Public Health to seek $30 million for Modernization in 2017-2019 biennium

An unprecedented assessment of where Oregon’s public health system is now and where it hopes to be to support a truly modern system shows an actual gap of $105 million.

A report due to the Legislature Fiscal Office June 30 will start with a recommendation to fund a $30 million first phase of modernization focused on communicable disease and environmental health programs to combat air toxins and lead in the water. The recommendation will also call for funding infrastructure improvements in capabilities connected to health equity, access to population health data and planning.

The recommendation allows for some flexibility for counties that already fund those programs to fill other gaps identified in the assessment.

After much discussion of priorities, the Public Health Advisory Board opted to hold off on seeking funding to upgrade chronic disease prevention efforts that are difficult to measure in the short-term. “We will have to demonstrate a change in outcomes within two years,” said the Oregon Health Authority’s Cara Biddlecom. “We’ll need to justify the investment.”

The funding request comes after a deep dive into where each local health authority and the state’s public health division currently stands -- and the gap in meeting the public health modernization goals outlined in HB3100 during the 2015 session.

“I don’t think any other state has this level of detail of how its public health system works,” said PHAB board chairman Jeff Luck.

He told The Lund Report that the $30 million number for the first phase of funding the $105 million shortfall is what legislative leaders suggested that’s “politically feasible,” and hopes the new fund will encourage collaboration among counties to use the money efficiently and effectively.

Safina Koreishi, who represents coordinated care organizations, said creating – and funding – public health metrics could “take the burden off everything being a CCO metric.”

A legislative briefing is scheduled for July 6 on the assessment project.

Jan can be reached at [email protected].

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