Oklahomans vote for change at a highly criticized state agency, but several voters are confused about the question they answered and what it could mean for the future of the Department of Human Services.
Several voters considered State Question 765 "misleading and confusing," but the bottom line is DHS will not be going anywhere; and that's the message the state agency hopes to deliver.
The phones were ringing at the DHS building Tuesday night.
"Yes, you will still be getting all of the same benefits that you had before," OKDHS staff told several callers. People will also retain their jobs, and can expect their work to be "business as usual."
The confusion comes from the wording of State Question 765: "The measure amends the Oklahoma Constitution. It abolishes the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, the Oklahoma Commission of Human Services, and the position of Director."
"The wording made it sound like the agency was going to be completely abolished, which that is not really what happened," OKDHS spokesperson Sheree Powell said.
On Facebook, voters expressed mixed feelings about the passage of 765, posting comments such as, "If they are getting rid of DHS guess my benefits will stop" and "How am I going to get assistance for my disability?"
"For the average person this is not going to affect their service benefits. It's not going to be a reduction of benefits. We are still going to be there," Powell reaffirmed.
Simplified, SQ765 means the governing structure of the agency is changing. The measure gives oversight of the agency to lawmakers and the governor and eliminates the DHS commission; all this with the hope of providing better services to Oklahomans.
"This is something we have been working on for a long time to make our agency more transparent and more responsive to the public."
Decisions made by the agency will no longer happen in public meeting but instead with the director and an advisory panel of citizens.