2019 Legislative Session Wrap-up
DHS Director's Message
Message from DHS Director Fariborz Pakseresht
July 8, 2019
Our state legislature has wrapped up its 2019 session and the overall results for our department are positive. The budget for the 2019-21 biennium and many of the bills coming out of the session puts us in a strong position to continue helping all we serve reach their full potential by creating a system that provides services in a seamless and integrated manner across the entire continuum of life, and in strong partnership with community organizations.
With the 2019 legislative session behind us, our focus now turns to implementation of the new budget and bills that establish the policy we work within.
The new budget funds what’s known as our “current service level” which means it sustains the staffing levels and costs by case from the past biennium plus the growth projected for the new biennium. Although there are always trade-offs in a budget to shift funding to address emerging needs or new priorities, the reductions we face are manageable with strict budget oversight.
More than 2,600 bills were introduced during the 2019 session. Our Legislative Relations team is finishing its analysis of bills approved by lawmakers and so far, it has identified 78 we must implement.
End-of-Session Report is now available for those interested in learning details about the bills and investments for DHS. Below are highlights of the investments that benefit the people we serve, our staff and the partners who help us do the work.
Aging and People with Disabilities
- APD and key Area Agencies on Aging offices received a total of 90 Medicaid case management positions, increasing the case management workforce by about 10 percent. The new positions are a positive step toward addressing workload concerns raised in an Oregon Secretary of State audit two years ago that identified safety risks related to a growing aging population in need of services and supports.
- Long-term care providers received a bump in their Medicaid rate for Assisted Living, Memory Care, Residential Care and Adult Foster Homes to help address growing workforce challenges.
- Child Welfare received approximately 380 new positions, primarily for caseworker, foster parent retention and recruitment, and Oregon Child Abuse Hotline positions.
- DHS received an $8.5 million investment as part of an overall $50 million investment statewide to increase therapeutic services for children and families.
Office of Developmental Disabilities Services (ODDS)
- ODDS received funding to increase provider rates over the biennium. A portion of the funding will help providers increase wages for direct support professionals who work in these agencies and help providers retain this essential workforce.
- Children’s services got some important investments with provider rate increases and an increase in capacity for children’s group homes by 12 beds. Also, a new level of service called Host Homes will support up to 140 youth with needs beyond a foster home but don’t need a group home setting.
Self-Sufficiency Programs (SSP)
- HB 2032 established a pilot, through a grant program of $10.5 million administered by Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS), that will provide emergency housing assistance to those receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) services. The funding will prioritize the needs of families using TANF services and help stabilize low-income Oregonians experiencing a housing crisis.
- The bill also includes a $3.5 million expansion in employment and training to implement a comprehensive service model with eligible TANF participants enrolling in training programs that match up with in-demand, high wage job openings, such as in the healthcare or information technology areas.
- VR received three staff for the delivery of Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) and related transition services to help satisfy the requirements of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act throughout the state.
- The program also received an increase of more than 4 percent to this biennium’s budget compared to the 2017-19 budget. This increase will continue to support VR’s modernization and delivery of supports to Oregonians with disabilities.
The Oregon State Legislature is a critical stakeholder which, along with our Governor, provides the financial and policy support that makes our work possible. The investments we received this session signal they recognize our dedication and our efforts to constantly improve our abilities to help Oregonians achieve safety, health and independence.
I want to thank our budget and legislative relations teams for leading and supporting us through the 2019 legislative session. And, most of all, I want to thank you for doing the great work that our legislative and executive partners invested in. I look forward to working with you to make the most of the opportunities the new biennium brings to deliver better outcomes for the Oregonians we serve.