MIAMI — Ottawa County is not among the counties across Oklahoma that will have its Oklahoma Department of Human Services office closed as part of its Service-First model.

Thirty-five DHS “brick and mortar” offices will be shuttered as part of a cost-cutting measure for the upcoming fiscal year.

While the Ottawa County office, located at 2114 Denver Harnar Drive, was not on the closure list, the Delaware County office in Jay and the Craig County office in Vinita are.

Other counties that will not have a physical office include Adair, Beckham, Blaine, Caddo, Cherokee, Choctaw, Coal, Custer, Garvin, Greer, Harmon, Harper, Haskell, Hughes, Jefferson, Johnston, Kingfisher, Kiowa, Latimer, Logan, Major, Marshall, Mayes, McClain, Murray, Noble, Nowata, Okemah, Osage, Pawnee, Seminole, Tillman and Washita.

Reports are that Oklahoma, Tulsa, Rogers, Stephens, Garfield, McCurtain, Cleveland, Custer, Kay, Canadian and Garvin counties will have multiple locations consolidated into one or more buildings, but will maintain at least one DHS building.

“Our agency has learned so much in light of COVID,” DHS director Justin Brown said in a statement sent to the News-Record. “We know that we can continue to serve our customers in a meaningful way while teleworking. Many of our staff are already working from the field.

“By prioritizing our services and customers over physical structures as we absorb budget cuts, and by strengthening community partnerships to serve in new ways, we are creating stability for our agency and those we serve well into the future. Our priority as an agency is always to serve Oklahomans, especially those who need us most.”

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn has necessitated a 4% reduction, or $28 million, for the DHS in fiscal year 2021.

The service-first plan will allow the agency to achieve this reduction without impacting services or workforce.

There are no planned full-time equivalent furloughs or staff reductions under the plan.

Over the last few months, the DHS has effectively met increased customer needs while teleworking, using technology as a pathway to more efficiently meet the needs of DHS customers.

A survey revealed that 87% of employees are as productive or more so in the telework environment.

The service-first plan calls for two-thirds of DHS’ employees will continue to work from an office.