MB: Broadcasting from the studios of KCCU on the campus of Cameron University. This is a Texoma Report. I’m Melissa Beck and now the news.
MB: James Gotman is the Vocational and Rehabilitation Specialist for VR02 in Altus, Oklahoma which is part of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services. This year they are celebrating 100 years of service in the state. I spoke with him to find out more about the services they offer and how business owners, educational entities, and the disabled in need of jobs and job training can utilize their organization. This is part-one of a two-part segment.
James, thank you so much for speaking with us today. I see you’re having a 100th year anniversary celebration of the rehabilitation program?
JG: This is the 100th year anniversary in June. President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Fess Act of 1920 also known as the Industrial Rehabilitation Act and referred to as “The National Civilian Vocational Rehabilitation Act,” into law on June 2, 1920. The Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services was established as an independent agency on July 1, 1993 and we celebrated 25 years last year. We have a good history.
MB: You certainly do have a good history of helping the community in Oklahoma. That’s something to be very proud of.
JG: Yes, we serve about 17 to 20,000 people a year with Mental, physical and visual disabilities as well as hard of hearing and deaf. Oklahoma School for the Deaf and Oklahoma School for the Blind.
MB: Tell me a little about what the Department of Rehabilitation services does for people in our community?
JG: What we do is help people with disabilities prepare for, obtain and maintain or return to work based on whether they were working to begin with or not. We can provide services towards that end of vocational objectives if necessary.
MB: I see you not only help adults but also high school students.
JG: Yes, we provide services for high school transitions to the technology center or college university training or just on-the-job training but ultimately what we provide is towards employment. We also provide a Vocational evaluation if they need it, we provide services during school which is pre-employment transition services such as job expiration; work place learning; work place advocacy and post-secondary counseling.
MB: I see you also provide Driver’s Ed?
JG: We provide driver training to students with disabilities that need specific equipment or specific help in obtaining a license to drive.
MB: What type of disabilities do you most commonly see with your students who are trying to learn how to get a driver’s license?
JG: Most students we talk with who have specific learning disabilities such as ADHD, deficiency in math, reading or written comprehension or they have intellectual disabilities or physical disabilities that cause a disability towards employment. For us disability is not the condition itself but how it affects your ability to go to work.
MB: So I see you have rehabilitation service partners at DHS, Workforce Oklahoma, College/University and Technology Centers. Can you tell me a little bit about this?
JG: We work with the workforce because they are working towards employment for everyone in the state that needs a job. We specifically target individuals with disabilities so we can help with specific services with specific help towards reaching their employment goal. We work with DHS at times because they have TANNIF. They also have developmental disabilities division that works with emotional intellectual disabilities that were from birth or early onset and we help in conjunction with them in providing job coaching, support employment, employment retention to help them find, learn and be successful on the job.
JG: As far as the college/university and the technology centers we work with them hand in hand to provide assistance to our clients to reach a vocational goal through their training we provide tuition fees, help with tuition and fees; help with the book costs, and if they are traveling a distance transportation.
MB: OKDRS is an Oklahoma State Agency. Where does the funding come from?
JG: The funding comes from the state and the federal. Now the federal matching funds are based on what the state puts in but it’s usually a 21.3% to 78.7% match, the state providing 21.3% and the federal matching at 78.7%.
MB: What would you say employers or to educational institutions looking to use your services? How can they contact you?
JG: They can contact us at The Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services State Office at (800) 845-8476. To apply for services for Oklahoma Rehab go to www.okds.gov. They can get an application online there or if they’re just wanting to contact our office in our area you can contact VR02, Altus at (580) 482-8605 or you can call the 800 number and talk to someone in the state office and they can give you a list of the state agencies, the units in their area so you don’t have to look them up.
MB: The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office is going to start handing out eviction notices this week after a two-month hiatus according to statements on the office’s social media account deputy’s will begin enforcing evictions again next Tuesday. Data from the non-profit Open Justice Oklahoma suggests that more than 2,000 evictions have been filed across the state since Governor Kevin State declared a state of emergency in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic. During the same period more than 200,000 Oklahomans have filed new claims for unemployment insurance.
That’s the news for this addition of the Texoma Report. For KCCU, I’m Melissa Beck. The Texoma Report is a production of KCCU news. For more information about featured stories aired during the program go online to kccu.org or visit our Facebook page. Stay Safe and Stay Well.