Oregon’s three gubernatorial candidates don’t agree on much. So it was surprising to hear a common refrain when we asked them to name the state agency most in need of additional oversight. (We took the beleaguered Employment Department off the table.) All three said the Oregon Health Authority topped their list.
“Tina and I agree, it’s OHA. It’s too big, it’s ungovernable, it’s unmanageable,” Betsy Johnson said.
OHA split off from the Oregon Department of Human Services in 2009. The agency controls the state’s public and behavioral health programs, as well as the Oregon State Hospital.
The reshuffling hasn’t gone well. Nationwide surveys show Oregon ranks first in prevalence of mental illness. OSH is overflowing, and the state is being sued by hospitals because there’s nowhere to send patients suffering from acute mental illness.
Meanwhile the agency has been accused of slow-walking the deployment of the more than $300 million in funding for addiction services that came with Measure 110, the law decriminalizing possession of small amounts of hard drugs in 2020.
Tina Kotek promised to fire both the agency’s head, Patrick Allen— and its director of behavioral health, Steve Allen. “There won’t be any more Allens there anymore,” Kotek said.
Watch the full exchange here: