Housing, mental health care are among the priorities of the new Oregon Health Authority director

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) – As James Schroeder begins his new role as director of the Oregon Health Authority, he is already targeting some of the biggest health issues affecting people in the state: affordable health insurance, access to housing and mental health care.

Schroeder, a primary care clinician who most recently served as chief executive officer at Health Share of Oregon, the state’s largest coordinated care organization, acknowledged the current “acute” challenge facing Oregon’s healthcare system: hospitals overwhelmed with respiratory virus patients are. And many patients cannot be discharged because they lack housing, psychiatric treatment, or long-term care.

In a Jan. 9 open letter to the Oregon Public Health Service, Schroeder called out “deeper, longer-standing issues” plaguing communities across Oregon.

Too many people find themselves on the streets, in jail or in the hospital because they are in crisis and can’t get the behavioral therapy treatment they need,” he said. “Too many people are dying from preventable deaths from fentanyl, methamphetamine and other dangerous substances. Hundreds of thousands of people who bought health insurance in recent years risk returning to a time when small changes in income can toggle working families on and off the Oregon Health Plan, especially as federal pandemic coverage and funding eases. “

Schroeder, who was appointed by Gov. Tina Kotek, serves as a lieutenant colonel in the Oregon Air National Guard and is commander of the Group Medical Unit at Portland Air Base. He took up his new OHA position on January 10, replacing Patrick Allen, who left OHA after five years to become New Mexico Secretary of Health.

READ :  Florida hospitals evacuate patients due to lack of water

In the open letter, Schroeder described himself as “a community health clinician with deep roots in advocacy for social justice and health equity.” Those roots included clinical care for rural, uninsured, Spanish-speaking patients “who would frequently drive more than 50 miles each way to see me so they could speak to someone who spoke their language.”

“To this day, I have great respect for their strength and resilience, and an ongoing commitment to breaking down barriers to care that many families continue to face,” he said.

At OHA, Schroeder said he will focus on protecting health insurance, implementing Oregon’s Medicaid waiver and improving behavioral health. He said the agency will apply these values ​​in pursuing the agency’s top priorities:

  • Maintain coverage for all 1.4 million people now enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan (and who remain eligible) when the federal pandemic emergency ends, and ensure economically vulnerable working families who move out of OHP, have affordable coverage options.
  • Implement Oregon’s groundbreaking Medicaid waiver and use its potential to disrupt many of the root cause issues that are eroding the health and quality of life in communities across the state.
  • Help communities across the state develop a behavioral health care system capable of meeting the needs of people who are struggling or in crisis.

In addition to social justice and health equity, Schroeder wants to help OHA continue to work with local and state partners—as he has done as a community health practitioner—to address the state’s biggest health challenges. But the agency needs to do more to hold partners accountable for better outcomes “instead of documenting compliance with process and outcome measures through onerous reports.”

READ :  Employers looking to cut costs of retiree health plans (though committed to benefits)

“Incentive payments to CCOs have reduced avoidable emergency room visits and increased child immunizations for OHP members,” he explained. “We need to measure and reward better results across all of our systems.”

One thing that won’t change under his leadership is OHA’s commitment to eliminating health inequalities in Oregon by 2030.

“Oregon has proven it can be done,” he said. “Today, adult COVID-19 immunization coverage for Latinos is on par with whites, and COVID-19 immunization coverage for blacks, Africans, and African Americans surpasses both groups. I will do everything in my power to ensure the agency remains focused on health equity and sustains the community partnerships that have made these achievements possible.”

Schroeder holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado and a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska. He has also completed the Community Health Leadership Program at the University of Washington and the Kaiser’s Executive Leadership Program at Harvard Business School.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *