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Legislation Prompts Changes in DHS

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Representative Morrissette says House Bill 1734 isn't enough to solve the issues with DHS. Representative Morrissette says House Bill 1734 isn't enough to solve the issues with DHS.
Several recommendations were made from a recent $400,000 audit of DHS. Several recommendations were made from a recent $400,000 audit of DHS.

By Amy Lester, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Changes could soon be on the way for the Department of Human Services.

A bill just passed out of committee Monday which follows up on several recommendations from a recent $400,000 audit of DHS.

Representative Richard Morrissette (D-District 92) not only criticizing the bill, he's also calling for the resignation of top DHS officials.

"It's a overgrown dysfunctional bureaucracy that grows by the minute," Representative Morrissette said about DHS. "This stuff needs to be streamlined."

Armed with the agency's organizational chart, Representative Morrissette demanded a complete restructuring of DHS, insisting higher ups need to go.

"He's been there for some time now. I think it's time to move on," the representative said. "I'm calling for the removal of Director Hendricks and his senior staff."

Representative Morrissette bases his opinion on what he knows and on the independent audit. A spokesperson for DHS said the agency will always follow state law.

"If he can get that in a committee and get it passes and it becomes law...you won't be talking to me anymore because I'm one of those executives," DHS spokesperson George Johnson said.

House Bill 1734 authored by Representative Ron Peters (R-District 70) passed Monday concerning issues about DHS.

"We need to change the system so we have fewer kids coming into state custody," Representative Peters said.

Peters' bill addresses more than half of the suggestions in the audit, requires a police officer to consult with DHS before taking a child into custody, it forces DHS to reorganize Oklahoma and Tulsa County offices and it tells DHS to phase out the use of emergency shelters.

"I think we spent five months with independent eyes," Peters said. "Auditors looked at what was right and what was wrong and we'll move forward to implement those recommendations."

Representative Morrissette argues the bill does not cover enough.

"This is a band aid approach to get the heat off this legislature and pretend like it did something meaningful," Representative Morrissette said.

Morrissette hopes to amend the bill, adding language to restructure DHS.

"The iron is hot, let's get in the there while it's hot if we don't do it, this thing will pass by the wayside and it'll be years again before we get anything done," Morrissette said.

The bill also instructs DHS to create formal training for workers and set up a state child abuse reporting hotline.


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