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$139M in Oregon Health Authority funding requests die with legislative session

Those requests would have helped people with severe mental illness, children in foster care, drug and alcohol addiction and homelessness.

PORTLAND, Ore. — As the 2020 Oregon legislative session came to an abrupt end on Thursday, a host of funding requests for behavioral health services fell to the wayside.

Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek are convening a meeting of the Legislative Fiscal Office Emergency Board on Monday to allocate funds for flood relief in Northeast Oregon and other items totaling $24.3 million.

The agenda includes a request for $5 million to support the state’s response to COVID-19 and a request to increase the Federal Funds expenditure limitation by $20 million. The second item is an estimate of Oregon’s share of $8.3 billion of federal funding Congress allocated for coronavirus preparedness and response nationwide.

Not included in the emergency funding package are $139 million in requests put forth during the session from the Oregon Health Authority and the Department of Human Services targeted at people with severe mental illness, children in foster care, drug and alcohol addiction and homelessness.

Those requests had not passed by the time Republican lawmakers walked out of the session in protest over Democrats’ cap and trade bill.

Among the OHA/DHS requests was $75 million for caseload costs or budget challenges. Additional requests included:

  • $15 million to support Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics
  • $13.4 million for patients who need treatment to aid and assist in their own defense
  • $12 million for the Klamath County Crimson Rose Center for young women
  • $10 million for a program that helps keep children safely in their homes and reduces the length of stay in foster care
  • $9 million for community mental health programs

The requests came amid a space crunch at the Oregon State Hospital due mainly to an influx of “aid and assist” cases. OHA had hoped to receive funding during the session to open more units at the State Hospital’s satellite location in Junction City.

It’s possible that the requests could be considered during a special session. Kotek on Thursday said she would ask Gov. Kate Brown to call the Legislature back into session within the next 30 days to “address urgent legislation completed over the last few weeks.”

Brown said she’s “open to calling a special session if we can ensure it will benefit Oregonians. However, until legislative leaders bring me a plan for a functioning session I’m not going to waste taxpayer dollars on calling them back to the State Capitol.”

READ: 'This session is functionally over': Gov. Brown working on executive action for climate change

READ: Coronavirus testing still limited in Oregon despite expanded CDC guidelines