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Local Councils Help Steer Future of Oregon's Health Care

Oregon has a unique system for public input into its Medicaid program through community advisory councils. (DarkoStojanovic/Pixabay)
Oregon has a unique system for public input into its Medicaid program through community advisory councils. (DarkoStojanovic/Pixabay)
July 1, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregonians are playing an active role shaping the Oregon Health Plan, the state's Medicaid program.

Boards known as community advisory councils are well-established – if little known – steering committees that ensure the health needs of their communities are being addressed.

Councils across the state are made up of local people who provide guidance on priorities for the Oregon Health Plan.

"Part of taking care of one's self is feeling that one has a say in one's future, and being on the advisory council allows people to see, 'I can be a part of the solution to better health care,'" says Don Bruland, a volunteer member of two community advisory councils in southern Oregon.

Bruland is a member of the Jackson Care Connect and AllCare community advisory councils, and also the retired director of senior and disability services for the Rogue Valley Council of Governments.

Coordinated care organizations like Jackson Care Connect and AllCare manage the Oregon Health Plan in their local areas, and are required to set up these advisory councils.

The Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization has advisory councils in each of the three counties it serves – Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook – and a regional council.

This spring, the regional council collected more than 1,200 stories from residents to develop a Community Health Improvement Plan.

Nancy Knopf, community health partnership manager for the Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization, says the council identified such priorities as the need for trauma-informed care, drug abuse and suicide prevention, and reducing homelessness.

Knopf says collaboration is critical in supporting and improving health care.

"You have to do it in partnership with not only the people who receive services, but your community partners who are key to the service delivery," she states.

Joseph Watson and his wife have been members of the CareOregon Community Advisory Board in Portland. He says most health organizations don't seek this kind of grassroots input. Watson notes he volunteers with the board to give back to his community.

"I get enjoyment from helping others,” he states. “You know, at one point, me and my wife was in a rut to where we needed help. So now, I'm in a position where I can help, so that's the least I can do."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR