Legislative Session Update
DHS Director's Message
Message from DHS Director Fariborz Pakseresht
March 26, 2019
Oregon’s 2019 Legislative Session is in full swing. Legislators are shaping our next budget and reviewing policy proposals to guide our work. We are in daily contact with legislators through formal presentations to committees or discussions with individuals. When we talk with legislators, our goals are to build understanding around our work, share our accomplishments, describe our challenges, and seek their help with the solutions.
Thanks to your hard work, we have been proud to share many accomplishments that improve the safety, health and independence of Oregonians, including:
- Aging and People with Disabilities (APD) refining the eligibility criteria and rebalancing in-home support hours for the Medicaid Long-Term Services and Supports program to achieve the Legislature’s vision for bending the cost curve for the program. The changes made ensured the program remains innovative and sustainable and had the least impact on consumers in need of services. In making the changes, APD also built in protections for Oregonians who no longer qualify for the level of services and supports that they had previously been receiving under the old eligibility criteria. The protections include assurances that consumers currently living in licensed long-term care - who would be at risk of becoming homeless if they no longer qualified for this benefit – can continue to receive this level of service until an acceptable long-term alternative can be identified. In addition, APD has made transition services available to individuals who are no longer eligible for long-term care, but are able to safely move from a licensed care setting back into a home of their own.
- Child Welfare dramatically reducing overdue assessments by sending a small team of child safety experts to visit each district to close overdue assessments and build local sustainability plans. In early 2018, we had over 13,000 overdue assessments and the number has dropped to 4,262 this month.
- The Office of Developmental Disabilities Services redesigning and improving the Individual Support Plan (ISP) process and rolling it out statewide through trainings. The Oregon ISP process is used to support planning with people who experience intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. The ISP reflects the person’s desired outcomes, career development plan, chosen services and providers to meet the person’s identified support needs.
- Self-Sufficiency Programs increasing rapport and trust with customers through the implementation of the family coaching model. This model has allowed coaches to shift from a program participation focus to addressing a family’s needs, resulting in creative thinking to meet families where they are and create meaningful plans to assist them in meeting their goals.
- Vocational Rehabilitation serving 17,060 Oregonians with disabilities in 2018 through programs for developing work skills and finding or maintaining employment that fits their interest and abilities.
- The Background Check Unit in Shared Services, with funding from the Legislature for new positions, dropping the processing time for all provider background checks from 46 days to just under eight days by November 2018.
Your agency and program leadership take the honor and responsibility of representing you and your work before the Legislature seriously. We do daily monitoring and bring the full leadership team together at least twice a week to make sure we are well-prepared for presentations and are timely in our response to requests. I wanted to give you an update on our activities and share resources for how you can track our legislative engagement.
2019-21 Biennium Budget Development
We spent five weeks over January and February presenting agency and program overviews and budget information to the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Services. This Subcommittee develops a budget recommendation for our agency for the full Legislature. We expect to give another round of presentations in April on topics identified by the Subcommittee.
By the end of June, the Legislature will approve a state budget, including our funding for the 2019-21 biennium. Between now and then, we will hear much discussion and debate around funding proposals for DHS. The state must have a balanced budget, so we can expect to take reductions in some places to fund the current needs and priorities of our agency and the state. We need to keep in mind that nothing is final until the Legislature adopts a budget and the Governor signs it.
You can find more information about the budget request DHS submitted to the Governor, the Governor’s recommendation for the next DHS budget, and all our presentations to our legislative budget committee on our budget information webpage.
The two policy committees we work with most often are the Senate Committee on Human Services and the House Committee on Human Services and Housing. We provided agency and program overviews to both committees at the start of the legislative session. Both committees are now busy holding work sessions and public hearings on bills. Our agency and program directors, as well as subject matter experts, are regularly giving informational presentations on specific topics and bills on request. You can see all DHS presentations to either committee on our Legislative Information webpage.
We’re also analyzing bills the Legislature is reviewing. A total of 2,664 bills were introduced this session and we are tracking 1,045 of the bills. Many of those we track require our staff to complete formal analysis to identify fiscal and long-term policy implications. Although most of the bill analysis happens at the Central Office, bills that pass can affect both central and field staff. Your program leaders watch potential bills that could affect your work carefully and will share information about bills your program will implement after they are passed.
The Legislative session is long, and it may be a while before we see bills that touch our work get final approval. Bills must be approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor to take effect. We will keep you posted.
I’ve shared before that this is an important time for our agency. Legislators are critical stakeholders in our work. When we present to the Legislature, we are asking for the financial and policy support that makes our work possible. Although we have many challenges ahead, we have many significant accomplishments behind us. They signal to the Legislature that we are successful and constantly improving our abilities to help Oregonians achieve safety, health and independence. DHS staff across the state are dedicated and passionate about our work. We appreciate you and are proud to represent you.