Concerns arise as proposed OSDH cuts could impact the most vulnerable

Concerns arise as proposed OSDH cuts could impact the most vulnerable

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (KSWO)- Some officials are expressing concerns over the Oklahoma State Department of Health's newly proposed budget cuts and how those cuts could impact the state's most vulnerable.

The proposal would cut the department's budget by about $17-million and would lay off nearly 200 employees. It would also end grants to child-abuse prevention programs and health centers.

OSDH Interim Director Preston Doerflinger says the cuts, though dire, are a necessary response to last year's financial mismanagement:

"We know that there were a lot of controls that were not in place that are being put in place. Standards. There was a general lackadaisical approach here… I don't think, based on current actions we've taken, that there will be more people losing their jobs."

But, some are concerned with the cuts to child abuse prevention programs. Experts say prevention programs actually save taxpayers money in the long run -- and are vital for the young victims' development.

"You know, they're the children that come to school not prepared to learn. They're the children who eventually have disciplinary problems. They can end up in the Oklahoma juvenile system or they can end up in adult corrections," said Sherry Fair.

Doerflinger says the importance of those programs is not lost on him and that the agency is still in a state of what he calls "crisis management."

Last year, the Legislature tasked the OSDH to come up with a reduced budget plan, giving them a deadline of July 2019. The agency's proposal slashes roughly two times the amount suggested by lawmakers.

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