Mental Health and Substance Use Providers in Columbia, Clatsop and Tillamook counties receive nearly $600,000 as part of CareOregon/Columbia Pacific CCO’s Emergency Behavioral Health Workforce Stabilization Fund

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SEASIDE, Oregon—Today, CareOregon, in partnership with Columbia Pacific CCO, announced a $7.5 million investment in behavioral health service providers, including $594,000 to providers serving Columbia, Clatsop and Tillamook counties. Organizations will use the funds as direct cash incentives to recruit and retain mental health providers serving the region’s highest need patients.

“The events of 2020 amplified existing health disparities and brought to light challenges some communities face in accessing health services,” said Amit Shah, Chief Medical Officer at CareOregon. “This is especially true for folks experiencing mental health issues or substance misuse—and importantly, for those that serve them. We’re seeing unprecedented levels of provider burnout, of folks leaving the profession entirely due to stress of high caseloads.”

Known as the CareOregon Emergency Behavioral Health Workforce Stabilization Fund, this one-time $7.5 million cash infusion will provide funding to approximately 25 behavioral health provider agencies who serve nearly 85% of the highest need patients served by the Oregon Health Plan in the Portland Metro, Northwest Oregon (Columbia, Clatsop and Tillamook counties), and Jackson County regions.

The goal of this funding is to help address the current symptoms of provider burnout, which leads to highly trained professionals leaving the field, resulting in higher caseloads for those who remain, and ultimately in less access to community mental and substance use treatment for patients.

“We need more mental health and substance use treatment providers in Northwest Oregon,” said Mimi Haley, Columbia Pacific CCO executive director. “That’s why as an organization, we have a dedicated recruiter on contract to help behavioral health providers in our region attract qualified staff. This cash infusion will be an additional, important resource for our local community mental health programs. I’m excited to help get these funds out in our community”

Funding will be distributed to behavioral health provider agencies with the aim of passing funds on to providers in the form of retention bonuses, housing support, or other financial incentives to support these essential workers, many of whom make less working in community mental health than they could in other positions that require less training.

“At Columbia County Mental Health, we’re proud to be the primary provider of behavioral health services for folks on OHP in our area,” said Todd Jacobson, CCMH Executive Director. “The pandemic put a lot of stress on the folks we serve, and we’ve seen a sharp increase in demand for services. Being a rural health provider, scaling up staff means that we often need to recruit from outside the area. Funding from CareOregon, gave our team the opportunity to create an investment plan focused on recruiting qualified professionals and positioning our organization as their employer of choice. We think this investment will pay dividends in the quality of care we are able to provide children and families for years to come.”

In addition to this $7.5 million investment in behavioral health providers, CareOregon is working on upstream solutions to strengthen the behavioral health ecosystem over the long run, including:

  • Working with provider agencies to find opportunities to reduce administrative burdens, so they can focus on patient care
  • Helping convene regional conversations about how to support our neighbors experiencing behavioral health emergencies (Portland Metro, Jackson County)
  • Working to ensure that provider and member voice is part of conversations about Behavioral Health systems improvement in the regions we serve
  • Advocating on behalf of providers in conversations with State and elected bodies
  • Supporting our providers’ efforts to increase capacity and exploring models that could improve payment parity across diverse providers

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