|I am often moved by service values that drive our employees at DHS and now the Health Authority. Monday marks the beginning of an annual tradition that exhibits one of the best examples of the way our employees give to the community.
The Governor's Food Drive begins February 1 and runs through the entire month. I am very proud of the role DHS plays in this annual event and know that this year we will meet the challenge we have set for ourselves, which is to top last year's record donations.
To learn more about the Governor's Food Drive, please go to www.oregon.gov/FOODDRIVE/
This event also shows how closely we work with our community partners to serve Oregonians in need. One in six Oregonians currently count on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and one in five turned to a local food bank for a box of food. Together these important community safety nets work to try to keep families fed and stable. National studies rank Oregon at No. 2 for the highest level of hunger among the 50 states.
Our own predictions show that record-breaking demand for services that help the unemployed will go higher and last longer than earlier forecast. Unless the economy takes a drastic and unexpected change, by June of 2011 nearly 20 percent of Oregonians will need SNAP benefits. That's more than 756,000 people. Demand for the Oregon Health Plan, TANF and long-term care for seniors also is predicted to increase.
Meeting this need can sometimes seem overwhelming. However, as we look forward to a year when we will continue to be called on to meet an ever-rising need, there are some important bright spots to point out.
The results of this week's election mean we will enter the February legislative session without facing further cuts to services. Next week we will be holding an event to continue to promote the Healthy Kids program, which has added 30,755 low-income children to health care coverage. And we will be drawing some 2,000 names of low-income adults from the reservation list for the Oregon Health Plan so they can have a chance to apply for coverage as well.
And, as happens every week in DHS, there is you, our great staff -- our child welfare workers, public health workers, Oregon State Hospital staff, our support staff, program analysts, managers and more -- the unsung heroes who come to work and do such a great job every day. We have a lot to be proud of. I am grateful and thankful for all that you do each and every day to improve the lives of Oregonians. This week the public also recognized and supported the important work that we do.