Developmental Disabilities Services in Jeopardy

How do you tell someone they no longer have a job? What about thousands of people?

How do you tell a person they won’t have necessary support at his/her group home and may end up homeless?

What would you say to people with disabilities who may not understand why these things are happening, but are suddenly thrust into a position no fault of their own?

These questions, and many more, loom as state agencies face the unenviable task of slashing budgets in the midst of the current funding shortfall in Oklahoma.

DRTC program participants in their DRTC shirts.
DRTC program participants in their DRTC shirts.

Since 1953, Dale Rogers Training Center (DRTC) has provided more than training and jobs for people with disabilities. DRTC has, among other things, offered a chance for those served to connect with one another, to grow personally and professionally, and to learn to advocate for themselves. The added benefit helps create hundreds of tax-paying citizens every year, who also contribute in many other ways in the community.

However, the funding well continues to pump ever so slowly in a state that hangs its hat on the oil and gas industry.

Countdown to zero

The most pressing concern now is funding the last two months of the current fiscal year. Without supplemental funding, agencies like the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) will have zero dollars to provide necessary programs and services to people, many of them vulnerable, statewide.

Funding measures are currently working through the legislature in an attempt to close the FY17 gap.

Contributing Oklahomans

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Troyce cleans price tags.

Dale Rogers Training Center, Oklahoma’s oldest and largest community vocational training and employment center for people with disabilities, serves 1,100 people every year. Last program year, the people with disabilities in its programs earned $5.3 million, paying taxes and not relying on government subsidies. They work in the community with you. They volunteer at many of the other nonprofits you’ve heard about. They are contributing Oklahomans.

Of the 1,100 people DRTC serves, 123 people work on the nonprofit’s main campus—located within six miles of the Capitol where costly decisions are being made. The rest of the individuals work in the community and on federal contracts.

Funding levels

State funding—which applies to 60 people at DRTC—provides opportunities in the Vocational Services Program, before and after hours care, and group training classes.

In Home Supports Waiver (IHSW)—impacts 32 people at DRTC —provides opportunities in DRTC’s Employment Services, Mobile Workforce, Special Needs and Vocational Services Programs, while also allowing for job coaching and services, transportation and additional areas of support that promote training and employment. These waivers receive federal matching dollars (approximately 60 cents for every 40 cents Oklahoma contributes), based on a review of the previous three years. Adults on IHSW receive just $20,671 a year to spend on all services (including vocational training and supports).

“Terrible to unthinkable”

The response to Oklahoma’s budget shortfall has already taken its toll.

Agencies have been asked repeatedly to slash budgets, make adjustments, and find ways to continue providing services with less and less money.

Already, agencies have been asked to submit budget proposals factoring a 14% reduction in services.

Oklahoma Department of Human Services logo
OKDHS logo

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services recently submitted its proposal for Fiscal Year 2018—with cuts described by OKDHS Director Ed Lake as, “…ranging from the terrible to the unthinkable.”

Slashing OKDHS services up to 14% would reduce the agency’s operating budget by an expected $147 million and force tough decisions to either reduce or eliminate entire programs including State funded community services and the IHSW.

Statewide, OKDHS serves more than 3,100 children and adults with disabilities with these two programs alone.

These proposed cuts could lead to an even greater number of those without a job—the people who care for people with disabilities through IHSW and the caregivers who may have to quit work to care for their loved ones.

Waiting in line

Additional state agencies that help people with disabilities are also feeling the effects of the failing budget.

Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services logo
OKDRS logo

Oklahoma’s Department of Rehabilitation Services (OKDRS), which contracts services with DRTC’s Employment Services Program, set up a waiting list in January 2017 for two groups of applicants with less severe disabilities due to rising costs and state budget cuts. Two months later, the agency expanded its waiting list to all new applicants for vocational rehabilitation and employment services.

These people are now “in line” to receive services to find work in Oklahoma. OKDRS will release those on the wait list, making them available for services, as funding becomes available.

According to OKDRS, staff helped 2,125 people find jobs in FY16. These individuals each paid, on average, $3,144 in taxes, reducing their need for disability benefits and social services.

Advocates needed

As DRTC helps promote self-advocacy skills to people with disabilities, the same is needed from you.

Bottom line: cutting services for people with disabilities will further hurt the state’s bottom line.

Advocate early. Advocate often. Advocate for the people of Oklahoma.

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About Dale Rogers Training Center

Dale Rogers Training Center (DRTC) is the oldest and largest community vocational training and employment center for people with disabilities in Oklahoma. With multiple locations in Oklahoma, DRTC trains or employs more than 1,100 people with disabilities per year. Visit us online: DRTC.org.

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2016 in review

We worked, volunteered, played and developed lifelong friendships in 2016! Check out some of what we’ve been up to this year as we prepare to ring in 2017.

Dale Rogers Training Center (DRTC) is the oldest and largest community vocational training and employment center for people with disabilities in Oklahoma. With multiple locations in Oklahoma, DRTC trains or employs more than 1,100 people with disabilities per year. Visit us online: DRTC.org.

Workers on aisle 12

A team of dedicated workers fans out across the aisles at Crest Foods at Northwest 23rd and Meridian—but they aren’t wearing a Crest uniform. They’re people with disabilities developing various skills through a partnership between nonprofit Dale Rogers Training Center (DRTC) and the grocery store.

Marcia, Master Scheduler of Area A in the Vocational Services Program, leads the group of 6-7 workers in tasks ranging from fronting food items to cleaning price tags and the store shelves.

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DRTC clients walk to Crest Foods.

Today, Austin, Cassidy, Charlotte, Cory, Jay, and Troyce made the half-mile walk from DRTC to Crest.

Once set up with their cleaning supplies, the team sprang into action making shelves shine.

“I like cleaning,” said Troyce, who has taken part in this training before. Troyce normally works on subcontracting projects at DRTC, but also enjoys being out in the community.

For Jay, the training at Crest is getting him ready for the future. He wants to get a job in the community.

“I want to learn how to clean the floors,” Jay stated as he meticulously worked. “I want to work.”

DRTC’s team’s efforts have been getting attention. In the year-long program, Marcia says store managers have complimented DRTC participants for the skills.

Josh, the Front End Manager at Crest, says they’ve hired one or two people from DRTC.

“(It) helps us out too, because we might not be able to get to some of that stuff,” Josh said.

Cory, who has been with DRTC since 1997, is proud of her work, but jokingly knows her limits. She recalled a time a customer approached her one time as she was cleaning.

“The customer asked, ‘Do you do windows?’ And I said, ‘No, I don’t do windows,’” she remembered.

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Marcia instructs Cory, Charlotte and Cassidy about sacking groceries.

Marcia also led a sacking course teaching the team how to properly sack items, making sure to pair like items while not crushing others. Some had difficulties at first, but the more they did it, the better they performed.

Being in a repetitive environment can be beneficial because it allows individuals with DRTC training to become more comfortable and work faster. Marcia said one team cleaned all the aisles at Crest in one hour.

Their work done, the team put away their supplies and returned other items used for training. Then they walked to enjoy a much-earned lunch and return to DRTC to finish out their work day.

DRTC thanks Crest Foods for their partnership and helping provide new opportunities for people with disabilities!

You have work. We have workers!

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Dale Rogers Training Center (DRTC) is the oldest and largest community vocational training and employment center for people with disabilities in Oklahoma. With multiple locations in Oklahoma, DRTC trains or employs more than 1,100 people with disabilities per year. Visit us online: DRTC.org.