|Less than six months ago the 2009 legislative session opened under a dark cloud of uncertainty. Unemployment numbers were rising, revenues were dropping, and demand for support services had begun to skyrocket.
During this time, DHS was able to make a strong case about the importance of health and human services for our clients and for local economies, and I want to thank all of you who shared your stories with lawmakers, whether in person or through other means.
The 2009-2011 budget is not yet final. All agencies took cuts. The majority of DHS funding is federal, and that has helped to buffer most clients from some of the severe service reductions we had feared earlier in the year. But there will continue to be cuts to some of our programs and I will send more information about what the final budget will mean for us when it is completed over the next few weeks.
Today I want to share with you some of the key legislation that was passed that will improve the safety and well-being of Oregonians.
Over the past few weeks I shared with you the passage of bills to provide health care coverage for all children and an additional vulnerable 35,000 adults, create the Oregon Health Authority, and establish menu labeling throughout Oregon. But there is more.
Several bills were passed to help in the ongoing battle against tobacco products. To reduce child access to cigarettes, one bill bans tobacco vending machines everywhere except bars that are posted as off-limits to minors. Another requires landlords to disclose the smoking policy to potential renters to help reduce unwanted exposure to second-hand smoke.
A trio of clean-water bills passed, to protect Oregonians from the preventable adverse health effects of contaminated drinking water, specifically targeting arsenic. Arsenic is known to increase the risk of internal organ cancers after prolonged low level exposure through drinking water. Legislation was also passed to help DHS provide better enforcement of the federal laws that protect children from lead-based paint.
That's a summary of some the legislation that has been passed to date. There are many other bills and more to come over the next few days. We will provide a more comprehensive list in the near future.
To help protect vulnerable people, lawmakers increased civil penalties for cases of substantiated abuse of elderly and developmentally disabled persons and passed bills to improve DHS's ability to step in and protect clients.
Also passed were a trio of bills that removed judicial and other barriers to protecting people who have no one else to advocate for them. They give DHS the ability to petition courts for protective orders for people, allow us to share abuse-related information with courts in order to directly seek court-ordered protections for vulnerable adults and allow for an expedited appointment of a trustee in an emergency situation.
Foster care and adoptions
Several bills will help DHS provide better oversight for foster and adoptive children.
One important issue is how to protect foster children from over-medication with psychotropic drugs. Lawmakers passed legislation for more careful monitoring and oversight of how many and which drugs are prescribed to Oregon's foster children. Another bill addresses the issue of overrepresentation of minority children in the system with a task force convened by Governor Kulongoski and supported by legislation passed this session. And legislation was passed to empower CAF to work more directly with the U.S. State Department when relatives who wish to adopt children live in another country.
Community treatment for people with mental illness
For the past several years DHS has been moving toward a community-centered treatment model that allows people with mental illness to receive local care and live as independently as possible and out of institutional settings.
Last year Governor Kulongoski convened a workgroup to address the issue and out of that work came a series of bills that will help increase community involvement in siting local treatment facilities -- providing a more inclusive system to planning and siting community housing and facilities for clients under the jurisdiction of the Psychiatric Security Review Board.
Every day at DHS we strive to help people stay independent, stay healthy and stay safe and the 2009 legislative session gave us more tools to do that even better. Thanks for all you do to help us meet that mission.