Afternoon Keynote: Ingrid Ulrey discusses HHS’ top 3 national health issues


Shane Ersland


Ingrid Ulrey, Regional Director of District 10 for the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), capped the 2022 Inland Northwest State of Reform Policy Conference by discussing HHS’ top 3 national health issues.


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Ulrey was appointed by the Biden Administration about 8 months ago to serve as Director of Region 10, which includes Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Idaho. She said HHS’ top 3 issues, as directed by HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, are COVID-19 response and recovery; national mental health strategy; and health equity, coverage, and access. She said all Americans have been through a lot due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We still have 300 to 500 people a day dying,” Ulrey said. “The key thing at this moment is the announcement of the new vaccines. We now have the new bivalent vaccine. The FDA shared some predictive modeling looking at, what if, by Oct. 31st with the new vaccine, the uptick rate was equivalent [to] what we had for flu vaccine last season? What they found is that if we could make that happen together we would avert 100,000 deaths, over 1 million hospitalizations, and prevent 24 million infections. So the stakes are high. A lot of the tools in our tool chest, the mitigation strategies, have been relaxed. Really, vaccination is our most important course of action at this point.”

Ulrey noted that President Biden pointed out mental health as the defining health issue of our day during his State of the Union Address.

“There’s been an enormous amount of fiscal investment both through ARPA and most recently through the bipartisan public safety act,” Ulrey said. “This has many different elements. One is addressing the chronic workforce shortages, which are challenging across care, but I would say most deep in behavioral health and long-term care. The second is integrating behavioral health into primary care and schools.”