• Oklahoma health agency proposes hundreds of layoffs

    Updated:
    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma State Department of Health has proposed large budget cuts through layoffs and program cuts.

    The proposal would cut the department's budget by about $17.8 million, twice the amount the Legislature demanded, The Oklahoman reported . The plan would lay off nearly 200 employees and could end grants to child-abuse prevention programs and health centers.

    Department officials acknowledged in October that the department was struggling to make payroll.

    The Legislature gave the department $30 million to help stabilize the situation. But it also required the department to create a corrective plan and cut its budget by 15 percent, or $8 million, by July 2019.

    The proposed layoffs would save the department about $10.1 million beginning in the budget year that starts in July.

    The department will decide which programs to continue funding after learning how much money will be available in the upcoming budget year, said Jamie Dukes, spokeswoman for the health department.

    The report also proposed reducing restaurant food-safety inspections, having one director oversee certain children's mental health and child-abuse prevention programs, creating a new information technology system to reduce the cost of processing health licenses, stopping the use of two rented office spaces, upgrading department buildings to be more energy efficient and selling unneeded computers.

    The report also suggested making some organizational changes to the department, including the creation of a chief medical officer position that would oversee the department's health programs and allow the commissioner to focus on management issues.

    The State Auditor's Office, a grand jury and federal officials are investigating the department for alleged overspending and shifting of money.

    ___

    Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

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    Correction: Oklahoma Legislature-Budget