The ADvantage Waiver Program which is designed to help frail elders and qualifying disabled adults to remain living in their homes or the home of a family member faces suspension.

MIAMI - DOCServices Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Miami serving seniors and disabled persons in Delaware, Ottawa, and Craig counties for over 36 years is urging citizens to act in light of looming program cuts.

DOCServices currently provides services in its territory for seniors and other qualifying adults including congregate meals sites, home delivered hot and frozen meals, socialization, chore and homemaker services and transportation through the Older Americans Act Program, ADvantage Program, and private donations.

According to a letter issued last week by the Oklahoma State Department of Aging Services, due to the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling in response to a legal challenge to the cigarette "fee" approved by the Legislature as unconstitutional, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) lost $69 million of state funding for State Fiscal Year 2018.

As a result, DHS was required to submit a revised budget to the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services to fulfill the constitutional requirements for a balanced budget, but unfortunately, the revised budget resulted in additional reductions to services. Among them will be the elimination of the ADvantage Waiver Program as of Dec. 1 unless the state Legislature acts to restore funding for the program.

The ADvantage Waiver Program is designed to help frail elders and qualifying disabled adults to remain living in their homes, or the home of a family member, instead of in a nursing home environment. Those participating in the ADvantage Program can access a variety of long-term care services, such as personal care and assistance, home modifications for increased safety and access, and adult day care.

A copy of the letter issued to DOCServices from the Department of Aging Services on Oct. 31 reads in part:

"We regret to inform you DHS must eliminate the ADvantage Waiver effective December 1, 2017. Your participation in the ADvantage Waiver will be funded until November 31, 2017. Since elimination of the ADvantage Waiver affects everyone receiving services through it, there is no right appeal to this action.

"We sincerely regret this action. Should the state Legislature act to restore funding for the ADvantage Waiver before December 1, 2017, DHS will notify you as quickly as possible."

In a call to action press release to local media, DOCServices issued a plea for help to the communities it serves, urging citizens to contact their local state Legislators to ask them to fund what they outlined as a "crucial program for the seniors and disabled."

ADvantage members were also encouraged to share their personal stories with representatives to inform them on how cutting the program would impact them and their families personally.

According to DOCServices, there are currently over 20,000 ADvantage members in the state, and if the program is terminated many members would be forced into nursing homes. The press release goes on to outline that there are not enough beds to accommodate this possible influx and the cost would be four times as much to care for ADvantage members.

“Funding appropriated by the Oklahoma Legislature not only provides 85,000 ADvantage meals per year in our service area but we also employ 27 people," said B.J. Mooney, DOCServices Executive Director. "The termination of this program would be detrimental to our clients and program as a whole. We urge Legislators across the state to work together striving for long-term solutions to budget problems that affect many seniors.”

Those listed to contact are:

Senator Michael Bergstrom 405-521-5561 Senator Wayne Shaw 405-557-7354 Representative Josh West 405-557-7415 Representative Chuck Hoskin 405-557-7319 Representative Ben Loring 405-557-7399

To learn more about DOCServices or to make a donation visit www.docservices.org or call 918-542-6671.

Dorothy Ballard is the managing news editor of the Miami News-Record. Email her at dballard@miaminewsrecord.com and follow her on Twitter @dm_ballard.