May 14, 2020
Oregon’s Behavioral Health Funding is at Stake – Help Protect Critical Services
To prepare for the anticipated loss of General Fund revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the state of Oregon’s response, Governor Brown has directed all state agencies to propose budget reductions to cut their General Fund biennial appropriations by 17 percent. Following that directive, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) announced a proposed reduction in community behavioral health funding of $69 million and the additional loss of $233 million in Medicaid for our state. In addition, there is a proposed cut of $42 million in Oregon State Hospital funding, resulting in 173 beds.
To our community,
All of us at Cascadia are deeply troubled by the proposed budget cuts impacting community behavioral health funding. The proposed cuts will have a detrimental impact on Oregon’s behavioral health system, including Oregon State Hospital, and the people who depend on it. Oregon has one of the highest rates of mental illness, addiction, and suicide in the country. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, funding resources to serve children, adults, and families were in great demand.
Roughly one million Oregonians of all ages rely on Medicaid-funded services through the Oregon Health Plan. Reducing access to care at their greatest time of need – during a pandemic – will impact the health of our communities for years to come. Additionally, reducing the safety net services that our counties provide will be devastating to our communities’ most vulnerable. Individuals who rely on these services – many of whom are uninsured and/or unemployed – will be left without options and may face potentially life-threatening health concerns.
We urge our state leaders to take action and protect this critical funding. We urge Governor Brown to thoroughly weigh these devastating impacts. While we understand the severity of the economic situation due to the impacts of COVID-19, the proposed cuts would have a detrimental impact on Oregon’s behavioral health system and put Oregon’s most vulnerable people at risk. We agree with the Oregon Health Authority that the loss of these programs and services could not come at a worse time. Beyond the fear of getting sick from COVID-19, people are facing widespread job loss, economic instability, social isolation, and fear for the health and safety of family and loved ones, leading to a surge of mental illness that will inevitably emerge from this pandemic.
Without the proper resources needed to manage the health of our community, we will face an untreatable mental health crisis in our state. While we must do everything in our power to protect Oregonians from the devastation of COVID-19, it should not come at the cost of creating another potentially life-altering healthcare crisis for our most vulnerable community members.
Thank you for your support and for being part of our whole community.