June 29, 2007
To: NAMI Public Policy Committee
From: Lara Smith
NAMI Legislative Liaison
The Oregon State Legislature concluded the 2007 Session on June 28th. It was a short and productive Session for the Legislature and a fairly successful one for NAMI Oregon.
It was my first Session representing NAMI Oregon and I was pleased to find that NAMI has a very good reputation with many of the legislators. It was very obvious NAMI’s advocacy work on parity made a lasting impression on the Legislature.
NAMI’s first large-scale activity of the Session started with Mental Health Day at the Capitol on January 30th. Thanks to the many hours put in by Judy Poutasse, Linda Dunn and other Public Policy Committee members, the day was a great success. The day started with breakfast and guest speakers that included Senate President Peter Courtney, Kerry Tymchuck, Senator Gordon Smith’s Chief of Staff, Max Williams, the head of the Department of Corrections and Norwood Knight-Richardson. Over 150 NAMI members met with their legislators throughout the day and discussed the importance of funding community mental health programs. The day ended with a rally and press conference on the front steps, where the Governor and several legislators gave mental health advocates encouraging words.
We used the enthusiasm and goodwill created on that day to help carry out our agenda through the Session. The focal point was a comprehensive funding package for community mental health programs. In the December before the beginning of Session, Angela Kimball pulled together an ad-hoc group of mental health providers and stake holders to discuss what the needs of the community were. The result was a proposal for a $116 million investment in the community mental health programs. The group felt that this community investment was a critical counterpart to the investments planned for the Oregon State Hospital
The group continued to meet and soon became an established organization, naming itself the Community Mental Health Coalition. As the NAMI Liaison, I took a lead role in the Coalition as we moved forward in drafting legislation and coordinating hearings and strategies. Our first success came when Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson invited the coalition to come and make an informational presentation to her Senate Health Policy Committee. We had a broad spectrum of speakers present information on the current state of Oregon’s community mental health system.
We had two pieces of legislation drafted. The first bill, SB 723, called for an investment of $11 million in children’s mental health services and the second, SB 881, provided for an investment of $105 million in the adult community mental health system. Both bills received hearings in the Senate Health Policy Committee and were passed unanimously with a do-pass recommendation and sent to the Ways & Means Committee for discussion on funding.
We met with almost every member of the Legislature and encouraged them to support these bills or encourage more funding for these programs in the Department of Human Services budget bill (SB 5031). At this point the Governor’s recommended budget for these programs was $13.9 million for adults and nothing for children. The Co-Chairs of the Ways & Means Committee’s budget that was released in March contained only $9.6 million for adults and nothing for children. The Coalition knew there would be a difficult struggle ahead to get any additional investments.
Unfortunately, in the end, the bills were not passed out of the committee. However, an additional $10 million for these programs was included in the final DHS budget as well as in the Housing and Economic Development budget. Please see the chart below that details the total investments made by the Legislature.
I would like to recognize the hard work and dedication of Senator Margaret Carter, Chair of the Ways & Means Health and Human Services, who was the point person in crafting this budget and ensuring that mental health received some additional funding. In addition, Sens. Avel Gordly, Alan Bates and Rep. Tina Kotek were great supporters. Please let them know that NAMI appreciates their commitment to our issues.
The Coalition will continue meeting to develop a strategic plan for funding a comprehensive community mental health system in the interim, upcoming Special Session and the 2009 Session. Legislators were clear in saying that the investments made this Session were only a starting point and that there was still a long way to go.
Other issues addressed by the 2007 Legislature:
- Oregon State Hospital
- HB 2765 “ This legislation requires the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training to require at least 24 hours of training in mental illness recognition, using the crisis intervention model for every law enforcement student. I met with John Minnis, head of the Department and he has asked that NAMI members help to review their training. I will be looking for volunteers. Please let me know if you are interested.
- Health Care Reform - SB 329 - The Healthy Oregon Act creates a public board, the Oregon Health Trust, comprised of seven citizens to work with state agencies and gather public input on key reform concepts, finalize the concepts into the comprehensive plan and present that plan for consideration by the 2009 Legislature. The bill also establishes the Oregon Health Fund which, in the future, will allow businesses and individuals to join and pool their health care dollars to increase their buying power and share the risks across a larger spectrum. Everyone who joins the pool receives an Oregon Health Card with a basic benefit package and the ability to purchase additional benefits.