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New incentives announced for providers serving Oklahomans with disabilities

Oklahoma Human Services (OHS) is working with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to provide up to $3,000 in incentives to new and existing direct support professionals through its new program DSP+, launching Feb. 1.

These providers serve Oklahomans with developmental disabilities, medically fragile individuals, people with disabilities transitioning into the community from care facilities and aging Oklahomans.

Beth Scrutchins, the division director for OHS’ Developmental Disabilities Services, said these professionals are “at the heart of what we do.” She also said they’re crucial to helping people build skills, engage with their communities and support the families of these individuals.

Currently employed professionals who are working for a participating provider agency on or before Jan. 31 can apply and receive a one-time $1,000 incentive. They can also earn an additional $1,000 every six months they’re employed until January 31, 2025.

New professionals must be hired on or after Feb. 1 and work a full calendar month to receive the one-time $1,000 incentive. They can receive $1,000 every additional six months they’re employed until the next year.

If Oklahomans become direct support professionals at any point during the year, they’re still eligible to participate. But payments will be prorated based on how many months they’ve spent as one of these professionals in the DSP+ program, meaning they might not get the full $3,000 if they apply later.

Participating provider agencies can also receive an incentive based on initial registration numbers through Jan. 31 as long as they also enroll by that date. Those incentives break down like this:

  • Entities with 5 or fewer participants receive $1,000 
  • Entities with 6 to 25 participants receive $2,500 
  • Entities with 26 to 100 participants receive $4,000 
  • Entities with 101 to 250 participants receive $7,000 
  • Entities with 251 or more participants receive $10,000 

Scrutchins said Developmental Disabilities Services [DDS] isn’t sure how many professionals are in Oklahoma. Although it offers a training course in partnership with provider agencies, it doesn’t have the means to keep track of active employment after people complete it. But she said as OHS continues to work through its 13-year DDS waitlist, the need for these professionals has become apparent.

“In general, there's not really a way to pay a direct support professional until they're actually engaged with the individual or family. So, I mean, we're learning as we go about what the need is, but we know we have been experiencing a shortage,” Scrutchins said.

The Legislature appropriated $32.5 million to end the DDS waitlist and increase provider rates in 2022. DDS separated the nearly 5,000 applicants into seven cohorts based on when they joined the waitlist.

The division provides services like caregivers, transportation and job coaches to help Soonercare-eligible Oklahomans with developmental or intellectual disabilities. This issue is common in the U.S., with an average wait time of 67 months for Developmental Disabilities Services applicants.

Scrutchins said the agency is on track to meet its initial goals, as it’s currently contacting its final cohort, which includes 594 people who submitted applications from June 2021 to May 2022.

But Scrutchins said the agency still has work to do, as it can take at least six to nine months to move people through the process and get them connected to services. She hopes adding more of these professionals will help Oklahomans get services faster.

“We felt like this would be an incentive that could really help people all across Oklahoma in all of our counties to be able to access the services and supports that they need," Scrutchins said.

To apply for the program, head to the program's website.

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Copyright 2024 KOSU. To see more, visit KOSU.

Jillian Taylor