Oregon’s mental health treatment system has systemic issues that limit the state’s ability to meet the ever-growing needs of Oregonians, according to an audit released today by the Secretary of State. The findings are outlined in the report entitled: “Chronic and Systemic Issues in Oregon’s Mental Health Treatment System Leave Children and Their Families in Crisis.”

The Oregon Health Authority is responsible for providing access to mental services for nearly one million people through the Oregon Health Plan (OHP). The OHP serves low-income families, including many of the most vulnerable children in the state. Auditors found Oregon’s behavioral health system for children is in crisis and failing to serve children, youth, and families who are involved with multiple systems and have complex needs.

OHA does not have a documented strategic plan in place for addressing challenges identified in reports reaching back almost two decades. These challenges include: data limitations, system fragmentation, workforce capacity challenges, county oversight, and unclear statutes, which inhibit the agency from making meaningful strides to improve mental health outcomes, particularly for children and youth. As mental health issues will likely be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the agency faces pandemic-related budget cuts, it is imperative these critical services not be overlooked.

“After decades of reports reiterating common flaws in the mental health system, it’s clear that it continues to fail in adequately serving some of our most vulnerable Oregonians,” Clarno said. “The mental health system needs significant improvement, but it must be a coordinated effort across state agencies, Coordinated Care Organizations, and counties.”

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