DHS director urges moving forward with changes to agency
BY JARREL WADE World Staff Writer
Monday, February 11, 2013
2/11/13 at 6:21 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The state's Department of Human Services head urged the agency to move forward with changes rather than settling in to the many improvements it's made during the last year.
DHS Director Ed Lake, speaking Monday at a lecture on the future of DHS at the Oklahoma History Center, said he'd like the legislature to move forward on some of the budget expenses called for in the agency's Pinnacle Plan.
"We need to jumpstart some of the things we're doing in order to be successful down the road," Lake said.
The Pinnacle Plan, DHS’ child-welfare improvement plan, was developed in response to federal class-action lawsuit settlement reached last year. The plan sets several deadlines for goals during the next several years.
Lake, who approached the legislative budget subcommittee in January to request additional funding, said additional hiring now would help address some of the actions the Pinnacle Plan calls for later.
“You have to have more people because it's a labor-intensive process,” he said.
Monday's lecture on the future of DHS started with a look back on 2012.
In one year, DHS faced the retirement of a long-time director, hiring a new one, settled a federal class-action lawsuit, developed the Pinnacle Plan, disbanded the agency's commission and accomplished several other milestones for the agency, Lake said.
“2012 was an incredible year of transformation,” Lake said. “In fact, you might label it a year of torment rather than transformation.”
Lake told more than 300 in attendance – many of whom worked directly for DHS or for partner organizations – that the next year is about continuing those changes.
“This isn't the time to settle in,” he said. “It's time to accelerate the changes.”
Lake also confirmed the first appointee to the agency's four citizen-advisory panels, Tulsa's Steven Dow, executive director of Tulsa's anti-poverty organization, the Community Action Project.
Lake said the citizen-advisory panel appointments are up to the legislature and Governor's office and doesn't have a timeline for when those appointments will be in place.
“It would be nice to move forward with that when it comes,” Lake said.
In other future developments at DHS, Lake focused on updating their technology systems to provide for less paperwork redundancy.
“We want to move children through the system more quickly – but not dangerously,” Lake said referencing the child-welfare division as an example. “Paperwork should not be at the expense of case work.”
The issues Lake highlighted were brought to him through both public and DHS-staff “listening sessions,” in which Lake traveled to five cities to hold meetings where people could voice concerns with DHS.