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Bipartisan group hopes to improve DHS

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Rep. Rousselot (D-Wagoner) is one of six legislators that make up the new committee. Rep. Rousselot (D-Wagoner) is one of six legislators that make up the new committee.

By Mary Joseph, NEWS 9

A bipartisan group comprised of three Republicans and three Democrats was named Tuesday in hopes of finding ways to improve the Department of Human Services.

"When it comes to protecting citizens, that is a bipartisan issue," Rep. Kris Steele (R-Shawnee) said.

The committee is responsible for studying  DHS and overseeing an independent audit. The audit, which is expected to be approved by lawmakers this session, will determine what changes need to be made to DHS.

"We are not there on a witch hunt," Rep. Wade Rousselot (D- Wagoner) said. "We are trying to find out, just like Kris said, how to help best the folks who need help from DHS."

Both Steele and Rousselot acknowledged there will not be an easy solution.

The legislators created the group specifically to combat issues like child abuse at daycares.

"Sometimes, a worker drops the ball. Just be honest, they are just human beings," Rousselot said. "So, it's a combination of lots of things, and we're going to get to the nuts and bolts of this."

DHS workers came out saying lack of funding and a short staff prevented them from helping the most vulnerable of Oklahomans. The legislative committee will be taking a look at DHS' budget.

"Maybe push more of the dollars that are appropriated to the agency, down to the grass roots level," Steele said. "Down to the actual workers who go into the homes."

The new committee is expected to present its findings in February 2009.

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