget cuts have already forced DHS to eliminate more than a thousand jobs over the past two years, Dale Denwalt writes for the Journal Record.

Agency officials wouldn’t offer specifics, but spokesman Mark Beutler said a work-group has been talking about the issue for about a month. So far there is no decision about where to close the doors, if at all.

DHS has 93 offices in the state, including 11 in Oklahoma County. Rural counties could be hit hard by the potential closures. Claudia Jeffrey, the county director for Ki Bois Community Action Foundation in Wilburton, said if Latimer County loses its DHS office, people would have to drive 65 miles on a round trip to McAlester.

Other offices in Poteau and Stigler are even farther away. “I’m just wondering what the plan is for people to access their services,” she said.

DHS might wait until July 1 to make a decision, after the final round of voluntary buyouts will be complete and the agency has a final tally of the number of people who are leaving. Sterling Zearley, the executive director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, said DHS is probably evaluating every county office.

“I think a lot of it’s going to be based on the traffic they get in there, the number of employees they have, whether they own the building or lease the building,” Zearley said. “I think all those things are up for review.”

DHS declined to say when a decision might be made.

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Jacob McCleland spent nine years as a reporter and host at public radio station KRCU in Cape Girardeau, Mo. His stories have appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, Here & Now, Harvest Public Media and PRI’s The World. Jacob has reported on floods, disappearing languages, crop duster pilots, anvil shooters, Manuel Noriega, mule jumps and more.
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