In an effort to reduce its budget by four percent, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) is closing nearly three dozen offices across the state, including its Okemah location.
Facing reduced revenue projections for Fiscal Year 2021, OKDHS is rolling out a “service-first” model that entails the elimination of 35 county offices and moving many employees to a telework environment. Officials say there will be no FTE (full-time equivalent) furloughs or reductions under this plan and two-thirds of its employees will be assigned to a duty post in their current county.
Under the plan, OKDHS will deliver service to customers in areas without a physical office via telephone and the agency’s online portals, such as okdhslive.org. “Technology is a useful pathway and can transform service delivery,” officials stated in a memo that details key points of the service-first model.
Office space will be made available to teleworking staff, and collaboration and hoteling models will be utilized as needed. All OKDHS employees will have a state-issued cell phone and will be required to carry business cards that list contact information so they can be reached by customers and the community at large.
In addition to Okfuskee County, offices will be closed in the counties of Adair, Beckham, Blaine, Caddo, Cherokee, Choctaw, Coal, Craig, Custer, Delaware, Garvin, Greer, Harmon, Harper, Haskell, Hughes, Jefferson, Johnston, Kingfisher, Kiowa, Latimer, Noble, Logan, Major, Marshall, Mayes, McClain, Murray, Nowata, Osage, Pawnee, Seminole, Tillman and Washita.
OKDHS, established in 1936, administers a range of programs aimed at helping Oklahomans in need, including food benefits; temporary cash assistance; services for persons with developmental disabilities and persons who are aging; adult protective services; child welfare programs; child support services; child care assistance, licensing and monitoring; and SoonerCare applications and eligibility.