As Oregon continues to contend with the pandemic, health care workforce shortages, and the impending loss of Oregon Health Plan coverage for hundreds of thousands of people, the state’s next governor will have no shortage of health care crises to tackle.
The Lund Report reached out to top contenders in the 2022 gubernatorial race to see how they’d address the state’s most pressing problems related to health care. Here’s how Democratic candidate George Carrillo replied to our questions:
What specific policy would you pursue to improve health care for Oregonians?
Our government and health care system has failed our BIPOC and marginalized communities. Our government and health care system have not provided equitable access to health care services, education, preventative care and have not been willing to listen, recognize or rectify historical injustice, discrimination and undermined health needs for BIPOC, LGBTQIA2S+ and other marginalized communities. For this reason, I support H.B. 4052. I believe all Oregonians should have equitable access to health related care, educational supports, preventative care and services that are impacted by racism. We must be inclusive. We must provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services to our diverse communities across Oregon to improve health outcomes.
Oregon is simultaneously in the midst of addiction and behavioral health system crises. What is your plan for ensuring Oregonians have access to treatment when they need it?
Substance abuse and behavioral/mental health is a crisis in Oregon because we continue to criminalize individuals that suffer from these medically diagnosed illnesses and cannot access necessary services. Incarceration does not equal rehabilitation. We must listen to our Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and recognize the work they are doing with our vulnerable, and at times dangerous, individuals that are lost in their battle with addiction and mental health challenges. We must meet people where they are at. We need to treat them with dignity and respect at each and every contact because you never know if they are attempting to seek help. Building trust and being available to provide support and services when that individual is ready is critical.
As governor, I will make sure that CBOs are adequately funded and staffed. There will be trained medical and behavioral health professionals to provide wrap-around services that can include any combination of the following: substance abuse treatment, inpatient treatment, transitional support, outpatient treatment, medication management, psychiatric supports, and strength-based peer support. Goals for achieving health, well-being and self-sufficiency will be equity focused. Much of the support will teach life skills, such as: emotional regulation, healthy problem solving and coping skills to manage life stressors, budgeting, building a healthy support system, identifying addictive traits that could lead to relapse, and having a plan for sustainable sobriety and mental health wellbeing. Additional support will also include employment training, self-advocacy, transition services and adequate cultural and linguistic support for BIPOC and other marginalized communities.
What does Oregon need to do to rebuild its public health system — and strengthen it — to address disparities and improve equity?
The Oregon Legislature needs to give power back to Oregonians. We must listen to the people, to our CBOs, that meet with our most vulnerable populations, understand their barriers, and understand needs of our communities. Government has to shift the way that decisions are made and bring CBOs and those directly experiencing hardship to the table. Government must listen to the people, empower the community, and be willing to implement new strategies to improve or reform the public health system so that it benefits the overall health and well-being of all Oregonians.
About 300,000 people must exit the Oregon Health Plan over the coming year because their incomes exceed the threshold, and Oregon is in the early stages of developing a bridge plan to cover a fraction of them — the working poor who make up to twice the poverty level. Do you agree with those who say Oregon needs a more ambitious “public option” plan covering people with incomes four times the poverty level?
Yes, because I believe in health care for all because you can’t place value on someone’s life. I will sign into law Medicare for All, single-payer, health insurance program. I will ask the Legislature to provide me with a bill that has been approved by the task force within my first 100 days.
Oregon’s public health response to the pandemic has been criticized from different perspectives. What is your take on what worked well and what didn’t?
What worked well in the beginning was taking appropriate measures to keep our community safe. For example, there were ongoing indoor social distancing requirements and face mask requirements. We saw more of an emphasis on cleaner environments throughout all of our service industries.
As the pandemic went on, we started accepting a certain amount of loss of life. We saw that each time we had a surge, we couldn't bring our case numbers down to the beginning of the pandemic.
The pandemic was heavily politicized and not viewed as a global health crisis. The government failed to see that we need to focus on Oregonians’ well-being and overall health to sustain our health system and economy. Oregon’s public health was not prepared to serve the public. Health care workers did not have adequate PPE to stay safe. We did not have a pandemic mobilization plan or strategy to collaborate with the expertise of the National Guard. There were not enough health care workers to meet the demand of the pandemic and allow sufficient recovery time for health care workers. We also didn’t have strong relationships with marginalized communities. The government struggled to work with community because they do not have trusting relationships with marginalized communities in Oregon. We can see in the data that our marginalized communities were heavily affected by this lack of trust.
View responses from other leading gubernatorial candidates in Oregon’s 2022 election here.
UPDATE April 24: Carrillo notified The Lund Report that his staff mistakenly sent a rough draft of his answers, which we had published on this page. The page now reflects Carrillo’s final answers.
I am wondering what George Carillo's background is that has led him to the coonclusion to support a "Medicare-for-all" type of program immediately. I support such a plan (or at least one that will follow what the Task Force on Universal Healthcare provides, which would enact such a scheme by 2026). How have I missed his contributions?