Most of the work done through the Department of Human Services and Oregon Health Authority doesn't happen in a state office building in Salem or Portland. Most of it is done in the local communities, whether through branch offices or partners. From the child welfare workers in Astoria to the doctors in Klamath Falls. From the immunization clinic in Pendleton to the home health care workers in Medford. And all points in between.
Because the work of DHS and OHA is not done in Salem, the budget for the 2011-2013 biennium must reflect the priorities and needs of the state as a whole.
That is why next month we begin a seven-city community budget forum tour. The first forum is Thursday, April 15, in Pendleton and the last is Tuesday, May 18, in Newport. For the complete list of cities, dates and times, go to the DHS Web site. You can also find the forums on here. Please help us spread the word to your local communities.
This series is similar to the tour DHS did two years ago. In 2008, the purpose of the forums was two-fold -- to open the doors on a budget-making process and to begin to define what the real needs for human services are. Hundreds of people attended. We heard loud and clear how intertwined the work of DHS is with lives of people in Oregon, and we took that information back to Salem for the budget we submitted to the Governor.
That needs-based budget became critically important as it helped define what Oregon's real health and human service needs. Since then, Oregon's landscape has changed dramatically. We have had double-digit unemployment and an unprecedented increase in the need for human services. It is on this new landscape that we now look to prepare our next biennium's budget request.
As was the case two years ago, the future will bring changes that we may not yet anticipate. But the planning we do today helps us build a strong foundation so that we can move forward no matter what happens.
To date, we have been able to manage through the budget crisis. Federal stimulus dollars were critical to help us meet the demand-driven shortfall. But we also maintained a strong sense of priorities based in large part on the community conversations and ongoing partnerships we have with stakeholders.
We carry that work forward as we continue to face challenges. The effects of the recession will linger for years to come. Demand for health and human services is forecasted to remain at record levels. Without the continued assistance of federal dollars, it is uncertain how we will meet that demand. Meanwhile, health care costs continue to drain an ever-increasing portion of the state's budget as well as business and personal budgets throughout Oregon.
One of the questions I get asked most frequently as we are going through the transition to a new DHS and a new Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is whether there will be two budgets next legislative session. The answer is yes. The forums are a great opportunity for community stakeholders to learn more about the budgets and provide important feedback to help guide them.
The decisions made in Salem affect everyone in our state. We must make sure those decisions are informed by the people we serve and our partners in providing these services. I am very much looking forward to getting on the road next month and hearing what they have to say.
Visit the community forum Web site and for more information.