With last year's House Bill 2009, state lawmakers put into place a clear direction and clear deadlines for creating the new Oregon Health Authority. This week I want to give you a progress report and address some of the questions I hear most frequently from staff and stakeholders as we go through this transition.
The task before us is three-fold:
- Continue moving forward with the gains we have made to improve services to DHS clients through a focused approach on how we provide services to Oregon's children, adults, families, seniors and people with disabilities.
- Create a new public agency focused on prevention and improving the health of Oregonians, lowering health care costs, improving the quality of health care services, and expanding access to health care under the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). The Health Authority brings under one umbrella most health-related programs in the state, including the DHS divisions AMH, DMAP and PHD, along with the Office of Private Health Partnerships, the Oregon high risk pool, the Public Employees Benefit Board, and the Oregon Educators Benefit Board.
- Always remember that even as we move to two agencies, we will continue to share many clients and that our services are integrally connected. To that end, establish a new model in state government where DHS and OHA will share some centralized administrative services to save money, time, and workforce.
We have made progress over the past few months on all fronts. DHS and OHA each have teams working on visions, missions and strategic goals for the new agencies. They are defining the opportunities each agency has to do business differently as a result of the transition.
Additionally, dozens of teams involving DHS and OHA staff are working on the nuts and bolts of the transition, including issues of how we separate the DHS budget, financial structures and operations into individual agencies while sharing services wherever it makes sense. A local consulting group with expertise in the public sector is also helping us in our work.
An organizational structure for the two agencies is being developed and will be ready by the end of June to show where programs and services will "live." This structure will be coupled with a governance strategy to define how the agencies will work together and share accountability.
Over the past several months I have met in Salem and in the field with DHS and OHA employees. One important question I receive is whether or how the changes will affect their ability to do their work and serve their clients. For most people, especially people in the more than 160 DHS field offices, your daily work will not change.
Sometimes reorganizations or big changes happen in an attempt to "fix" problems. For us, the opposite is true. At DHS we have increased credibility with the Legislature and the public has new awareness of how we have helped Oregonians make it through the recession. The work you do every day to help seniors, children, and Oregon's most vulnerable has not gone unnoticed. Your work instilled trust in the Legislature to take on the biggest challenge facing us all: the high cost of health care and its burden on Oregon families, employers and our own budget.
I plan to keep holding these small group sessions in the coming year and I want to invite every DHS and OHA employee to participate either by attending a session, talking to your supervisor about what this transition might mean for you or your clients, and keeping up with transition milestones on the Web. You can track progress through our Transition Web site at www.oregon.gov/oha/transition. There you can also submit any questions or suggestions you may have or you can send an email to HB2009.firstname.lastname@example.org. As more work is completed we will put more frequent updates on this site, so check back often.
In addition to communicating with DHS and OHA employees, members of the executive teams and I meet monthly with a stakeholders group to work out some of the issues of the transition and make sure we take the concerns of their constituencies into account. Also, the transition is a standing agenda item at the monthly Labor-Management Meeting.
As you can see, there is a lot going on with this transition. We will be most successful if we keep listening to each other and the people we serve and actively engage in how this change will affect us. I look forward to hearing from you soon.