Housing and behavioral health initiatives take center stage in Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek’s budget


Shane Ersland


Public health initiatives top newly elected Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek’s 2023-25 budget, which she released this week.


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Building more housing and reducing homelessness, improving access to mental health and addiction services, and improving outcomes in early literacy and K-12 schools are the top three priorities listed in Kotek’s budget.

“Every Oregonian, no matter their race or zip code, deserves to have the same chances,” Kotek said in a statement. “My mission as Oregon’s governor will always be to deliver results and move the state forward to build the Oregon we all want to live in. This vision for Oregon’s future cannot be realized in one budget cycle. But this plan provides a roadmap for how we are going to reach our state’s long-term goals.”

The state has about $3.5 billion in one-time federal funding set to expire. Kotek recommends keeping $2 billion of the existing reserve funds in place, and redirecting $765 million that would have been automatically added to the reserves to help fund her priority initiatives.

Kotek’s budget includes several initiatives to reduce unsheltered homelessness, rehouse Oregonians, and build more affordable housing. She is requesting $770 million in general obligation bonds to build more affordable homes for renters and new homeowners. Additional housing requests include:

  • $172.2 million for rapid rehousing resources and connections to long-term rent assistance to maintain housing stability
  • $130 million to create new units of permanent supportive housing and maintain the rent assistance and services needed for the housing
  • $118 million from the lottery and general funds to preserve existing affordable homes, including manufactured homes
  • $73 million to create an ongoing homelessness prevention program
  • $24.1 million to maintain shelter operations, including the operation of the 600 new shelter beds created through the early investment package and Project Turnkey projects
  • $2.2 million to create a new state office to reduce land use and permitting barriers that stand in the way of building more housing

To address the state’s behavioral health and substance abuse needs, Kotek has made the following requests:

  • $278.9 million for addiction treatment, overdose prevention, peer support services, housing assistance, and employment services funded by Ballot Measure 110 grants and an 1115 waiver allowing for Medicaid coverage of substance use disorders
  • $195.7 million for the continued funding for aid and assist services, certified community behavioral health centers, peer respite centers, co-occurring disorder treatment, the System of Care Advisory Council, interdisciplinary assessment teams for children, and housing for transition-age youth
  • $127.4 million to continue 30% Medicaid rate increases for increased behavioral health worker wages
  • $60 million for loan repayment, scholarships and tuition stipends for licensed behavioral health providers, and students in the workforce pipeline
  • $50.2 million to increase positions at the Oregon State Hospital to support a sustainable 24/7 staffing model, establish a dedicated health equity unit to address the needs of staff, support the hospital’s complex case management unit to meet the needs of patients with complex needs and ensure the safety of staff and patients, and upgrade facilities to improve patient recovery and the safety of patients and staff
  • $47.6 million for ongoing funding for programs like CAHOOTS to divert individuals from hospitals and jails, including response and stabilization services for youth and their families
  • $40 million for ongoing funding to support the operation of additional mental health residential capacity, and continue the state’s investment in the development of additional residential and facility capacity
  • $40 million to continue support of the harm reduction clearinghouse to reduce preventable deaths associated with opioid use
  • $20 million to nearly double the Oregon Health Authority’s Health Care Provider Incentive Program with a priority to increase the state’s behavioral health workforce and continue to recruit and retain diverse healthcare providers
  • $18.4 million to fund 988 call centers operating the nationwide 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

“This work can’t be done if we don’t support our essential behavioral health workers and work to build a diverse and culturally responsive workforce,” Kotek said. “We must increase wages for community mental health providers. We have more to do to build on what is working and create a connected system that can lead to hope, healing, and recovery.”

The governor also requested funds for early learning and K-12 education, including $100 million for evidence-based, targeted literacy strategies to ensure preschool and elementary school educators have the training, time, materials, and ongoing coaching they need to integrate evidence-based literacy strategies with culturally responsive approaches.

Kotek also recommended increasing the State School Fund to $9.9 billion and fully funding the Department of Education’s High School Success program to help improve graduation rates and give students the tools to be ready for college or careers.