March 16, 2012 OHA Director's messages on the web
To: All OHA employees
From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., Director

Budget and health system transformation

"A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history. "
~ Mohandas Gandhi

As promised last week, I have more information about what steps have been taken to meet the budget set by the Legislature during the recent session, and which steps remain.

Under the budget passed by lawmakers in February, OHA will be taking about $60 million in budget reductions. The reductions include some specific program budget cuts, caseload reductions, and some general administrative reductions. You can see the entire list as passed by the Legislature here.

Specific reductions include $22.8 million in reductions for the Oregon State Hospital. To stay on budget, OSH is delaying the opening of two new units, closing one unit, and closing two five-bed cottages on campus. Patients will be moved to other units. I want to commend the staff and leadership at OSH for managing through these difficult budget issues.

However, I cannot mention OSH without recognizing and bringing to everyone's attention that yesterday we successfully completed the transfer of patients from the old hospital into the new one. This is a remarkable achievement both on the part of the OSH Replacement Project, which managed to bring this project in on time, and for staff and patients on a successful transition into the new facility and into a future of hope and recovery.

Back to the budget: Another specific reduction was to the Healthy Kids program's marketing budget, which was eliminated. This means that we will not be renewing any new advertising or marketing campaigns for the foreseeable future. Prior to Healthy Kids, Oregon's uninsurance rate for children was stuck in the double digits for some 15 years. Now it has dropped to less than 6 percent. That's a success story we can all be proud of. Moving forward, we will be counting on partnerships with local communities to help ensure that qualified families know that this important coverage is available to them.

Many of the budget reductions – some $15 million General Fund – will come in the form of administrative reductions. OHA leadership will be working on how to reach the budget target while continuing to implement Coordinated Care Organizations and deliver other important public services through all of our divisions. It will not be easy. Due to previous budget-related layoffs, retirements, attrition, and the statewide hiring freeze, OHA has about 7 percent fewer people today than it did in July. In the future we will likely have fewer people yet as we stay within a balanced budget.

Over the next few weeks we will be working out a plan for meeting those budget targets. We will present an update to the Legislature in May. As we move forward I will continue updating you along the way.

And as I have said before, at OHA we live with the reality that we are launching major health care reform in a time of constrained resources. Earlier this week I participated in an OHA staff webinar that laid out how we will be approaching the work. Thank you to all who joined the discussion to learn and to ask questions. Whenever I meet with our staff I am struck by their willingness to embrace change and their bravery in challenging the status quo. There are great opportunities ahead and also great challenges. I am confident we will meet them all.

OHA on the web