August 6, 2019

From Suzanne, MSW, Coordinator of the Allies for a Healthier Oregon Program at We Can Do Better

At our Allies for a Healthier Oregon (AHO) meetings the conversation tends to steer toward the intersections of the outcomes for health and well-being that we want to generate and strategies to achieve those goals. AHO is a convening program of the nonprofit We Can Do Better where we follow policy measures weekly during the legislative session. The essence of our health policy discussions encompass: health equity, health and public health, healthcare, and social determinants of health, and are all about the intersections of our collective work to put the best policies in place.

In the end, comprehensive policy translates into social infrastructure that is transformative, self-sustaining, and nimble. In many cases, specific policy points start out as stand-alone legislative bills, some of which ultimately come together to build the more comprehensive policy that better fits the need. Three bills that were introduced in the 2019 legislative session come to mind that might eventually bring us to a comprehensive statewide resiliency strategy over time. None of them passed, but lessons learned and connections made could offer promise of comprehensive policy legislation in the future that could resonate with many of us trying to address diverse but intersecting issues. In the case of these three legislative bills, social infrastructure could be further enhanced with public health investments that were proposed but not fully funded this legislative session.

HB 2969 sought to create a Trauma Practice Integration Program. This bill would have prompted an effort to organize information about what is happening in Oregon regarding trauma informed care at a system and state level and help map our path toward systems of protection and care that promote equity, inclusion, healing, and safety.

211info is that three-digit phone call that empowers local communities by helping people to identify, navigate, and connect with local resources they need on the front end while providing information resources to providers and agencies on the back end. HB 2650 sought a statewide investment to expand 211info service operations to twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week (24/7) and to invest in community-based coordinators around the state. 211info is a critical tool and part of the infrastructure that serves communities statewide commanding new investment to scale capacity to demand for services and information. One third of service requests come to 211info outside of their current service hours. Community-based coordinators, currently limited to just a few parts of the state, harness the local resources to better serve local communities and help keep them resilient. As a community-based partner to local emergency coordination activities, the proposed 211info investment in 24/7 services would help ensure that communities experiencing emergencies would have around-the-clock response capabilities and accurate community resource information.

SB 1037 attempted to establish a task force to study aspects of psychological, emotional and psychosocial resilience education and skills training that would enhance statewide climate and health resilience planning going on in Oregon. Resilience planning primarily addresses the ways to prepare communities for the infrastructure, environmental, and physical health impacts of these disasters. Simultaneous efforts to prepare the public to develop the psychological and psychosocial skills to be personally prepared and to help others who are negatively impacted by disaster events are essential to more effective preparedness.

Public health modernization has a goal of ensuring all in Oregon can expect basic public health protections critical to their health and the health of future generations. A Legislative investment for 2019-21 of $15 million will build state, local and Tribal public health capacity that was described in an information handout provided by Oregon Health Authority (OHA) as follows:

Investing in modernizing Oregon’s public health system will buy a prevention infrastructure that:

  • Prevents more communicable disease and environmental health threats
  • Responds faster and better when such threats do emerge, to keep people healthier and save money in the health care system
  • Better addresses and resolves health disparities 

HB 2969, HB 2650, and SB 1037 did not pass. Where these three may take shape in the future, along with additional Modernization of Public Health investments, is a good place to watch how we might build the next generation of resiliency in Oregon. We will discuss the intersections of those policies and others and our collective work going forward at upcoming AHO community conversations. Click here for more information about joining the conversation.