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OHA, ODVA to host community forums on veterans behavioral health

Aug. 1, 2019

Community input to inform five-year strategic plan

One in four Oregon veterans experience frustration in seeking care for mental health or substance use issues. The Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs today announced a statewide tour over the next several months to solicit input from communities across Oregon regarding veterans behavioral health needs and services.

The Oregon Legislature invested $3.1 million over two biennia toward veterans behavioral health. OHA and ODVA dedicated a portion of the funding to commission a needs assessment study to identify challenges and opportunities for reforms. The resulting study, written by Portland-based consulting firm Rede Group is now available on the OHA website.

"Oregon veterans have given their time and talents to serve our nation in times of war and peace. I am deeply concerned about the challenges that veterans reported in accessing behavioral health services," said OHA behavioral health director Steve Allen. "However, I’m encouraged by the strong partnership among OHA, ODVA, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Oregon Legislature, who are all motivated to make needed reforms. We hope that community members across the state will become a part of this unprecedented partnership during our state tour."

The report, Oregon Veterans’ Behavioral Health Services Improvement Study,

  • Describes the availability of behavioral health services for Oregon veterans.
  • Provides findings regarding barriers veterans face in accessing behavioral health services.
  • Recommends policy and other changes that may improve the accessibility and quality of behavioral health services for Oregon veterans.
The recommendations include proposed steps to strengthen services and outreach for veterans, including:
  • Reduce stigma about behavioral health issues to help more veterans feel comfortable seeking care.
  • Strengthen suicide prevention programs.
  • Improve care coordination for veterans and tailor services to better address the experiences those who have served in the military have faced.
  • Expand the number of peer specialists who have their own first-hand knowledge of veterans issues and can provide effective support.
  • Recruit more treatment providers to serve veterans.

"Unfortunately, the recent report confirms what many who serve veterans and those in the field of behavioral health already knew: too many Oregon veterans are not getting the services and care they need and deserve. The state is committed to reversing this trend. To truly make a difference, we will need the involvement of informed, active community-level partners and stakeholders throughout the state," said ODVA director Kelly Fitzpatrick.

Community Engagement Tour

The community engagement tour, which begins Aug. 8 in Bend, fulfills the Rede Group’s first recommendation in the report: Provide communities a forum for local-level problem solving. At the local meetings, OHA and ODVA will seek feedback from local veterans, service providers and policymakers on the Rede Group’s 16 total recommendations. Locations for these community meetings were chosen to obtain a diverse perspective from rural, urban, and frontier veterans, health care providers and community members. Input from these sessions will be used to develop OHA’s five-year strategic plan to better meet the behavioral health needs of Oregon veterans, in close collaboration with ODVA and the federal VA. The strategic plan is expected to be published in early 2020.

The below schedule is subject to change as OHA consults with tribal leadership on their engagement preferences. Please periodically check the OHA website for updates to the schedule. While all forums are free and open to the public, registration is required.

Bend – Thursday, Aug. 8

Astoria – Tuesday, Aug. 20

Coos Bay – Wednesday, Aug. 28

Eugene – Thursday, Aug. 29

Salem – Wednesday, Sept. 4

Klamath Falls – Wednesday, Sept. 11

Lakeview – Thursday, Sept. 12

Portland – Monday, Sept. 16; Tuesday, Sept. 17

The Dalles – Tuesday, Sept. 24

Pendleton – Tuesday, Oct. 8

Baker City – Wednesday, Oct. 9

Ontario – Thursday, Oct. 10

Medford – Wednesday, Oct. 16

Veteran's Behavioral Health Report.png

Everyone has a right to know about and use Oregon Health Authority (OHA) programs and services. OHA provides free help. Some examples of the free help OHA can provide are:

  • Sign language and spoken language interpreters
  • Written materials in other languages
  • Braille
  • Large print
  • Audio and other formats

If you need help or have questions, please contact The Rede Group, 503-764-9696, 711 TTY, or VBHforum@redegroup.co at least 48 hours before the meeting.

 Media contacts

Saerom England

OHA External Relations

971-239-6483
saerom.y.england@dhsoha.state.or.us

Nicole Hoeft

Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs

503-373-2386
nicole.hoeft@state.or.us

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