Family members with loved ones in the South Oklahoma Resource Center (SORC) say they are not done fighting. They have now filed a lawsuit asking the court to order the facility stay open. This comes after now 18 patients have died since the decision was made to close the state's two public facilities.
SORC, in Pauls Valley, is the only remaining public institution for the mentally and physically challenged. The DHS Commission voted in November 2012 to close it along with the North Oklahoma Resource Center in Enid (NORCE). NORCE closed in November. Right now, there are only 10 patients remaining at SORC.
“They've been wonderful to her,” said Claudia Price, whose 72-year-old-sister Shirley has severe mental disabilities and has been at SORC since the early 80's. “She's got too many health issues to be moving her into a house.”
Price says for the past two years she has been trying to find a new facility for her sister. Three turned her down before she found a home in Lawton that will accept Shirley. However, it's a long distance for Claudia and they have had to delay the move several times because of Shirley's health.
Price is one of several families that have filed the lawsuit, that reads: "DHS has systematically coerced through fear tactics and undue pressure the parents and guardians of Clients at the facilities to move into private lesser care facilities and group homes."
As a result a "shocking percentage of clients" who have moved suffered "disastrous consequences". Eighteen patients have died since the commission decided to close SORC and NORCE in Enid.
That's exactly what Claudia worries will happen to her sister.
“This has been her home for many years, we know if she gets moved again we probably won't have her very long.”
A DHS Spokesperson says the lawsuit has no merit and they will be petitioning for its dismissal. In the meantime they will continue to work with those remaining families to transition those final 10 patients into community homes.