Photo of Channon Baker and family
This week is the first DHS/OHA community budget forum. We are starting in Pendleton this week, the first of seven public meetings around the state.
While the focus of the forums is on the coming 2011-2013 budget and how the rising need for human services will continue into next year, we also cannot forget that every number on a spreadsheet represents real people. There are human stories behind every statistic.
Stories like the one about Paul and Heather Felix of Pendleton, who, thanks to services provided by DHS and OHA, kept their family together. Both parents were struggling with addictions and were on the verge of losing custody of their 3-month-old daughter, Justice, after their house was raided in September 2008. Using funds from the Intensive Treatment and Recovery Services (ITRS) program, Heather and Paul received court-mandated treatment and kept custody of their daughter. Heather spent six months at Recovery Village in Baker; Justice lived with her during treatment. Paul received residential services at the Eastern Oregon Alcohol Foundation in Pendleton. ITRS dollars allowed Paul to travel to Baker once a month to visit Heather and Justice. Instead of putting their baby in foster care, the family stayed together.
"Eight months ago we didn't have jobs or a license or a car -- we have all that now," says Paul. "DHS helped me find a job, and Heather is in school to become a nurse."
This is just one of many stories we hear from communities across the state. You can see more at our community forums website.
Stories such as that of Kristi and Travis Lenaburg, Salem residents for the past seven years, who were able to get medical care for their two children, Evah and Ethan, ages 5 and 3, through the Healthy Kids Plan.
There's also Janet Blaylock, of Oregon City, who has provided a safe and stable environment to dozens of foster children over the years.
These and similar stories play out in every community every day. Seniors live independently thanks to targeted assistance; families learn how to stay safe and stable; people with disabilities receive job training or in-home care; people with mental illness or addictions receive local treatment; children get health insurance for the first time thanks to the new Healthy Kids program.
We are headed for some difficult financial times - while our caseload continues to rise, revenues have not bounced back. This week it was announced that for the fifth month in a row Oregon's unemployment rate remained unchanged and is still one of the highest in the country.
This means difficult choices will have to be made. Our efforts to transform the way we work to be more efficient and save money are more important than ever before.
As we prepare the 2011-2013 budgets, the feedback we receive through the community forums will help form the budget priorities for DHS and OHA.
The forums also remind us that we don't do our work alone. There are heroes in every community, such as Channon Baker, whom I look forward to meeting in Pendleton.
Channon has turned her life around after going through a difficult time without custody of her children due to addictions. Now clean and sober for nine years, Channon is reunited with her family and has become a parent mentor.
"Oh my gosh, I love this job so much," she says. "It's so nice to be able to give back."
Channon got the help she needed from DHS and now she is giving back.
Thanks to all of you for the contributions you make every day to people like her, to our organization, to your community, and the state at large.