NORMAN — The Department of Public Welfare was authorized on Aug. 7, 1936, by article 25 of the Oklahoma Constitution.
A nine-member Oklahoma Commission for Human Services, appointed by the governor, oversees the state’s largest agency and appoints the agency’s director. Members serve nine-year terms.
In fiscal year 1938, the agency served 109,559 recipients and had total expenditures of $15.7 million.
By the 1950s, the Oklahoma legislature began adding and transferring programs to the department, making it an umbrella agency for health care, children’s programs, social services and vocational rehabilitation programs.
In 1968, legislation changed the agency’s name to Department of Institutions, Social and Rehabilitative Services.
During the oil bust of the 1980s, Oklahoma endured economic hardships of double-digit inflation and high unemployment. Caseloads grew exponentially, while agency employees were furloughed.
The 1980 legislation again authorized a name change to the Department of Human Services. At that time, DHS administered 16 institutions and more than 30 programs.
At the turn of the 21st century, OKDHS had almost 8,000 employees and a budget of $1.4 billion from state and federal funding, with offices in all 77 counties.
Source: Oklahoma Historical Society’s Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture