Oregon legislature passed many new investments in behavioral health

The 2021 Oregon Legislative Assembly adjourned Saturday, June 26th, marking the end of this year’s legislative session. Among the many health-related bills that passed, Rep. Rob Nosse said this session  featured significant new investments to support the behavioral and mental health of Oregonians.  

 

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“The 81st session will be remembered as the one where we finally started making investments to bring about the promise of the deinstitutionalization of people with mental illness and started making community-based treatment an actual reality.”

The legislature invested $474.4 million into a behavioral health bill package this session. Certified community behavioral health clinics (CCBHCs), which provide mental health and substance abuse treatment regardless of insurance coverage, received $121 million. Another $130 million was allocated toward increasing capacity for licensed residential facilities for those with behavioral health needs. 

Other investments in behavioral health include HB 2949 which allocates $80 million to create two incentive programs to increase the state’s behavioral health workforce. These funds aim to retain the mental and behavioral health workforce through scholarship programs, stipends for graduate students, loan repayments and other retention incentives. 

HB 2417 provides $10 million to expand mobile crisis stabilization centers throughout the state. This includes short-term respite facilities, peer respite centers, behavioral health urgent care walk-in centers and crisis hotline centers. This bill will assist Oregonians experiencing addiction and mental health crises on a greater scale. 

HB 2086 marks a big step in providing culturally responsive behavioral health services for people of color and underserved communities. The bill requires the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to establish peer and community driven programs that provide cultural specific behavioral health services to people of color, tribal communities and people of lived experience. 

Respite care funding is expanded in HB 2980. This bill requires OHA to provide funding to peer-run respite centers to provide peer respite services to individuals with mental illness who  may need a higher level of care. At least one center receiving funds must participate in a pilot project designed to provide culturally responsive services to underrepresented communities.

The legislature also invested in the implementation of Ballot Measure 110 which changes many felony possessions to violations in an attempt to establish more of a health and recovery approach to illegal drug use. $302 million was invested to fund behavioral health resource networks and substance abuse crisis centers across the state. 

The legislature also passed legislation to invest in the 988 national suicide prevention hotlineto assist in creating infrastructure around the hotline. The legislature invested $5 million in the crisis hotline centers. 

Rep. Tawna Sanchez, chair of the House Committee on Behavioral Health said:

“We were able to make very important investments in our long ignored behavioral health system. But the work is far from done. To ensure these are truly transformative investments, we’ll have to come back with the same urgency to fix this crisis in future sessions.”