The Oregon Health Authority Begins Distributing Large Funding Allocation to Mental Health Service Providers

Lawmakers appropriated the money in 2021, but the agency has moved slowly.

The Oregon Health Authority announced May 26 that it is in the process of distributing $517 million in new funding to behavioral health care providers.

The agency said the money will go to three broad areas: $132 million in immediate one-time grants for the the retention and recruitment of staff at various providers; $155 million in higher rates for services to go into effect July 1; and $230 million for residential treatment and supportive housing services. That money is supposed to flow later this summer.

Oregon has long lagged behind other states in the provision of services for people experiencing mental illness. The industry’s challenges multiplied during the pandemic when low reimbursement rates and low staff pay caused attrition and a further decline in services. Lawmakers acted and now the money will begin flowing.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Legislature and to Gov. Brown for providing these critical investments,” said Steve Allen, OHA’s behavioral health director.

“These resources are intended to provide immediate support to behavioral health workers and give programs a sustainable base of funding they can count on to make behavioral health treatment more accessible and equitable in Oregon.”

(The funding stream announced yesterday is separate from the funding associated with Measure 110, which decriminalized possession of small amounts most hard drugs and diverted most of the state’s cannabis tax revenues to new referral and treatment services. There is $230 million ready to go for those services but the process of approving and funding providers has taken far longer than the OHA initially expected.)