Legislative liaison to represent Oklahomans Rehabilitation Services at State Capitol
OKLAHOMA CITY — Melinda Fruendt, Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services executive director, recently appointed Jennifer Hardin, from Edmond, to serve as the agency’s legislative liaison.
Hardin was employed from September 2016 to September 2021 in a similar position for the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth.
In that capacity, she worked closely with legislative and executive branch officials and provided input regarding legislative initiatives for OCCY and other child-serving agencies.
Hardin assisted in passing several legislative initiatives that have positively reformed the youth system in Oklahoma.
“Jennifer has been a pleasure to work with in my five years in the legislature,” Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Rep. Mark Lawson, (R- District 30), said. “She brings an unmatched level of professionalism and credibility to the organization. I look forward to working with her and DRS to improve the lives of Oklahomans with disabilities.”
In addition, Rep. Lawson is a member of House committees on Appropriations and Budget; Children, Youth and Family Services; County and Municipal Government; Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget, State and Federal Redistricting; and the State and Federal Redistricting North Central Oklahoma Subcommittee.
Senate Committee on General Government and Transportation Chair Senator John Haste (R-District 36) agreed.
“Jennifer is well-established as a seasoned advocate and will be a perfect fit for the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services,” he said. “Her professional career thus far has centered on serving Oklahomans who are most vulnerable. “In this new role, Jennifer will be well-positioned to help expand opportunities for employment, independent life and economic self-sufficiency for Oklahomans with disabilities. I look forward to working with her as we continue to seek better policies and services in this area.”
Senator Haste is also a member of Senate committees on Health and Human Services, Appropriations and Transportation.
During her time at OCCY, Hardin was employed as an oversight specialist responsible for child welfare services in the Office of Juvenile System Oversight.
She served as program manager of OCCY’s Child Abuse Multidisciplinary Team Program assigned to monitor and evaluate 36 Child Abuse team members, coordinate with district attorneys and other key community members, and arrange statutorily required trainings, provide technical assistance and identify gaps in services.
Hardin was appointed by the OCCY director as a co-designee for the Oklahoma Advisory Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect and the Child Death Review Board.
She is a member of the Leadership Board for the Drug Endangered Children Alliance through the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, District Attorney’s Victims of Crime Act Board, and the OSU-OKC Crime Victim/Survivor Services Advisory Board.
Hardin began her 20-year career working with children and families in the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ Intake Unit in 2001 and was promoted to supervisor of the Child Protective Services Unit in Payne County in 2006.
She earned a Bachelor of Science in family relations and child development with an emphasis in individual, family and community services from Oklahoma State University.
“I couldn’t be more excited to join the DRS team,” Hardin said. “Expanding opportunities for Oklahomans with disabilities has been a passion of mine since I first entered the workforce. I look forward to working with our Executive Director Melinda Fruendt, those serving on the Oklahoma Commission for Rehabilitation Services and members of the Oklahoma Legislature in this advocacy role.”
In 2020, DRS served 76,132 Oklahomans with disabilities through career planning, employment, education, independent living programs and the determination of medical eligibility for Social Security disability benefits.
DRS’ employment programs, Vocational Rehabilitation and Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, helped 11,532 Oklahomans with disabilities find employment through career counseling, vocational education and training, medical services required to become employed and assistive technology geared to their specific needs and career goals.
A total of 1,310 of those jobseekers become employed, earning $24,558 in average annual wages and paying $3, 684 in average annual taxes. As a result, they became self-sufficient, taxpaying citizens who reduced or eliminated their need for government services.
For more information
Jody Harlan, DRS Communications Director