Our Mission

The Mission of the Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. is to protect, promote and expand the rights of people with disabilities.


Belief Statement

The ODLC mission reflects the belief that people with disabilities are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect; to be free from abuse, neglect, exploitation and discrimination.

The ODLC mission also reflects the belief that people with disabilities are entitled to equal rights and to equally effective access to the same opportunities as are afforded other members of society.

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Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. (ODLC) and ACLU of Oklahoma (ACLU -OK) Welcome the Department of Justice investigation into Oklahoma’s Failing Mental Health Services System and Oklahoma City Police Department’s Response to Mental Health Crises

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 18, 2022

 MEDIA CONTACTS:

RoseAnn Duplan, ODLC
405-409-5781
roseann@okdlc.org

Cassidy Fallik, ACLU of Oklahoma
913-748-1278
cfallik@acluok.org

OKLAHOMA CITY – ODLC and ACLU-OK were pleased to hear the Justice Department announcement that it has opened an investigation into the State of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, and Oklahoma City Police Department (OKCPD).  Earlier this year, ODLC and ACLU-OK filed a joint complaint requesting the Justice Department open an investigation into the unnecessary segregation of persons with mental illness in Oklahoma County and the County’s heavy reliance on law enforcement to respond to mental health crises.

For over a year, ODLC and ACLU-OK reviewed documents and interviewed individuals with mental illness and their family members as well as others knowledgeable about the provision of community-based mental health services in Oklahoma County. This investigation led our offices to conclude that the State of Oklahoma does not provide mental health services in the most integrated setting appropriate. As a result, hundreds of individuals with mental illness in Oklahoma County are unable to access the community services they need and are unnecessarily hospitalized, segregated, and/or incarcerated in order to obtain treatment.

Brian Wilkerson, ODLC’s Director of Litigation and Legal Services said, “While our complaint was specific to Oklahoma County, we believe this to be a statewide problem, and we hope this investigation will lead to statewide changes that will greatly improve the mental health service system for all Oklahomans.”  Wilkerson added, “The Oklahoma County Detention Center has become a revolving door for people experiencing mental health crises, and we see similar situations across the state.”

“We all deserve to be safe, regardless of where we live, how we look, or who we are,” said Megan Lambert, Legal Director for the ACLU of Oklahoma. “Safety means investing in communities and people instead of punishment. Oklahoma can improve public safety by focusing on prevention and by strengthening communities through investments in proven solutions instead of incarceration. These include affordable housing, jobs, education, health care, and mental health and substance use services. Our communities deserve proven solutions to take care of our people, not a criminal legal system that punishes our most vulnerable populations.”

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Disability Advocates Respond to Investment to Clear Waiting List for Services

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Dena Drabek, The Arc of Oklahoma

DDrabek@TheArcOK.org; (405) 590-5889

 

Disability Advocates Respond to Investment to Clear Waiting List for Services

 

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 17, 2022) – The Oklahoma Legislature and Department of Human Services (DHS) announced a historic investment of $32.5 million to support Oklahomans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and the direct care workforce that serves them.

“Hope is on the horizon for Oklahomans with developmental disabilities and their support staff,” said Lisa Turner, CEO for The Arc of Oklahoma, a disability rights organization.  “We are pleased that the Legislature has prioritized the needs of this vulnerable population.  This significant funding increase will go a long way in serving Oklahomans with disabilities on the waiting list and helping them reach their full potential by living the lives they want in the communities that they choose.”

With more public dollars appropriated than ever before, developmental disability advocates and families are also calling for more accountability and transparency from DHS as they serve Oklahomans with developmental disabilities who have been waiting an average of 13 years to receive the supports needed to live more independently and participate in the workforce.

“Oklahoma Disability Law Center is pleased to see this historic commitment to fund home and community-based services in Oklahoma,” said Melissa Sublett, Executive Director of The Oklahoma Disability Law Center.  “While we are happy to see these increased efforts to serve all the individuals who have been waiting so long for services, we are also monitoring to ensure that this rush to clear the waiting list is done so in a way that protects the due process rights of each applicant and that cases are not closed simply in the interest of quickly eliminating the waiting list.”

Even with significantly more funding, some in the disability community remain skeptical after a report by the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT)  in 2021 revealed that DHS’ management of the developmental disability services waiver program has not led to substantial progress toward the state’s goal of providing services to all those waiting.

“Parents and taxpayers alike have a right to be asking questions about how the Legislature will ensure DHS spends this money the way it is intended,” said Greg Arend, CEO of Oklahoma-based SOAR Partners.  “We encourage lawmakers to request DHS track exactly how much is spent each year towards serving Oklahomans on the waiting list and publicly report it.”

While disability advocates and families say they do want to find common ground with DHS in Oklahoma’s effort to serve those waiting for long-term supports, they also cling tight to, “Nothing About Us Without Us,” – a mantra that has fueled the disability rights movement over the years.

“People with disabilities have a voice that should and must be at the table from the beginning of any planning process and should never simply be an after-thought,” said Jeryldine Schutte-Pogue, Executive Director for Oklahoma People First, Inc.  “It is important for Oklahomans with disabilities to have the opportunity to share their voice and their lived experience with those who are making changes that will affect them.”

Disability advocates and families look forward to working with DHS and the Legislature on further development of plans to successfully serve Oklahomans on the waiting list who qualify for services.  They are also awaiting the release of the LOFT’s one year follow-up report highlighting any changes made by DHS since the initial report was released in October 2021.

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Let’s Talk About the Waiting List

We spoke with Andy Moore and his co-hosts at “Let’s Pod This” about the Waiting List for HCBS waivers and the report released by the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency.  If you have questions or need more information please call us! 800-880-7755

THE CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES TELLS OKLAHOMA HEALTH CARE AUTHORITY IMPOSITION OF A 5-YEAR RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT FOR THE RECEIPT OF HOME AND COMMUNITY BASED WAIVER SERVICES IS NOT PERMITTED

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 16, 2021
PRESS CONTACT:
RoseAnn Duplan,
405-409-5781
roseann@okdlc.org

THE CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES TELLS OKLAHOMA HEALTH CARE AUTHORITY IMPOSITION OF A
5-YEAR RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT FOR THE RECEIPT OF HOME AND COMMUNITY BASED WAIVER SERVICES IS NOT PERMITTED

Today the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a formal response to the June 1, 2021 letter sent by Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. (ODLC), the National Health Law Program, The ARC of the United States, The ARC of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Policy Institute, and Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc. expressing concerns over the legality of the 5-year length of residency requirement imposed by the passage of HB2899. The CMS letter clearly affirms the length of residency requirement is not permitted.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) understands that House Bill 2899 places a five-year residency requirement on individuals with intellectual disabilities before they access Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) waivers. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires states to treat individuals who have moved recently to a state the same as individuals who have resided in the state for a longer period of time unless shown necessary to promote a compelling governmental interest. Consistent with this Constitutional prohibition, federal regulations also prohibit state Medicaid agencies from denying eligibility if the individual has not resided in the state for a specified period of time (See 42 CFR § 435.403(j)(1)). Thus, imposition of a 5-year residency requirement for the receipt of HCBS waiver services is not permitted.

ODLC’s Director of Litigation and Legal Services, Brian Wilkerson said, “We are pleased with the CMS response. We just don’t think they could have been any clearer, this type of requirement is simply not allowed under federal law. ODLC remains committed to ensuring that all Oklahomans with disabilities are able to access programs and services without discrimination or illegal delays.”

“We believe this CMS response demonstrates the vital role of organizations, like The Arc of Oklahoma and others who advocate for and with people with disabilities and their families to ensure timely access to the quality supports and services they need and want to achieve a life of personal significance,” said Lisa Turner, CEO for The Arc of Oklahoma.

June 1, 2021 Letter to CMS

September 16, 2021 CMS response