5 Things Oregon: 2022 legislative concepts, Homelessness pilot program, Nursing workforce

In our first 2022 edition of “5 Things We’re Watching,” we feature some of the conversations taking place ahead of the 2022 legislative session. We have a Q&A with Rep. Andrea Salinas, coverage of two committee meetings that took place this week during Legislative Committee Days, and a conversation about policies to support nurses.

As always, thank you for reading!

Emily Boerger
State of Reform

 

1. Q&A: Rep. Salinas discusses 2022 priorities

Rep. Andrea Salinas is the vice-chair of the House Interim Committee on Health Care. In this Q&A, Salinas discusses her health policy priorities for the upcoming legislative session, which include continued discussions on creating a public option and addressing racism as a public health crisis.

Last session, lawmakers passed HB 2010, which directed OHA to “create an implementation plan for a public health plan to be made available” on the health insurance marketplace. Salinas says this year lawmakers will continue to explore how a public option might work in Oregon. “Rather than implementing a public option this session, which could feel really big—and still not enough discussions have been had—I’m really eager to figure out what pieces we can put into place.”


2. Policies to support the nursing workforce

Matt Calzia, nurse practice consultant at the Oregon Nurses Association, says finding ways to retain current staff, bring in more nursing faculty, and study long-term solutions are all important aspects of supporting Oregon’s nursing workforce. Looking toward the legislative session, Calzia says he’d like to see work to extend emergency nurse licensure and allow third parties to pay for nurse license fees.

He’d also like to see funding and support so that frontline nurses can participate in the Oregon Wellness Program. “That’s important to us, because what we’re seeing with our members is there’s been so much fatigue, and so much mental fatigue that they need mental health services,” says Calzia. “[We need to] help support nurses’ mental health because nurses are going to work in a broken health care system, day in and day out.”

 

3. Pilot program looks to build collaboratives to address homelessness

A proposed pilot program being developed by Rep. Jason Kropf would create regional collaboratives between cities and counties to better address homelessness. The proposal, which was discussed Wednesday in the House Interim Committee on Housing, would provide pilot sites with $1 million to create coordinated homeless response systems.

Within one year of receiving funds, these systems would need to adopt a five-year strategic plan that sets goals to incorporate national best practices for ending homelessness, eliminate racial disparities within homeless services, develop pathways to permanent and supportive housing, and streamline resources for those at risk of experiencing homelessness. The bill and pilot project is being developed by Kropf, the League of Oregon Cities, and the Association of Oregon Counties.

 

4. Hospitals prepare for continued COVID surge

On Tuesday, the state recorded over 8,700 COVID-19 cases—the second highest case count of the pandemic. According to data from the New York Times tracker, case counts have jumped 486% over the past two weeks.

Yesterday, Gov. Brown announced the deployment of 700 Oregon National Guard members (in addition to the 500 announced last week) to support frontline workers. Last week OHA issued an “interim crisis care tool” to guide hospitals on treatment prioritization if resources become scarce. The latest data indicates there are currently 34 available adult ICU beds and 262 adult non-ICU beds available in the state.


5. Lawmakers introduce new policies in Senate committee

Lawmakers discussed and approved three legislative concepts during the Senate Interim Committee on Health Care meeting on Tuesday. The concepts include LC 32, which directs the Department of Human Services to convene a Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Committee, and LC 35, which would require health insurance coverage of certain fertility services and treatments.

During the meeting, lawmakers also heard an update on the state’s 1115 waiver application process. OHA opened the public comment period on the draft waiver last month and is currently incorporating that feedback into the waiver application to prepare it for final submission to CMS in February.