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County adding health care services

Mar 31, 2014


By Nicole Montesano
Of the News-Register


As part of a state and federal overhaul in health care, Yamhill County Health and Human Services has been awarded $635,847 by the state Health Authority’s Addictions and Mental Health Division. The money is part of a statewide effort to improve safety net services for people coping with mental health issues.

The Yamhill County Care Organization, which coordinates services to Oregon Health Plan members, also was awarded two grants, one to increase services and intensive care coordination for children with emotional and behavioral disorders and one to provide “assertive community treatment” for mentally ill people who might otherwise end up in high-cost psychiatric facilities.

“These legislatively allocated funds are long overdue,” said County Health and Human Services Director Silas Halloran-Steiner. The state has only been funding the local community mental health system at about 40 percent of its estimated need for years, he said.

As a result of the grants, the county is planning to:

* Extend its psychiatric crisis response team operation to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

* Add a diversion program to keep mentally ill people from being jailed unnecessarily.

* Improve mental health programs in all seven of the county’s school districts.

* Augment housing services for mentally ill people living independently.

* Expand behavioral health services at two school-based health centers.

* Add alcohol and drug prevention activities for teens.

“Yamhill County residents deserve high quality services, especially if they find their way into a crisis situation,” Halloran-Steiner said. He said that prevention services are a crucial part of the change in health care.

“Only 10 percent of people’s overall health is influenced by medical services. The other 90 percent is determined by genetics, lifestyle, behavioral, social and environment factors. Knowing this, it’s time we focused our energy on helping people make smart choices about their health and how they access health care services.”

Jim Carlough, CEO of the Yamhill County Care Organization, said he is excited to work with county Health and Human Services, with more integrated services.

On the other side of the ledger, the state is cutting $93,591 from the county’s chemical dependency funding for the period running Jan. 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015.

Halloran-Steiner said funding is being cut because it was intended to cover care of indigent people, but recent expansion of Oregon’s Medicaid program extends Oregon Health Plan coverage to many of them. Statewide, the expansion is adding more than 200,000 members to the plan, he said, and the county’s share of that is 4,000.

“Steps are being taken to keep clients stable in their treatment services during this transition period,” he told county commissioners in a memo. Simply put, Halloran-Steiner said, those patients “will have a health benefit that wasn’t previously afforded to them, so there won’t be as many in need of indigent funding.”

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