In this month’s newsletter we feature a conversation on rural health care with ORPRN’s Dr. Melinda Davis, a video on federal health policy from HHS Regional Director (Region 10) Ingrid Ulrey, and details on Oregon’s recently-approved Medicaid mobile crisis services program.
We also have a couple of updates on our upcoming 2022 Oregon State of Reform Health Policy Conference which you’ll find below.
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State of Reform
1. Video: HHS’s Ingrid Ulrey discusses national health priorities
Ingrid Ulrey, Regional Director of Region 10 for the US Department of Health and Human Services, discussed HHS’s top 3 national health issues during a recent State of Reform keynote. She says the top priorities, as directed by HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, include COVID-19 response and recovery, the national mental health strategy, and health equity, coverage, and access.
During the conversation, Ulrey highlighted recent federal investments aimed at addressing the behavioral health challenges facing the country. She said the Biden administration’s mental health strategy includes many different elements. “One is addressing the chronic workforce shortages, which are challenging across health 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.” A video of her full remarks is available here.
2. ICYMI: Topical Agenda now available!
In case you missed it, we recently released the Topical Agenda for the 2022 Oregon State of Reform Health Policy Conference coming up on October 25th. Take a look to see the schedule of panel discussions that focus on issues including workforce, the cost of care, behavioral health, and the long-term impacts of COVID on the health system.
Be sure to also keep your eye out for our Detailed Agenda, which we will release in just a few short weeks. It will include the full list of the 60 speakers that we’ll have lined up for the event. If you haven’t already registered, we’d be honored to have you join us!
3. HHS approves Medicaid mobile crisis services program
HHS announced this week its approval of OHA’s proposal to cover community-based mobile crisis intervention services through Medicaid. The agency stated: “The new first-in-the-nation Medicaid State plan amendment will allow Oregon to provide community-based stabilization services to individuals experiencing mental health and/or substance use crises throughout the state by connecting them to a behavioral health specialist 24 hours per day, every day of the year.”
This new Medicaid option became available in March 2022 through the American Rescue Plan Act, which allocated $15 million in planning grants for 20 state Medicaid agencies to pursue these programs. Mobile crisis services include screening and assessment, stabilization and de-escalation, and coordination with other services as needed. Oregon is the first state to seek and gain approval for this program.
4. Q&A: Dr. Melinda Davis, ORPRN
Dr. Melinda Davis is the Interim Director for the Oregon Rural Practice-based Research Network, where she collaborates with patient, community, and health system partners to identify and address health disparities in rural and underserved settings. In this Q&A, Davis discusses ongoing efforts in the state aimed at getting more rural Oregonians screened for cancer.
One project brings together CCOs and rural clinics to improve rates of colorectal cancer screenings in the hopes of catching cancers early and improving outcomes. “We’re using this collaborative model to help overcome challenges in rural areas with identifying eligible patients and in helping to centralize the administrative aspects of the program,” Davis says. “One thing our research seems to show is these kinds of partnerships have so much potential to help health care practices, and even more so in times of stress like the pandemic.”
5. OHA announces 4 new Regional Health Equity Coalitions
Last month, OHA announced the creation of 4 new Regional Health Equity Coalitions. The RHECs are community-led groups that aim to identify and develop solutions for pressing health equity issues. The new coalitions include: Eastern Oregon Health Equity Alliance (Morrow and Union counties), Mid-Willamette Valley Health Equity Coalition (Marion and Polk counties), South Coast Equity Coalition (Coos and Curry counties), and Transponder (Lane and Douglas counties).
The groups are focused on creating long-term, sustainable policy and system solutions for priority populations including Tribal communities, immigrants, and communities of color. OHA says its currently working to add an additional 5 coalitions in the 2023–2025 biennium, which would bring the state total to 15.