Rep. Rob Nosse (D-Portland) introduced a bill that would provide additional beds for Oregonians suffering from behavioral health problems on Monday.
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Members of the House Committee on Behavioral Health and Health Care discussed House Bill 2544 during a public hearing. The bill would appropriate money from the general fund to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to increase the statewide capacity for licensed residential facilities serving individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs) or mental health concerns.
Nosse said HB 2544 would build off of HB 5024, which was passed in 2021, and allocated approximately $130 million for the creation and operation of additional residential treatment facilities in the state. The state’s need for residential treatment facilities has grown since then, he said.
“By June, that $130 million we contracted out is supposed to be out the door,” Nosse said. “Meanwhile, in December of last year, the OHA already had $63 million in unfunded requests, above the $130 million. These are projects that we don’t have the funds to stand up just yet. There is an urgent need to have more of this type of facility in our state. We also know there are providers that, if funding is available, they’re ready to go.”
The OHA estimated that the state’s remaining need in the behavioral health system is for around 282 residential beds, Nosse said. The $130 million allocated during the 2021 session funded 198 beds, which means the state’s remaining need is for $178 million to fund 282 beds, he said.
“Meanwhile, in the SUD space, Oregon Health and Science University has estimated the need to be 311 beds, at $3,000 in funding needed per bed,” Nosse said. “That would mean $93 million to fund the beds needed in the substance use disorder space.”
Requested funding for HB 2544 would support secure residential treatment facilities, residential treatment facilities, and substance use disorder housing. Facilities would be community-based, and include 16 beds. The state would likely receive funds from the federal government to support the facilities.
“When you are a patient receiving care at a residential treatment facility, providing you’re on the Oregon Health Plan, we are sharing that cost with the federal government,” Nosse said.
Sen. Dick Anderson (R-Lincoln City) testified in support of HB 2544.
“Despite sky-rocketing overdose deaths, and record levels of addiction in my district, there remains no residential treatment services in Lincoln County,” Anderson said. “As a result, my residents must travel up to 300 miles to access residential treatment. I can only imagine the outcry that would come if every patient from Portland who needed residential treatment had to be shuttled hundreds of miles outside the county to receive overnight care. But that is the situation we find ourselves in, in my district.”
Anderson said community members in his district have collaborated to identify and partially fund a 16-bed residential intensive outpatient program for adults who have SUDs.
“The building has already been purchased, and it just needs to be retrofitted,” he said. “If the state would become a partner in this effort, we could start seeing patients next year. The community has done its part. It is time for the state to do ours.”
Rep. Ed Diehl (R-Stayton), said he supports the bill, but voiced concerns he has heard from builders about the types of facilities it would support.
“I’ve heard this from folks that have tried to build these, that there’s barriers the state has put up to make it difficult to the point where it’s not a profitable venture for them,” Diehl said. “The other [concern] is they’ve had resistance from certain communities to build these. So, I want to make sure that if we have this money—and I want to see this, we need these facilities—if there’s anything else we need to do to make sure they actually get built.”
Dr. Lesley Ogden, CEO of the Samaritan Coastal Hospitals in Lincoln City and Newport, testified in support of the bill.
“As a rural county, we have a fractured continuum of care for SUD treatment, and often resources are scarce or simply not available at all,” Ogden said. “For over 10 years, stakeholders have been discussing the overwhelming need for a residential treatment facility since there are no inpatient services in the area.”
Julie Ibrahim, CEO for New Narrative, a nonprofit that provides mental health services/housing, also testified in support of HB 2544.
“The investment last session was only a first step in adequately funding the need for additional beds,” Ibrahim said. “If the legislature were to invest, our organization is prepared, and will definitely apply, to expand our services.”
New Narrative is adding 37 beds to its network this year, an initiative that was funded by last year’s request for proposal (RFP) process for HB 5024, which brought its total residential treatment bed count to 122, Ibrahim said.
“Over the next two years, we’d like to add 24 more beds, bringing the count to 146,” she said. “I’d like to do more, but I worry about being able to staff them. We know there is a need, and we want to open more residential treatment facilities. We have to know we will be able to staff these facilities in order to apply for more RFPs.”