During a recession, the math is simple. When people lose their jobs, unless they have another means to support themselves, they often move from being a taxpayer to being a client. That means there are fewer resources to pay for services at the same time demand is skyrocketing.
As Oregon faces 20 months in a row of a double-digit unemployment rate, the need for health and human services is predicted to stay high. This week we released the fall caseload forecast, which helps us predict demand in the coming years. The forecast predicts that the need for everything from SNAP benefits to long-term care will continue to be driven by the recession into the year 2013. You can look at the complete forecast at the link below, but here are some highlights.
- The demand for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is now predicted to last 16 months longer than forecast last spring. Need is going to keep growing until March 2012, when it will peak at more than 788,000 people. That's an increase of 8 percent over last month's caseload of 730,379 Oregonians receiving SNAP benefits.
- The monthly average of Oregon Health Plan clients is forecast to increase by 18.5 percent to 669,000 clients by mid-2013. Last month, 546,705 Oregonians received Oregon Health Plan benefits.
- The number of Oregonians needing long-term care services is growing in response to both the economic downturn and the shifting demographics of the aging population. A nearly 7 percent increase over current levels is expected to result in 30,700 people in long-term care by mid-2013.
To see the complete forecast, including graphs of the increasing need, click here: www.oregon.gov/DHS/data/forecasts/2010/fall-final.pdf
In each forecast and analysis it is easy to get lost in the numbers. It is important for us to remember there are people behind each of those figures. They are people who need our help because they have fallen on hard times. These numbers also reflect the demand on each and every one of us at DHS and OHA. Even in a time of diminished resources, we are striving to deliver the help people need both quickly and compassionately. I know the going is tough, particularly in the hardest hit communities. Our employees are working hard to keep up with demand in very difficult circumstances.
Over the next biennium dealing with the issue of increased need in a time of reduced revenues will challenge our entire state. It will be a defining issue for the new Legislature and Governor.
At DHS and OHA, we will be working closely with the legislature and the governor to tell the story both of the short-term tests before us and also the importance of taking a long-term view and creating a sustainable system for health and human services in our state. That means such things as making early investments in children and families that will head off larger and more expensive problems later; helping to keep people and communities healthy; preventing illnesses (like addictions, diabetes and heart disease) rather than treating their consequences; promoting healthy aging and helping seniors to live safely in their homes; and focusing on reducing child abuse and keeping children safe with their families.
As I have said before, we are living in difficult times and this forecast shows us things are not going to get easier right away. But when I look back over everything we have accomplished over the past few years, I have confidence in the people of our agencies to continue to meet the challenges before us and continue finding new and better ways to serve our clients and the state. And I pledge to you that I will continue to seize every opportunity to tell the people of our state about the amazing work you do for them every day.