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News Releases
Open house to hear concerns, share information on domestic well safety in Crook County - 05/24/24

PORTLAND, Ore.—Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is joining other state agencies and Crook County Commissioners for an open house on domestic well safety Thursday, May 30.

Staff from OHA, along with the Oregon Departments of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), will be on hand to gather and share information on services agencies can provide and raise awareness about options for well owners. The agencies want to hear concerns from county well users and discuss individual and community health consultations. 

The event is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Crook County Public Library, 175 NW Meadow Lakes Drive in Prineville. 

Health information shared with OHA at the meeting will be used for internal purposes and kept confidential by law. Information shared with DEQ and ODA will be considered a public record and subject to public records requests. 

Those who can’t attend the open house in person can email EHAP.Info@odhsoha.oregon.gov or call 877-290-6767 to speak with an OHA Environmental Public Health toxicologist. 

For more information, visit Oregon.gov/crookcowells.

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OHA kicks off 2024 Oregon beach monitoring season - 05/24/24

May 24, 2024

Media Contact: Jonathan Modie, 971-246-9139, PHD.Communications@oha.oregon.gov

OHA kicks off 2024 Oregon beach monitoring season

Agency shares list of monitored beaches for May-September

PORTLAND, Ore.—The Oregon Beach Monitoring Program (OBMP) is kicking off the 2024 beach monitoring season by announcing the list of coastal recreation areas it will be keeping an eye on for bacteria during summer and early fall.

The 24 beaches on the list that the OBMP, based at the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Public Health Division, is publishing includes some of the most frequently visited beaches in Oregon. It also includes beaches where the program has found bacteria present, or beaches for which local partners and the public have requested monitoring due to potential pollution concerns.

The following are Oregon beaches being monitored during 2024, including beach name, and the city and county in which they are located:

Beach monitoring season runs from mid-May to mid-September. Beach advisories are only issued for beaches that are actively being monitored within this sampling window. Other beaches will be investigated for inclusion in the next beach monitoring season.

OBMP works with Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to identify beaches that need monitoring based on several established criteria. These criteria include: pollution hazards present; previous beach monitoring data that identify water quality concerns; type and amount of beach use; and public input.

As part of an adaptive sampling plan, beaches and sampling locations are routinely re-evaluated to ensure available resources best protect public health. A copy of DEQ’s beach evaluation is available upon request.

For more information and current beach monitoring conditions please visit: www.healthoregon.org/beach, or contact OBMP at Beach.Health@odhsoha.oregon.gov or 971-673-0400.

Dr. Emma Sandoe Named as Director of the Oregon Health Authority's Medicaid Division - 05/23/24

May 23, 2024

Media Contact: Amy Bacher, 503-405-5403, Amy.Bacher2@oha.oregon.gov

Dr. Emma Sandoe Named as Director of the Oregon Health Authority’s Medicaid Division

Emma Sandoe, PhD, MPH, has been appointed as the permanent director of Oregon’s Medicaid program, effective July 24, 2024. Since 2019, Dr. Sandoe has served in North Carolina Medicaid most recently as the Deputy Director of Medicaid Policy. In her current role, Sandoe has been the state’s primary liaison to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), overseen the state’s Medicaid Plan and its Medicaid waivers, and taken a lead role in developing and implementing new policies to improve health equity in North Carolina’s Medicaid-funded health care system. Dr. Sandoe also serves as Medicaid liaison to Tribal nations in North Carolina.

In North Carolina, Dr. Sandoe helped lead the passage and implementation of the state’s Medicaid expansion, which took effect in December 2023 that will bring health coverage to more than 450,000 people. She also has led efforts to expand the health care workforce under North Carolina’s Home and Community-based Services (HCBS) program. In addition, she has assisted in developing and implementing the state’s Healthy Opportunity Pilots program, leveraging Medicaid dollars to address food, transportation, and housing insecurity, as well as toxic stress.

OHA Director Dr. Sejal Hathi, MD, MBA, said, “Dr. Sandoe brings a track record of expertise, innovation and experience putting health equity into practice in vital Medicaid programs. She brings both vision and pragmatism to this role, as well as strong relationships with our federal partners, which will enable Oregon to continue to set the pace in implementing vanguard Medicaid coverage and benefits that address the major health issues facing our communities, such as homelessness and climate change. I’m excited to welcome Dr. Sandoe to Oregon.”

Dr. Sandoe said, “I’m delighted to come to Oregon, a state that's always been at the forefront of health policy. I’m excited to collaborate with Medicaid staff and partners to expand access to care, improve peoples' lives and eliminate health inequity.”

Dr. Sandoe was selected for the position of Oregon’s Medicaid director following a national search. Before serving joining North Carolina Medicaid, Dr. Sandoe worked as a press secretary at CMS and budget analyst at the US Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Sandoe has taught health policy classes at Harvard University and Duke University. Dr. Sandoe received a PhD in Health Policy, Political Analysis from Harvard University in 2019 and an MPH from George Washington University in 2010.

Vivian Levy, Oregon’s interim Medicaid Director, will serve as deputy director for the Medicaid Division. Dr. Hathi said, “Vivian Levy has brought transformational leadership to Medicaid at a critical time for the past two years. She’s led our temporary Medicaid expansion, protected health coverage for people undergoing eligibility redeterminations in the wake of the pandemic and overseen our ongoing implementation of new Medicaid benefits under Oregon’s groundbreaking 1115 Medicaid waiver. I’m grateful for the direction she’s brought to Medicaid and for the important role she’ll continue to play in Oregon’s Medicaid program.”

Oregon’s Medicaid program currently provide medical, dental and behavioral health coverage for approximately 1.4 million people in Oregon (or more than 1 in 4 state residents) through the Oregon Health Program (OHP) and other programs. The Medicaid program has a biennial budget of $28 billion.

Download Dr. Sandoe's headshot here.

OHA encourages mpox vaccination - 05/23/24

May 23, 2024

Media Contact: Jonathan Modie, 971-246-9139, PHD.Communications@oha.oregon.gov

OHA encourages mpox vaccination

PORTLAND, Ore. – As people gather and travel to celebrate Pride Month in June, health officials are reminding Oregonians about the importance of protecting themselves and their community by getting the mpox vaccine.

Dean Sidelinger, M.D., M.S.Ed., health officer and state epidemiologist at Oregon Health Authority (OHA), said the number of mpox infections in the state has dropped significantly since an outbreak in June 2022. However, the virus continues to circulate at low levels, with occasional increases in case counts.

“Mpox activity has generally remained low, but by no means has this virus gone away in Oregon or other parts of the country,” Sidelinger said. “Pride is a great time for people in the LGBTQIA2S+ community to show support for themselves, their partners and their community by getting both doses of the mpox vaccine.”

Oregon saw between 10 and 15 mpox cases reported each week when the outbreak peaked in August 2022. Since then, weekly case counts have ranged between no cases to two or three cases. There were 270 mpox cases in 2022, 30 cases in 2023 and, as of April 30, eight cases so far in 2024. There have been no deaths.

The JYNNEOS mpox vaccine is highly effective. According to a May 2023 study published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the vaccine was found to be 75% effective for those receiving one dose and 86% effective for those who had two doses.

Until last month, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) distributed JYNNEOS to vaccine providers at no cost. On April 1, JYNNEOS manufacturer Bavarian Nordic launched the vaccine on the commercial market, so providers will now bill health insurance to cover the cost. HHS will continue to make JYNNEOS vaccine available as needed; the vaccine remains free to Oregon Health Plan members, and Oregon law requires vaccine’s cost to be covered for others with commercial insurance.

Mpox spreads primarily through close, skin-to-skin contact. Most often, it has occurred through intimate or sexual contact, and during contact with the lesions of an individual with mpox through a caregiving relationship, such as a parent caring for a child or an adult caretaker of another person.

Infection rates are highest among people living in Multnomah County, those ages 30 to 39, and members of the Latino/a/x/e and Black/African American communities. Most cases were men who reported having sex with men, and most identified as gay or bisexual men.

People who suspect they have mpox should contact their health care provider to let them know before going in to be seen. The provider may recommend testing for mpox. Those who don’t have a health care provider can call 2-1-1 or their local public health authority for help finding a clinic or health care provider.

For more information about mpox in Oregon, visit OHA’s mpox website. Vaccination clinics can also be searched by ZIP code with an mpox vaccine locator tool at https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/Monkeypox/Pages/vaccine.aspx or at https://mpoxvaxmap.org/.

System updates help pave the way for upcoming renewals, ensuring health coverage retention - 05/22/24

May 22, 2024 

Media contacts: 

Erica Heartquist, Oregon Health Authority, Erica.J.Heartquist@oha.oregon.gov, 503-871-8843 

Jake Sunderland, Oregon Department of Human Services, Jake.Sunderland@odhs.oregon.gov, 503-877-0170 

System updates help pave the way for upcoming renewals, ensuring health coverage retention 

SALEM, Ore. — With over 91 percent of the state’s 1.5 million renewals complete, more than four out of five Oregonians are keeping their Oregon Health Plan (OHP) or other Medicaid benefits.  

An update this month to the ONE Eligibility system will enable Oregon to use an improved process for the remaining renewals. These changes are a substantial set of small adjustments to the renewal process that together will make it easier for the people of Oregon to keep their medical benefits. 

During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE), which ended in April 2023, the federal government allowed states to keep people on Medicaid benefits. This ended when the pandemic emergency ended, so over the last year Oregon has been making sure everyone on OHP is still eligible. 

At this point in the PHE unwinding process: 

  • Just 443 members, about 0.03 percent, still need to respond to renewal requests. 
  • 7,473 members, about 0.5 percent, have responded to their renewal but are awaiting state action on the response. 
  • The remaining renewals, about 8.3 percent of the total, will occur over the summer. 

Oregon’s 82 percent renewal rate continues to be the third highest in a national comparison of state renewal rates by KFF, a nonpartisan health policy organization. Oregon’s high renewal rates are due to proactive efforts by the state to keep people covered, including extended response timelines, and the upcoming launch of OHP Bridge for adults with higher incomes. 

Members who have not received a renewal yet should: 

  • Keep their address and contact information up to date. 
  • Check their mail or ONE Online account for their renewal letter. 
  • Do what the renewal letter asks as soon as possible. Anyone concerned they missed their letter should get help with their renewal using one of the options listed below. 
  • Members who did not respond to renewals can still re-open their case three months after it closes if they are still eligible, and they can reapply at any time. 

Although most people are keeping coverage, approximately 240,000 people will lose or have reduced medical benefits and need to consider other coverage options. 

  • People who do not have coverage through an employer or Medicare may be able to enroll through the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace and get financial help. Most people who enroll through HealthCare.gov qualify for this help. 
  • The Marketplace is sending information to people who are no longer eligible for OHP benefits, advising of other potential coverage options. 
  • People who have recently lost OHP benefits can enroll anytime until November 30, 2024, or within 60 days of their benefits ending. 
  • For more information and ways to get help signing up for Marketplace, Medicare, or employer coverage, see “What to do if OHP is ending” below. 

Remaining renewals

Renewal letters will be sent to members in four waves between June and September. Members will still have 90 days to respond, and 60 days’ advance notice before any termination or reduction in benefits. This means the final responses would be due in December 2024, and the final closures will happen in February 2025. 

Data about pandemic unwinding renewals appears in the Medical Redeterminations Dashboard.  The dashboard data and these press releases will not include renewals for OHP members who have already renewed early in the unwinding process, who are coming up for renewal again. Over time, Oregon is switching to renewing most OHP members every two years instead of annually. 

May OHP renewal data

As of May 17, 2024, 1,323,772 people have completed the renewal process. This represents 91.2 percent of all OHP and Medicaid members. 

  • 1,085,635 people (82 percent) were renewed and kept their benefits. 
  • 224,014 people (16.9 percent) were found ineligible. 
  • 14,123 people (1.1 percent) had a reduction in their benefits. Most of these members lost full OHP but were able to continue Medicare Savings Programs that help pay their Medicare costs. 

Need help renewing your benefits?

  1. Learn more about how to renew your Oregon Health Plan medical coverage.  You can log into your online portal and complete your redetermination work at benefits.oregon.gov.  
  2. Call the ONE Customer Service Center at 800-699-9075. All relay calls are accepted, and help is available in multiple languages. Wait times are lowest between 7 and 8 a.m., PST. 
  3. Visit or call a local Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) office. People can find their local office at https://www.oregon.gov/odhs/Pages/office-finder.aspx
  4. Visit a community partner for free, in-person help. To find one near you visit OregonHealthCare.gov/GetHelp (English) or orhim.info/ayuda (Spanish). 
  5. Download the ONE Mobile application via the app store to keep track of your renewal, find a local office, or upload a document. 

What to do if your OHP is ending:

  • First, review the case summary in your letter to make sure the information used to make the decision was correct. If that information has changed, notify the state via one of the options above If the information on file for you is correct and you disagree with the decision, you can request a hearing. Learn more about hearings
  • Explore options through an employer. If you, your spouse or a parent are working, you may be eligible for health coverage through that employer. Talk to your manager or Human Resources department to see if you qualify. You will have a special enrollment period to enroll mid-year due to loss of OHP benefits. 
  • If you have or are eligible for Medicare: For help understanding and choosing the right Medicare options, go to https://OregonHealthcare.gov/GetHelp to find an insurance agent or a counselor at the Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance Program (SHIBA). You can also call SHIBA at 800-722-4134. 

If you need to sign up for Medicare for the first time, contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) at 800-772-1213 to enroll by phone or find a local office. You can also enroll in Medicare online at ssa.gov/medicare/sign-up

  • Nearly 80 percent of Oregonians qualify for financial help through the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace. Visit OregonHealthCare.gov/WindowShop to answer a few quick questions, find out how much you can save and find out how much coverage may cost you. You can also call the Marketplace Transition Help Center at 833-699-6850 (toll-free, all relay calls accepted). 
  • Need free local help finding other coverage? Visit OregonHealthCare.gov/GetHelp to find professional help near you. 

OHA and ODHS are committed to transparency and will continue to send monthly information about medical coverage among Oregonians. Check our ONE Eligibility Operations Dashboards for more frequent updates on medical renewal data and wait times for callers to the ONE Customer Service Center. 

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OHA Director's Visit to Hood River, The Dalles Provides Insight into Local Health Priorities - 05/20/24

May 20, 2024

Media Contact: Amy Bacher, amy.bacher2@oha.oregon.gov

OHA Director’s Visit to Hood River, The Dalles Provides Insight into Local Health Priorities

Hood River, Ore. – Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Director Sejal Hathi, MD, MBA, met with health leaders and partners on Thursday in Hood River and The Dalles as part of a series of visits around the state to hear about community health needs.

Key themes heard in meetings with local public health and mental health authorities, a federally qualified health center and the local coordinated care organization (CCO), included difficulties surrounding health workforce shortages, the need for comprehensive behavioral health supports, and concerns about the loss of COVID-19 pandemic federal funding.

“From this visit, I heard loud and clear that we need creative solutions to bring more people into the health care workforce - especially in areas where the cost of living is high,” said Dr. Hathi. “In speaking with health leaders, advocates, and providers in this region, it was evident that there is a true collaborative spirit and a lot of care for people in our communities. I look forward to working on solutions to all the challenges we discussed.”

OHA is using feedback received during the regional visits to inform current and future policy initiatives. Later this year, OHA will share a summary of themes heard across all regional visits and examples of specific partner recommendations that agency staff plan to pursue.

The visit to Hood River and The Dalles marks the sixth in a series across the state for the new director to learn about the challenges, needs and priorities of individual communities.

A video recap of Dr. Hathi’s visit is available here. A full schedule of all of Dr. Hathi’s regional listening visits are posted on her web page.

New Research Reveals Uneven Treatment Landscape for People with Co-Occurring Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders - 05/20/24

May 20, 2024

Media contact: Timothy Heider, 971-599-0459,

timothy.heider@oha.oregon.gov

New Research Reveals Uneven Treatment Landscape for People with Co-Occurring Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

SALEM, Ore. — A study from the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, commissioned by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), shows that people living with co-occurring disorder (COD) experience a complex and uneven treatment landscape in Oregon.

The study—based on self-reported provider data— found that overall, 82 percent of mental health providers and 40 percent of substance use providers in Oregon offer treatment for co-occurring disorder, defined as treatment for co-occurring substance use plus either serious mental health illness in adults or serious emotional disturbance in children.

However, the study showed that availability and types of COD treatment can vary substantially:

  • Only half of mental health providers offer integrated treatment (combined treatment for mental illness and substance abuse from the same clinician or treatment team) and special groups for clients with COD.
  • COD treatment is least likely to be offered in hospital and substance use residential settings.
  • Only half of the treatment providers treat gambling disorders.
  • Only about a third of providers offer programs for young adults or LGBTQ+ clients. Just over one third of the programs offer services in Spanish, and half offer services in sign language.

The study found that acceptance of public insurance—especially Medicare—is low in some settings, which may be a barrier to access.

The study noted that workforce shortages remain a key barrier to spreading and scaling co-occurring disorder treatment across the state.

Oregon has made concerted efforts over the years to support the uptake and availability of holistic behavioral health care, including treatment for those living with co-occurring disorders.

In 2021, the Legislature directed OHA to develop payment models for increasing access to integrated treatment, which led to the establishment of the Integrated Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment program.

Oregon was also one of the first states to open Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics as part of a federal demonstration program that began in 2017.

Participating providers receive a single payment model for treating COD (including co-occurring intellectual and developmental disabilities and problem gambling), and receive training, technical assistance, and other resources to support provision of COD treatment.

They are required to provide nine core services, ranging from crisis services to peer support and counseling. They must also provide 20 hours of primary services per site.

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OHA advisory: Consumption of raw milk may carry H5N1 risk - 05/16/24

May 16, 2024

Media contact: Jonathan Modie, 971-246-9139, PHD.Communications@oha.oregon.gov

OHA advisory: Consumption of raw milk may carry H5N1 risk

PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is reminding people of the risks associated with raw (unpasteurized) milk consumption amid the current H5N1 “bird flu” outbreak in dairy cattle.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently tested 297 retail milk samples from 38 states for H5N1 virus. About 20% of these samples tested positive for H5N1 viral fragments, but none contained live infectious virus because the H5N1 virus had been killed through pasteurization.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are 49 dairy cattle H5N1 outbreaks across nine states. No outbreaks have occurred in Oregon, but H5N1 is believed to be more widespread than current testing suggests.

“We know that if H5N1 is present in the milk of infected dairy cattle, it will be killed by pasteurization,” said Dean Sidelinger, M.D., M.S.Ed., health officer and state epidemiologist at OHA. “Drinking raw milk carries many health risks, and those risks may now include H5N1 infection.”

Pasteurized milk is extremely safe and has undergone a heating process that kills disease-causing bacteria and viruses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who consume unpasteurized milk are at risk for a variety of illnesses such as E. coli and Salmonella. Only pasteurized milk is sold in stores and provided to children in school lunches.

Raw milk that someone consumes from the same farm over a duration of time may not always be safe. Raw milk can get contaminated in many ways. While good safety practices can reduce the chance of germs getting in raw milk, they cannot eliminate all risk.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture is offering free testing for H5N1 to dairy farms of any size in Oregon. For additional information regarding this new no-cost testing program, please visit: https://www.oregon.gov/oda/programs/AnimalHealthFeedsLivestockID/AHLicensing/Pages/Approved-Bovine-HPAI-Sampler.aspx.

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Nonmedical vaccine exemptions for kindergartners hits record high - 05/16/24

May 16, 2024

Media contact: Jonathan Modie, 971-246-9139, PHD.Communications@oha.oregon.gov

Nonmedical vaccine exemptions for kindergartners hits record high

But OHA finds most Oregon parents, guardians still choose to immunize kids

PORTLAND, Ore.—Schools reported the highest rate ever for students claiming nonmedical exemptions from the state’s school vaccination requirements, new Oregon Health Authority (OHA) data show.

Statewide, 8.8% of kindergartners had a nonmedical exemption for one or more required vaccines, up from 8.1% in 2023 and 6.9% in 2022. In 2023, Oregon had the second highest nonmedical exemption rate in the country, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.

Analysts with OHA’s Oregon Immunization Program found that 86.4% of kindergartners received all required vaccines in 2024, down from 87.1% in 2023 and 88.4% in 2022. The decrease in kindergarten immunization rates marks two consecutive years of decline.

Stacy de Assis Matthews, immunization school law coordinator at the Oregon Immunization Program, said the best defense against vaccine-preventable diseases is a well-immunized community, which also protects children who cannot be immunized because of age or medical condition.

“The concern is that a highly contagious disease, such as measles, will be introduced to a school that doesn’t have high immunization rates and that students will become sick,” Matthews said. She noted that, as of May 10, there were 132 cases of measles in the U.S. in 2024, of which 81% were unvaccinated or had unknown vaccination status, CDC data show.

But by far, most Oregon parents and guardians choose to have their children immunized, Matthews said. Schools reported that 91% of students in kindergarten through 12th grade received all required vaccines in 2024. However, this rate has been decreasing over time.

“School immunization laws help make sure kids can go to school in a safe and healthy environment free of vaccine-preventable diseases,” Matthews said. “These laws help support OHA’s goal of eliminating health disparities by 2030 by making sure each child’s immunization record is checked annually, and any child who is behind can be brought up to date on vaccines every year.”

Data from Oregon’s ALERT Immunization Information System provides a detailed look at childhood immunizations and adolescent immunizations, including immunization rates by race and ethnicity. OHA also maintains a summary of kindergarten immunization and exemption rates, which were updated this month, and a county and state immunization and exemption rate dashboard updated in August 2023 (2024 data will be available later this summer).

OHA also has individual school and child care immunization rate interactive maps (2024 data will be available later this summer) and individual school and child care immunization rate spreadsheets, also updated this month.

There are several resources for parents and guardians to get their kids vaccinated:

  • Information about immunization requirements for the 2024-2025 school year and school immunization forms are available in 17 languages.
  • If a person needs help in finding a clinic, they can contact 211 or their local health department. 211Info has English and Spanish speakers available, as well as interpreter services in many different languages.
  • If a child has Medicaid/Oregon Health Plan or no insurance, or is American Indian/Alaska Native, immunizations are available at low or no cost through the Vaccines for Children program.

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When in doubt, stay out: Increasing temperatures create potential for toxins in water - 05/15/24

May 15, 2024

Media contact: Jonathan Modie, 971-246-9139, PHD.Communications@oha.oregon.gov

When in doubt, stay out: Increasing temperatures create potential for toxins in water

PORTLAND, Ore.—As summer approaches, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reminds people heading outdoors to enjoy Oregon’s lakes, rivers and reservoirs to be on the look-out for potentially toxic cyanobacteria blooms.

Cyanobacteria are beneficial bacteria found in all fresh water worldwide. The bacteria can multiply into blooms in any water body under the right conditions — warm weather, sunlight, water temperature, nutrients and water chemistry. Many blooms are harmless, but some can produce cyanotoxins that make people and animals sick.

Exposure to cyanotoxins occurs when water is swallowed while swimming, or when people inhale water droplets during high-speed activities such as water-skiing or wakeboarding. Symptoms of exposure to cyanotoxins include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Numbness
  • Dizziness and fainting

Although cyanotoxins are not absorbed through the skin, people with sensitive skin can develop a red, raised rash when wading, playing or swimming in or around a bloom.

Children and pets are particularly sensitive to illness because of their size and activity levels. Similarly, livestock and wildlife can become ill and die after drinking from water bodies, troughs or other sources of drinking water affected by blooms and potential toxins.

Dogs can get extremely ill and even die within minutes to hours of exposure to cyanotoxins by drinking the water, licking their fur or eating the toxins from floating mats or dried crust along the shore. It is very important to get a pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible if they exhibit diarrhea, vomiting, breathing problems, difficulty walking or standing, or loss of appetite.

Very few freshwater bodies in Oregon are monitored for cyanotoxins. For this reason, it is important for people to carefully observe any water body they choose to recreate in before taking the plunge.

OHA recommends that everyone stay out of water that looks foamy, scummy, thick like pea-green or blue-green paint, or where brownish-red mats are present. Additionally, since blooms can wash up on the shore, people should avoid areas with algal mats that are either attached, floating or stranded on the shore.

Even then, looks can be deceiving. Certain blooms grow on or near the bottom of water bodies such as lakes and rivers. While some blooms make and release toxins into the water, they don’t change how the surface of the water looks, making them hard to see.

Community members looking for visual examples can find pictures of algae blooms in the Algae Bloom Photo Gallery or watch an explainer video on blooms at OHA’s official YouTube channel. If you are unsure, follow OHA’s guidance of “When in doubt, stay out.”

Open recreational areas where blooms are identified can still be enjoyed for activities such as camping, hiking, biking, picnicking and bird watching. By being aware of signs of a bloom and taking appropriate precautions to reduce or eliminate exposure, local communities can enjoy water activities such as canoeing, boating and fishing, as long as boat speeds do not create excessive water spray, and fish are cleaned appropriately.

To learn if an advisory has been issued or lifted for a specific water body, visit the Harmful Algae Bloom website or call the Oregon Public Health Division toll-free information line at 877-290-6767.

For health information or to report an illness, contact OHA at 971-673-0440. For campground or lake information, call the local management agency.

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Opioid Settlement Board OKs $13.7 million to boost Oregon's prevention workforce - 05/14/24

May 14, 2024

Media contact: Jonathan Modie, 971-246-9139, PHD.Communications@oha.oregon.gov

Opioid Settlement Board OKs $13.7 million to boost Oregon’s prevention workforce

OHA to provide allocation proposed by Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Opioid Settlement Prevention, Treatment & Recovery Board (Settlement Board) has approved a proposal to direct $13.7 million toward increasing and strengthening the state’s substance use prevention workforce.

On May 8, the Board approved an Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission (ADPC) proposal to build Oregon’s workforce capacity for primary substance use disorder prevention by providing:

  • $9.5 million to counties to strengthen local prevention workforce and evidence-based prevention programming.
  • Nearly $3.8 million to culturally and linguistically specific community-based organizations and regional health equity coalitions to increase the number of primary prevention initiatives in communities experiencing disproportionate impacts of substance use and overdose.
  • $450,000 to the Oregon Coalition for Prevention Professionals to train and certify up to 100 new certified prevention specialists.

The funding will be sent to Oregon health Authority (OHA), which will administer the allocations. The Board’s decision can be viewed in a recording of its May 8 meeting here.

Settlement Board Co-Chair Annaliese Dolph said, “The Settlement Board is setting an example for the state with this support of upstream prevention. We cannot treat our way out of the substance use disorder crisis. We must also prevent substance use disorders from occurring in the first place.”

Prior to awarding any funding, OHA must engage the partners listed in the ADPC proposal and provide a proposed funding formula and implementation plan to the Board for approval no later than Sept. 4, 2024. OHA is developing a partner engagement plan to begin this work.

Since July 2021, the State of Oregon has reached agreement on national lawsuits against several companies for their roles in the opioid crisis. Through these agreements, nearly $600 million will be awarded to Oregon over the course of 18 years. Settlement funds from opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies are divided between the State of Oregon (45%) and local jurisdictions (55%).

The state’s share is deposited into the Opioid Settlement, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery (OSPTR) Fund as it becomes available. This fund is controlled by the 18-member OSPTR Board.

Local jurisdictions receiving settlement funds (those with populations greater than 10,000) decide how to use their funds. Cities and counties must report to the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) annually on how they have allocated their funds. The annual OHA-DOJ expenditure report for fiscal year 2022-2023 will be posted to OHA’s website soon. The report for the current fiscal year will be published no later than Dec. 21, 2024.

OHA contracted with Comagine Health to convene a monthly Opioid Settlement Learning Collaborative for local jurisdictions to discuss allowable uses of settlement funds and best practices, including prevention best practices from other local jurisdictions.

OSPTR Board allocations to date

Through the current fiscal biennium that ends in June 2025, about $89 million will be deposited into the OSPTR Fund. To date, the OSPTR Board has decided on the following allocations:

  • $26.7 million to the nine Federally Recognized Tribes in Oregon – this is equivalent to 30% of all funds anticipated this biennium. This 30% set-aside will continue for the life of the fund as additional settlement payments are deposited.
  • $13 million to the Save Lives Oregon Harm Reduction Clearinghouse to distribute naloxone and other life-saving supplies to qualified entities.
  • $4 million to develop a unified and evidence-based state system for collecting, analyzing and publishing data about the availability and efficacy of substance use prevention, treatment and recovery services in Oregon as required by ORS Chapter 63, Section 6.

To learn more about Oregon’s opioid settlement funds, visit oregon.gov/opioidsettlement.

OHA launches Fentanyl Aware social media campaign - 05/07/24

May 7, 2024

Media Contact: Jonathan Modie, 971-246-9139, PHD.Communications@oha.oregon.gov

OHA launches Fentanyl Aware social media campaign

Risks, harm-reduction strategies, recognizing and responding to overdose, and Oregon’s good Samaritan law to be focus of five-week online promotion

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Health Authority (OHA) today kicked off a social media campaign spotlighting the public health harms caused by fentanyl, and how people can prevent the deadly overdoses that devastate communities around the state.

The campaign, called Fentanyl Aware, will run for five weeks, with posts in English and Spanish. Fentanyl Aware will focus on teaching people about fentanyl risks, harm reduction strategies, recognizing and responding to an overdose, and Oregon’s good Samaritan law, which provides legal protections for individuals and the people they’re helping during a drug overdose.

The Fentanyl Aware campaign begins with a series of social media messages with facts about fentanyl – “What it is, where it can be found and why you need to be aware,” according to the first post. It then moves into messages about the opioid overdose reversal medication naloxone, including how it’s given, how it works and where to can get it, followed by posts about Oregon’s good Samaritan law.

The campaign wraps up with posts warning about risks of mixing drugs with other substances, relying on fentanyl tests and using drugs alone.

OHA’s statewide campaign borrows from a social media campaign that Lane County Public Health created in 2023 with support from OHA funds. The county also shared its campaign materials with local public health partners to adapt and share – Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties collaborated to launch the Fentanyl Aware Northwest campaign through this partnership.

Just today, Multnomah County launched its own fentanyl awareness campaign, called Expect Fentanyl, focused on Portland-area youth ages 13-20.

The statewide Fentanyl Aware campaign launches on National Fentanyl Awareness Day, a day of observance that recognizes those who have lost loved ones to the overdose crisis and raises awareness of the lethal danger of illegally made fentanyl (IMF).

Cara Biddlecom, OHA’s interim public health director, said Fentanyl Aware contains youth-informed messaging, but it is intended for general audiences.

“We want everyone to see these important messages because anyone can be affected by fentanyl – teens and young adults, older Oregonians, even young children,” Biddlecom said. “These messages won’t end the fentanyl crisis, but they could help equip people with information that could help them save a life, whether it’s someone else’s or their own.”

Fentanyl is now showing up in a wide variety of drugs on the illicit market, including counterfeit pills made to look like common prescription painkillers or anti-anxiety medications. These may contain enough fentanyl in a single pill to cause an overdose.

According to OHA data, the number of people in Oregon dying from unintentional and undetermined overdoses continues to increase at an alarming pace, from 1,083 people in 2021 to 1,289 people in 2022. Fentanyl has surpassed methamphetamine as the most common substance identified as the cause of death in unintentional and undetermined drug overdoses.

In Oregon, the number of individuals who experienced an unintentional/undetermined fentanyl overdose death between 2020 and 2022 more than tripled (for all ages). And those at higher risk for unintentionally dying from a drug overdose continued to include non-Hispanic American Indians and Alaska Natives, non-Hispanic Black/African Americans, and males, though patterns of use across communities is similar. These inequities are avoidable and point to structural racism in the health system and the need for long-term policy change.

Nasal naloxone is now available over the counter, without a prescription. It can be purchased at many retail pharmacies in Oregon, and it costs about $45 for two doses. Most insurance companies cover the medication but may charge a co-pay. Oregon Health Plan (OHP) members can get naloxone at no cost at most pharmacies. Those who use drugs can get medication for overdose reversal and other harm reduction materials such as fentanyl test strips at no cost through syringe service programs. Syringe services are available to everyone that uses drugs, regardless of whether they’re injected. Visit OHA's Opioid Overdose Reversal Medications webpage for a list of syringe and needle exchange services available in Oregon.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with substance use, please reach out for help. Speak with a health care provider or visit OHA’s Fentanyl Facts webpage for support and treatment resources. You are not alone.

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CMS Clears Oregon State Hospital from Immediate Jeopardy Status - 05/03/24

May 03, 2024

Media Contact: Amber Shoebridge
amber.shoebridge@oha.oregon.gov
503-931-9586

CMS Clears Oregon State Hospital from Immediate Jeopardy Status

(Salem, OR) Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has informed Oregon State Hospital (OSH) administrators that the hospital is no longer in immediate jeopardy status. 

CMS surveyors were on the Salem campus after OSH reported a patient death shortly after arrival. While on site, CMS surveyors noted Code Blue emergency equipment in the Admissions area was not stored in an organized way and was identified as a potential future safety risk.

This is still an active survey process. The next step will be the delivery of an official CMS statement of deficiencies.

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During Mental Health Awareness Month, OHA reminds Oregonians of support resources for those in need and their loved ones - 05/02/24

May 2, 2024 

Media contact: Timothy Heider, 971-599-0459, timothy.heider@oha.oregon.gov

During Mental Health Awareness Month, OHA reminds Oregonians of support resources for those in need and their loved ones 

PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregon Health Authority is recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month during May by promoting resources that support mental well-being for all Oregonians.

One in five people will experience a mental health condition in a given year, and about half of all Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition sometime in their lives, according to national statistics.

Nearly everyone faces challenges in life that can affect their mental health and emotional well-being.

“Too many people in our state are facing mental health challenges, and we want everyone to know you do not have to struggle alone,” said OHA Director Sejal Hathi, M.D., MBA.

Dr. Hathi, who has spoken about her mental health journey, added, “In many of our communities, societal or cultural norms discourage people from reaching out, or even admitting that we may need some help. Mental Health Awareness Month is a critical opportunity to highlight that mental health is health.”

Here are a few highlights of resources available for Oregonians:

  • OHA provides support for Community Mental Health Programs that provide services related to mental health, substance use, and problem gambling, in counties and communities across Oregon. A directory of these services, listed by county can be found
  • In Oregon, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The easy-to-remember 988 number is available for people experiencing any type of mental health challenge, substance use crisis or thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Anyone who needs support can call, text or chat in English and Spanish (interpretation services and American Sign Language are also available) and connect with trained crisis counselors. The 988 Lifeline is also a resource for friends and families concerned about a loved one.
  • The Mental Health Toolkit was created through a collaboration between OHA and Oregon Department of Education to help educators increase students’ academic achievement through meeting their mental and behavioral health needs.
  • Online resources from Sources on Strength - Sources of Strength has two online resource packets. The first is Resources for Practicing Strength at Home, and the second is a shorter version that also offers a wellness plan. Any resource in these packets can be used in classrooms, staff meetings, in individual or group counseling, or to practice strength wherever you are.

OHA encourages communities, organizations, and individuals to use the month of May to help raise awareness of mental health and well-being. 

For news media reporting on suicide, find useful guidance here: https://reportingonsuicide.org/ 

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OHA Director visits Central Oregon on fifth regional visit, hears community concerns - 05/02/24

May 2, 2024

Media Contact: Erica Heartquist, erica.j.heartquist@oha.oregon.gov, 503.871.8843

OHA Director visits Central Oregon on fifth regional visit, hears community concerns

(Bend, OR) – Director of Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Dr. Sejal Hathi, visited Central Oregon this week and heard about the health issues that are of greatest concern to local residents and health care providers.

Feedback from the Central Oregon community was consistent, from a lack of affordable housing to barriers to mental health treatment and workforce shortages. She also heard about steps local clinics are taking to give people greater access to mental health treatment in primary care clinics and growing number of local people who are receiving substance use services through Measure 110.

Central Oregon is the fifth region Dr. Hathi has visited since she was confirmed by the legislature as OHA’s permanent director in February.

“One of the most consistent appeals I heard was for the state to do its best to sustain some of the services our public health and community-based partners have built over the past few years, with federal as well as Measure 110 funding, which continues to fill real and previously unmet needs. Even and especially as federal pandemic-era funding comes to an end, it would be a huge loss to let those services wither,” Dr. Hathi said.

Monday, Dr. Hathi started her visit to Central Oregon at Pacific Source, a Coordinated Care Organization (CCO), then toured Mosaic Community Health’s Conners Health Center in Bend. She visited Rimrock Trails, which provides comprehensive counseling and treatment services for individuals and families struggling with mental health and substance use disorders. Tuesday, Dr. Hathi met with Local Public Health Authorities (LPHAs) and Local Mental Health Authorities (LMHAs) from Deschutes, Jefferson, Crook and Wheeler Counties. She also toured the Deschutes County Stabilization Center; a crisis care clinic in Bend.

“We found Dr. Hathi to be a great listener and really appreciate that she genuinely wants to learn about the regional healthcare needs that we face here in Central Oregon," said Megan Haase, FNP and CEO of Mosaic Community Health. "We look forward to continuing our conversation and collaboration in the future.”

Dr. Hathi also discussed her three biggest policy priorities as OHA Director: eliminating health inequities, transforming Oregon’s behavioral health system, and expanding access to affordable health care.  But she emphasized that local input will inform and shape OHA’s approach to this work, as well as its partnerships with community.

Here is a link to the video of what Dr. Hathi said she learned during her visit to Central Oregon] She will head to Hood River and Pendleton later this month to speak with Oregonians. A full schedule of all of Dr. Hathi’s upcoming regional listening visits is  posted on her web page.

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Oregon State Hospital receives CMS statement of deficiencies - 05/01/24

May 1, 2024

Media Contact: Amber Shoebridge
amber.shoebridge@oha.oregon.gov
503-931-9586

Oregon State Hospital receives CMS statement of deficiencies

(Salem, OR) Oregon State Hospital (OSH) has received a statement of deficiencies from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), following a survey which occurred in February and March 2024. 

The survey was prompted by a serious incident of patient-to-patient aggression in February 2024. Surveyors also reviewed three other incidents from previous years; these four patient safety events were instances of patient-to-patient aggression or sexual contact.

The deficiencies identified in the report relate to staff presence in the milieu; quality of incident investigation and response, including required clinical documentation; patient grievance response; and training and competency verification. OSH has 10 calendar days to respond with a Plan of Correction (PoC). 

“There will always be things we can improve, and we will continue to do so, but what persists is our dedication to the humans we are privileged to care for,” said Interim Superintendent and Chief Medical Officer, Sara Walker, M.D. 

Once CMS approves the PoC, they will conduct another unannounced survey to review implementation. OSH is already expecting an unannounced verification survey for a separate PoC before an existing termination date of May 24, 2024. 

Meanwhile, CMS has approved OSH’s plan to remove the immediate jeopardy status pertaining to Code Blue equipment in the Admissions area. Hospital leadership expect a return survey to verify that they have successfully addressed the immediate jeopardy findings on Thursday, May 2, 2024.

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Attached Media Files: OSH-CMS-Timeline.pdf
CMS Places Oregon State Hospital in Immediate Jeopardy Status - 04/29/24

April 29, 2024

Media Contact: Amber Shoebridge
amber.shoebridge@oha.oregon.gov
503-931-9586

CMS Places Oregon State Hospital in Immediate Jeopardy Status

(Salem, OR)_Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has placed Oregon State Hospital (OSH) in immediate jeopardy status. CMS surveyors noted that emergency response equipment was located in more than one room in the admissions area of the Salem campus. 

CMS surveyors were on site after OSH reported a patient death shortly after arrival. Although the location of the Code Blue equipment did not contribute to the patient death, it was identified as a potential future safety risk.

“The primary concern was that all Code Blue equipment for the admissions area was not in the same room. We have already rectified this,” said Interim Superintendent and Chief Medical Officer, Sara Walker, M.D. “I am confident that together we will make the necessary changes to provide a safer environment for patients.”

Meanwhile, a core team of clinical and administrative personnel are creating an immediate jeopardy removal plan describing exactly how and when the hospital will correct any remaining issues (e.g., updating signage) and will continue to abide by this standard to ensure patient safety. OSH will submit the plan early this week. If the plan receives preliminary approval, a CMS surveyor will conduct another unannounced visit to review implementation.

If the plan is successful, CMS will take OSH out of immediate jeopardy status. Otherwise, the hospital may lose eligibility to receive federal Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement for services.

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OHA Director Dr. Sejal Hathi meets with Portland Metro-area health leaders as part of regional tours - 04/26/24

April 26, 2024

Media Contact: Jonathan Modie, 971-246-9139, PHD.Communications@oha.oregon.gov

OHA Director Dr. Sejal Hathi meets with Portland Metro-area health leaders as part of regional tours

PORTLAND, Ore. — Sejal Hathi, M.D., MBA, director of Oregon Health Authority (OHA), deepened her engagement with Portland's health care community this week, visiting several key organizations including the Miracles Club, Virginia Garcia Wellness Center and Central City Concern.

Her visit is part of a broader, months-long state tour to identify and center the priorities of all Oregon communities in OHA’s strategic planning.

One of Dr. Hathi’s first stops was at the Miracles Club, a Measure 110 grantee that provides peer support and sober housing to Portland’s Black community.

“This is an organization exclusively dedicated to serving a population that has, for too long, gone unserved,” she observed. “They understand the judgment and  stigmatization this population faces. And still they carry that, and meet them where they are, by investing in peers with lived experience, by building relationships, and by intentionally fostering community, which we know is foundational to sustained recovery.”

Watch a video of what Dr. Hathi observed during her Portland visit

Discussions with leaders from local public health, mental health agencies, and Trillium Community Health Plan emphasized the need for enhanced collaboration across health services.

"We need to do a better job integrating health care with public health – across data systems, programs, and funding streams – to more effectively address the most pressing local needs around behavioral health, homelessness and poverty," Dr. Hathi said.

The following day, Dr. Hathi visited the Virginia Garcia Wellness Center, touring its facilities and a custom mobile clinic that delivers medical and dental care to community sites. She also participated in a roundtable discussion with the Oregon Primary Care Association about the challenges faced by federally qualified health centers delivering vital safety-net care amid workforce shortages.

Dr. Hathi's tour concluded at Central City Concern, which provides behavioral and physical health care to nearly 14,000 individuals in the Portland metro area toward a goal of ending homelessness. Dr. Hathi pointed to Central City Concern’s Mobile Health program, which uses custom-made vans to deliver primary care, behavioral health and community health outreach services to the unhoused population, as one of many examples of the “spirit of innovation” that first drew her to Oregon. But there’s more work to do.

“I know we can do more to support one another, to bridge our silos and to work together as county and state, to better serve vulnerable Oregonians, especially those grappling with behavioral health crises,” she said.

Dr. Hathi will spend the next month making the final few visits of her statewide listening tour – meeting with and talking to community leaders, health care providers, Tribal leaders, local public health officials, and non-profit partners about their biggest needs from the state and OHA – to ensure those needs are represented and addressed as she shapes the agency’s next chapter.

Here is a link to B-roll footage, an audio file and still pictures from Dr. Hathi's most recent trip