Short Session Update

February 13, 2020

On our advocacy call last month, we highlighted the fast pace of a short legislative session. We are now in the second week of a five-week session, and policy bills are moving quickly with little time for deliberation. And budget discussions will soon commence at a similar pace with the latest revenue forecast, which was scheduled to be released on Feb. 12.

Fortunately, our watch list contains only nine bills. And, fortunately, most have referrals to the Joint Ways and Means Committee because they will cost money. Given the pace of session, it’s been nearly impossible to weigh in on each bill. A “pause” at Ways and Means gives us a chance to analyze bills as amended and determine whether NAMI wishes to communicate an official position.

You can see our watch list at: https://namior.org/watchlist/. We should have more on the budget sometime next week.

Bills are moving out of their original committees this week. Out of the nine bills on the watch list, here are the ones we’re most closely monitoring.

* HB 4031: This legislation paves the way for the Legislature to propose a major investment in compensation for Oregon’s behavioral health workforce during the 2021 long legislative session. Generally, the bill as approved by the House Health Care Committee directs the Oregon Health Authority to compile information on overall workforce needs and current workforce capacity in anticipation of proposing new investments.

It’s hard to deliver quality treatment and support services when overall pay is so low for our most essential workers. It’s also hard to expand services and improve access in a hot job market given the system’s low wages. Workforce compensation will be among NAMI’s highest priorities in 2021.

See: https://olis.oregonlegislature.gov/liz/2020R1/Measures/Overview/HB4031

* HB 4082: This creates a new Behavioral Health Roadmap Commission that is supposed to assist legislators in devising new investments and policy changes for Oregon’s behavioral health system. Members include key legislative committee chairs, the chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, and various other state agency representatives. The commission also includes 12 at-large appointments to be made by leadership in the House and Senate.

On one hand, it’s discouraging to see the response to Oregon’s current crisis being the formation of yet another advisory group. On the other hand, having a major legislative commission may finally give the state a focal point for generally unified policy and budget recommendations. Currently, there are multiple advisory groups working on reforms, but none of that work is coordinated.

See: https://olis.oregonlegislature.gov/liz/2020R1/Measures/Overview/HB4082

* SB 1553: It’s difficult in Oregon to find a provider who treats co-occurring conditions, such as both mental health and substance use disorders. Add in intellectual and/or developmental disabilities with either condition, and it gets even harder to find appropriate treatment and supports.

This bill directs the Oregon Health Authority to examine barriers to licensing and accessing providers for co-occurring disorders with the aim of improving timely access to services that meet a person’s total needs.

See: https://olis.oregonlegislature.gov/liz/2020R1/Measures/Overview/SB1553