More fines, new options seen as solutions
BY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Sunday, February 21, 2010
2/22/10 at 1:03 PM
State inspectors are stepping up fines, and advocates are asking for improved standards and more housing alternatives for residents seeking group homes.
The state is fining homes more often, with a total of $86,176 levied against residential homes since 2002, about half of that levied within the past two years, said Dorya Huser, the department's chief of long-term care service. Efforts to revoke a license can be lengthy, expensive and involve court action, so the agency is using fines, Huser said.
"In some cases, if we cannot get compliance or get the facility to do what we believe they need to do we will go for revocation of the license," Huser said. "We do want to act in the best interest of the residents.''
Michael Brose, executive director of the Tulsa Mental Health Association, said advocates have been asking lawmakers to establish a housing trust to improve options for vulnerable individuals.
"The key problem in Oklahoma that encourages the continued reliance on licensed residential care homes is the shortage of affordable housing coupled with high-quality, wrap-around services, allowing more people with disabilities to live independently in their own homes or apartments," Brose said.
"Almost all people in recovery living with the most serious mental illness live quality lives in the community in their own homes or apartments when effective treatment is made readily available to them."
Pending legislation — House Bill 2075 and Senate Bill 403 — seeks to create a trust fund to be overseen by an independent board and administered by the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency to research and promote housing development through private and public financing. Both are in committees.
Brose said 43 other states have housing trust funds, a system that encourages the use of quality-of-life housing models for people with disabilities. He points to several programs administered by the Mental Health Association as examples.
"These trust funds allow private developers, nonprofits and housing authorities the ability to create enough affordable independent housing that makes licensed residential care homes unnecessary," Brose said.
In choosing a home, Huser suggests reviewing public records and making unannounced visits to a home at different times of the day.
"It's not a whole lot of difference from choosing a day care for your child," Huser said.
Ask specific questions about whether a home's staff can meet a potential resident's needs, ranging from the ability to watch a favorite television program to the types of daily activities offered, Huser said.
"There are no dumb questions," she said.
Ginnie Graham 581-8376
Dorya Huser (left) and Michael Brose: "Almost all people in recovery living with the most serious mental illness live quality lives in the community in their own homes ... ," Brose said.