Oregon Department of Human Services Director's Message
January 15, 2010 DHS Director's messages on the web
To: All DHS employees
From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., director
2009: a momentous year for DHS
"It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things."
~Jim Rohn
As we hit the ground running this month and move quickly into 2010, I don't want to forget to pause and take a moment to recognize all we have accomplished in 2009.

It was a momentous year that brought the kind of change and improvements to human services and health reform that will last for years -- and in some cases lifetimes.

One of the highest-profile changes is the creation of the Oregon Health Authority. When the gavel dropped at the end of the legislative session in July, we immediately began taking the steps necessary to implement House Bill 2009 and to set up the new agency, transition some current DHS services to OHA and launch a health reform agenda for Oregon.

That, alone, would be a huge accomplishment but in every corner of DHS, great things happened last year. We've put together a list of highlights, which you can find here. But I also want to call out a few things that all of us should be proud of.

Transformation. Our work to reinvent government through our Transformation Initiative gained great momentum. We're doing more with the resources we have and we're doing our work better than before.

The Transformation Initiative, our strategy of improving services, increasing efficiency and reducing waste, is starting to be integrated in the daily work in many of our offices. Many of the divisions' accomplishments were as a result of using Transformation analysis and strategies.

In 2009, we had 62 improvement efforts in play and so far we've saved or avoided costs equaling $33.7 million, and we are aggressively pursuing much more. More and more employees are getting involved in these efforts to show Oregonians how government can work well for them. We've had 2,000 people directly involved in transformation activities and in the three months since the online Transformation Awareness course launched, 3,600 employees have logged in to learn how to get involved.

Making sure everyone has a seat at the table. In 2009 we set our sites on improving the diversity of DHS and achieving health equity.

The Office of Multicultural Health Services got a new leader (Tricia Tillman) and new focus to provide statewide leadership and advocacy to improve health status and access to health and human services for underrepresented populations in Oregon. The office will also be responsible for affirmative action, diversity intiatives and cultural competency in DHS. Children, Adults and Families also moved forward to address disparities in the child welfare system where Native American and African American children are over represented for the population.

The Addictions and Mental Health Division helped approximately 363,000 Oregonians living with mental illness or addictions.

In 2009 we made great strides in helping communities understand the importance of local residential treatment for people living with mental illness. Thanks to close work with providers, community leaders and advocates these new sites were no longer the scene of protests but rather a place to gather and discuss concerns. For example, in Clackamas County a treatment facility was highly contested in its planning and building stages but after hundreds of hours of community meetings the facility opened peacefully. Neighbors were on a first-name basis with staff and felt informed as the facility welcomed its first residents.

Of course, there are not enough services for all who need them. Last year it was estimated that there are resources statewide for only about a quarter of the people who need addictions assistance and less than half of those needing mental health treatment.

The Oregon State Hospital, which serves nearly 700 people, also had many successes. I toured the construction site at the new facility in Salem recently and it is really taking shape. We are on our way to having a top-rated hospital. In June, a Secretary of State audit commended DHS for good contract management of the $458 million replacement project. In addition, the state hospital is providing an important economic boost to Oregon. 100 are from Oregon and Vancouver, Wash., and all 210 workers currently on site are from Oregon. The hospital also went from a nursing shortfall of 24 percent to being fully staffed in 2009, thanks to Transformation-driven hiring process improvements. Patient safety was also improved by reductions in seclusion and restraint and improvements to OSH security practices.

Children, Adults and Families Division. The economy continued to drive record-breaking numbers of people needing basic assistance to get through long stretches of unemployment. The Self Sufficiency section of CAF responded in a way that not only improved services, but set a gold standard for public service. By looking at their work in a new way they reduced waiting times for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps) and customer satisfaction is at 99 percent, according to surveys. That's a satisfaction rate that any private or public organization would be proud of. Oregon also received its third consecutive federal Food Stamp Bonus Award based on number of eligible Oregonians participating in the program.

In child welfare, great strides were made in keeping families together whenever it is possible to do so safely. The number of children in relative placements rather than foster care with strangers increased by more than 20 percent. CAF improved staffing levels of child protection workers and improved processes to increase the number of children and parents receiving face-to-face visits each month. CAF also met five of six national goals for the Federal Program Improvement Plan to improve child safety and are on track to meet the sixth.

Division of Medical Assistance Programs. The Oregon Health Plan had a historic year. Thanks to successful negotiations with hospitals and insurance companies the Legislature passed a provider tax to pay for health insurance for all Oregon children. Already approximately 31,000 children have been added. The funding also will allow the addition of some 35,000 adults to coverage. This will more than double the number of low-income adults receiving health care coverage and is an investment that will help lower everyone's costs, which is important. And the team at DMAP, along with CAF workers who meet our clients on the front line, have been working hard to get people signed up. But when we have a state with approximately 500,000 adults without coverage, it shows we have a long way to go.

Public Health H1N1 response. From the first signs of an outbreak through all of 2009, Oregon Public Health coordinated statewide vaccine distribution and public information about the risks of H1N1 influenza. It was amazing work. More than one million doses of vaccine have arrived in Oregon and been allocated statewide. A new Web site, flu.oregon.gov, was conceived and launched in just 17 days. Public Health kept information flowing with regular media briefings, news releases and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

But Public Health also did more than pandemic response last year. They also had a nationally recognized education campaign against "junk food" TV ads, oversaw the expansion of the WIC program to include fresh fruits and vegetables, and improved public health nurse trainings, among other things.

Seniors and people with disabilities. This year SPD had great success in ensuring that people had the level of care they need to help them stay as independent and autonomous as possible -- something we all strive for. Possibly the most moving story coming from SPD last year was the closure of the Eastern Oregon Training Center, Oregon's last institution for people with developmental disabilities. All former residents were transferred to community-based placements. Additionally, the division's diversion/transition efforts continue to divert clients from nursing facility care. More than 2,300 seniors and people needing long-term care have been successfully placed at home or in a community setting.

These are all great accomplishments, but they only scratch the surface. I hope you will take the opportunity to read about our other successes. Here, again, is a link to the full document: www.oregon.gov/DHS/news/messages/2010messages/2009_accomplishments.pdf

DHS on the web