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News Releases
OHA Announces New Equity and Inclusion Leadership - 06/21/24

June 21, 2024

Contact: Robb Cowie, 503-421-7684, robb.cowie@oha.oregon.gov 

OHA Announces New Equity and Inclusion Leadership

(SALEM, Ore.) – Leann Johnson, director of Oregon Health Authority’s (OHA) Equity and Inclusion Division (E&I), has left her position after more than eight years heading the division. Alfonso Ramirez, who currently serves as Equity and Community Partnerships Manager in OHA’s Behavioral Health Division, will serve as interim director. 

Ramirez brings nearly 30 years of experience in the human services field as an educator, mental health clinician, program manager and equity leader with expertise in trauma-informed and culturally responsive practices, systems change and community engagement. He currently represents Oregon in the Center for Health Care Strategies national health equity change-makers leadership program.

OHA Director Sejal Hathi, MD, MBA, said, “The Equity and Inclusion Division is vital to OHA and the communities we serve. It's important for us to ensure that the Equity and Inclusion Division is not alone in the work to change our policies and programs, dismantle systemic racism and meet the needs of the communities most harmed by health inequities. A commitment to health equity lives in every corner of OHA, and the practice of equity is – and must be – everyone’s job.”

OHA’s Equity and Inclusion Division is responsible for working in partnership with priority populations, all OHA divisions — including Medicaid, the Oregon State Hospital, and the Public Health Division — and the statewide health delivery system to advance health equity and achieve OHA’s goal to eliminate health inequities by 2030. E&I staff administer the state’s traditional health worker program, health care interpreter program, Civil Rights complaint reviews, and support nine regional health equity coalitions (RHECs), as well as a range of health equity advisory committees.

The Equity and Inclusion Division has a budget of $52.7 million for the 2023-2025 biennium and 86 staff.

OHA will launch a national search for a permanent director for the Equity and Inclusion Division this summer.

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Stay safe, healthy with tips as summer begins - 06/20/24

June 20, 2024

Media contact: Erica Heartquist, 503.871.8843, PHD.Communications@state.or.us

Stay safe, healthy with tips as summer begins

PORTLAND, Ore.—As summer kicks off today, Thursday, June 20, Oregon Health Authority recommends people in Oregon take steps to keep this season from becoming a “bummer” with tips for staying healthy and safe.

The Oregon ESSENCE Summer Hazard Report dashboard allows people to monitor trends in the most common summer-related hazards. The dashboard contains interactive graphs showing total daily counts of emergency department and urgent care center visits in Oregon associated with four injury and illness categories: heat-related illness, water submersion events, wildfire-related smoke inhalation, and air quality-related respiratory illness.

Users can also select data sets by year, going to back to 2018. The dashboard page under each tab also contains a description of the injury or illness, the groups most at risk, and how it can be treated or prevented. The dashboard is updated weekly.

Summer safety covers a variety of topics. Here are some quick tips:

  • Mosquito-borne diseases (West Nile virus, Zika)
    • Eliminate sources of standing water where mosquitoes breed, such as watering troughs and bird baths.
    • Protect yourself during outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active by using mosquito repellants containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or Picardin, and follow directions on the container.
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants in mosquito-infested areas. Visit https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/DISEASESCONDITIONS/DISEASESAZ/WESTNILEVIRUS/Pages/wnvprevent.aspx to learn more.
  • Cyanobacterial (harmful algal) blooms
    • Avoid areas of water bodies where there are signs of a cyanobacterial bloom, such as water that is foamy, scummy, thick like paint, pea-green, blue-green or brownish red in color.
    • Avoid swimming, water-skiing, wakeboarding, tubing, and other high-speed water activities in areas of the lake affected by a bloom.
    • Watch children and pets to be sure they are not swallowing water or coming in contact with cyanobacterial blooms washed up on the shore or dried on rocks. Visit http://healthoregon.org/hab to learn more.
  • Beach bacteria
    • Visitors to Oregon beaches where a public health advisory is in place for higher-than-normal levels of fecal bacteria should avoid wading in nearby creeks, pools of water on the beach, or in discolored water, and stay clear of water runoff flowing into the ocean.
    • Avoid swimming in the ocean within 48 hours after a rainstorm even if no advisory is in effect. Visit http://healthoregon.org/beach to learn more.
  • Drowning prevention –
  • Extreme heat
    • Visit air-conditioned places, if possible, and limit sun exposure from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when UV rays are strongest.
    • Use cool compresses, misting, and cool showers and baths, and never leave children in a parked car.
    • Drink plenty of fluids, especially when working outside, and avoid alcohol or liquids with large amounts of sugar. Visit https://www.oregon.gov/oha/ERD/Pages/Tips-Stay-Safe-Extreme-Heat.aspx.
  • Tick-borne diseases
  • Prevent fireworks injuries
  • Watch fireworks displays from a safe distance.
  • Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities and do not allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.

Call 911 immediately if someone is injured.

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UPDATED: Health officials confirm measles in Clackamas County household - 06/17/24

This is a corrected version of a press release sent this morning.

June 17, 2024

Media Contacts: Jonathan Modie, PHD.Communications@oha.oregon.gov

Health officials confirm measles in Clackamas County household

Two people believed to have been exposed in Marion County between May 19, June 4

PORTLAND, Ore.—Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and county public health officials are investigating two cases of measles in a single Clackamas County household.

One household member, an unvaccinated adult, was confirmed to have measles Friday, June 14. The individual developed a rash June 11. While the time range of the exposure is believed to be between May 19 and June 4, the specific location of the exposure, which occurred in Marion County, is unknown, suggesting there may be other, unreported measles cases in Oregon.

The second household member, an unvaccinated child, developed symptoms a few days later. Both individuals are recovering.

“Spreading measles from one person to another is pretty easy, as it’s a highly infectious disease,” said Paul R. Cieslak, M.D., medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations at OHA’s Public Health Division. “That’s why it’s extremely important that all adults and children in their household be up to date on vaccinations.”

“Adults of any age born during or after 1957 can still be vaccinated,” added Cieslak.

People might have been exposed if they were in any of these areas during these times:

  • Oregon Health & Science University facilities:
    • OHSU Immediate Care Richmond Clinic, between 4:40 p.m. and 5:40 p.m. Wednesday, June 12.
    • OHSU Hospital Emergency Department, between 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 12, and 7:15 p.m. Friday, June 14 (risk at this location is believed to be low because the patient was masked and airborne precautions were promptly implemented).

How measles spreads and symptoms

Measles spreads through the air after a person with measles coughs or sneezes. People are contagious with measles for four days before a rash appears and up to four days afterward. The virus particles can also linger in the air for up to two hours after someone who is infectious has left the area.

Measles typically starts with a fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes. A rash usually follows, beginning on the face and spreading to the rest of the body. Symptoms begin seven to 21 days after exposure to a person with measles. Common complications of measles include ear infection, lung infection and diarrhea. Swelling of the brain is a rare but much more serious complication. In developed countries in recent years, one or two out of every 1,000 measles cases has been fatal.

Determining your risk of measles

Most Oregonians have been vaccinated to prevent measles, usually as children. Anyone who has received a measles vaccination at any time in their life has a low risk of getting measles. Risk is much higher for anyone who has not received measles vaccination who may have been exposed to the disease.

Measles poses the highest risk to:

  1. Unvaccinated pregnant people.
  2. Infants younger than 1 year old.
  3. People with weakened immune systems.

You are considered immune to measles if any of the following apply:

  • You were born before 1957.
  • You’ve been diagnosed with measles at any point in your life.
  • A blood test proves that you are immune.
  • You have had two doses of measles vaccine.

What to do if you suspect measles in your household

Public health officials urge people experiencing symptoms of measles not to arrive unannounced at a medical office if they:

  1. Have a measles-like rash, or
  2. Have been exposed to measles within the previous 21 days, AND
  3. Have any other symptom of measles (such as fever, cough or red eyes).

Individuals planning to seek medical care should first call a health care provider or urgent care center by telephone to create an entry plan to avoid exposing others in waiting rooms.

Learn more about measles at https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/DISEASESCONDITIONS/DISEASESAZ/Pages/measles.aspx.

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Substance use disorder recovery infrastructure gets $13 million boost from Opioid Settlement Board - 06/13/24

June 13, 2024

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

Substance use disorder recovery infrastructure gets $13 million boost from Opioid Settlement Board

OHA will administer allocations recommended by State Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Opioid Settlement Prevention, Treatment & Recovery Board (Settlement Board) is directing $13.08 million toward expanding and strengthening the state’s recovery community centers and recovery housing.

The Settlement Board approved an Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission (ADPC) proposal to improve access to recovery community centers and housing by providing $11.75 million to establish centers in counties highly impacted by overdoses, yet with the least access to recovery services, including:

  • $2 million to the Gorge Recovery Center in Wasco County.
  • $2.36 million to the Bay Area First Step Recovery Center in Curry County.
  • $2.39 million to the Painted Horse Recovery Center in Douglas County.
  • $5 million for recovery centers in Josephine and Klamath counties, to be identified by the ADPC Recovery Subcommittee, in collaboration with OHA and relevant partners.

The allocation also includes $500,000 to Oxford House for personnel support, and $830,000 for the expansion of culturally specific and youth services in existing recovery community centers throughout the state.

The funding was awarded to OHA, which will administer the allocations. The Settlement Board’s decision can be viewed in a recording of its June 5 meeting here.

“The Settlement Board is excited to support recovery services across the state,” said Settlement Board Co-Chair Annaliese Dolph. “This investment prioritizes high-need communities lacking access to supports for people in recovery, another step toward an adequate continuum of care in Oregon.”

Prior to awarding any funding, OHA must engage the partners listed in the ADPC proposal and provide a proposed timeline and implementation plan to the Settlement Board for approval no later than Sept. 1, 2024.

Since July 2021, the State of Oregon has reached agreement on national lawsuits against several companies for their role 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 as it becomes available into the Opioid Settlement, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery (OSPTR) Fund. This fund is controlled by the 18-member OSPTR Board.

Local jurisdictions receiving settlement funds (those with populations greater than 10,000) decide how their funds are used. Cities and counties are required to report to the Oregon Department of Justice annually on how they have allocated their funds.

For state and local spending details from Fiscal Year 2022 – 2023, please refer to the Oregon Opioid Settlement Spending Report: https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/PREVENTIONWELLNESS/SUBSTANCEUSE/OPIOIDS/Documents/opioid-settlement-report-fy-22-23.pdf

OSPTR Board allocations to date

Throughout the current fiscal biennium that ends in June 2025, about $91.2 million will be deposited into the OSPTR Fund. Prior to the Recovery allocation, the OSPTR Board made the following allocations:

  • $27.7 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 throughout the life of the fund as additional settlement payments are deposited.
  • $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 2022 House Bill 4098.
  • $13.7 million to the Save Lives Oregon Harm Reduction Clearinghouse to distribute naloxone and other life-saving supplies to qualified entities.
  • $13.7 million to build Oregon’s workforce capacity for primary substance use disorder prevention.

The OSPTR Board will next consider additional investments in treatment; research and evaluation; and emerging issues.

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

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OHA supporting LGBTQIA2S+ youth with list of summer resources - 06/11/24

June 11, 2024

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

OHA supporting LGBTQIA2S+ youth with list of summer resources

Agency reaffirms commitment to queer young people as school year ends

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is reaffirming its commitment to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, two-spirit, questioning and (+) (LGBTQIA2S+) youth by sharing resources to promote their well-being, safety, security and inclusion.

“It’s so important that youth have access to the supports from families and community organizations that celebrate the rich diversity of their identities,” said Dean Sidelinger, M.D., M.S.Ed., health officer and state epidemiologist at OHA.

Since 2022, OHA has celebrated gender and sexual orientation diversity by highlighting resources available to LGBTQIA2S+ youth during summer. These months can be a challenging time for queer youth and their families as many supports they have access to during the school year are no longer available.

June also happens to be Pride month, Sidelinger noted, when OHA and its public health partners “lift up and celebrate these diverse identities and show our support for LGBTQIA2S+ youth, families and organizations.”

Communities, families and trusted adults play a critical role in contributing to and supporting their LGBTQIA2S+ children’s well-being. Families protect LGBTQIA2S+ young people against potential suicidal behavior, depression and substance use when they promote self-esteem, overall health and strong, affirming relationships.

Many local, state and national resources are available for LGBTQIA2S+ youth and families to help them thrive as summer kicks off:

  • The Oregon Youth Resource Map is designed to help young people ages 16-25 and their allies connect to youth-serving resources, organizations and leadership opportunities. The map centers youth needs and voices, and includes services for health and mental health care, housing, education and more.
  • TransActive Gender Project at Lewis & Clark Graduate School works to empower transgender and gender-expansive children, youth and their families in living healthy lives free of discrimination through a range of services and expertise.
  • PFLAG offers quick tips to parents and caregivers for supporting their LGBTQIA2S+ children during the coming-out process. PFLAG also has eight chapters in Oregon, including in eastern, southern and central Oregon, and the Portland metro area.
  • The Family Acceptance Project works to increase family and community support for LGBTQIA2S+ youth, decrease health and mental health risks, and promote well-being. An Oregon page also is available.
  • The Trevor Project promotes suicide prevention and crisis intervention for LGBTQIA2S+ young people. Public education materials are available on its website, as well as the results of its 2024 U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People.
  • Outside In (Portland) welcomes and encourages all from the LGBTQIA2S+ community to connect, feel seen and heard, and provides free resources such as counseling, medical services and wraparound support for homeless youth and other marginalized people who meet diagnostic criteria. Call 503-535-3828.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a number of professional development resources to help teachers and school staff create safe schools for LGBTQIA2S+ youth.
  • The Center of Excellence on LGBTQ+ Behavioral Health Equity at the University of Maryland addresses disparities in mental health and substance use disorder treatment systems that affect the LGBTQIA2S+ community. The center published a short video last year on basic terminology that is important for people to know when working with those of diverse sexual orientations or gender identities.
  • New Avenues for Youth’s Sexual & Gender Minority Youth Center provides culturally specific support for LGBTQIA2S+ youth.
  • The Next Door provides youth outreach in schools, life skills training and mentoring programs such as Gorge Youth Mentoring. It supports a youth advisory council, gender-affirming locker rooms and, in partnership with Columbia Gorge Pride Alliance, promotes 30 Days of Gay events as part of Pride month in June.
  • Eastern Oregon Center for Independent Living (EOCIL) provides safe spaces, community building and empowerment for two-spirit and LGBTQIA+ communities, with and without disabilities, and allies in 13 eastern Oregon counties. As one of the largest and oldest two-spirit and LGBTQIA+ service providers and employers in eastern Oregon, EOCIL proudly serves the two-spirit and LGBTQIA+ communities of Baker, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Hood River, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, Wasco and Wheeler counties.
  • The Rogue Action Center is a diverse network of LGBTQ+ community members and groups in Josephine and Jackson counties that build community, shift policy and build power, help folks navigate resources and close gaps to accessing basic needs, and lift up leadership in our communities.

OHA works with other state agencies, counties, Tribal nations, communities and advocacy groups across the state to ensure youth in Oregon have access to support and services, including offering links and contact information to help lines and other resources:

  • The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24/7, is for people in any type of behavioral health crisis, such as mental health-related distress, thoughts of suicide or self-harm, or a substance use crisis. People can get help by calling 988, texting 988 or chatting online at 988Lifeline.org.
  • 988 offers specialized support for LGBTQIA2S+ youth and young adults by calling 988 and pressing 3 or texting “PRIDE” to 988.
  • Oregon Alliance to Prevent Suicide is dedicated to preventing youth and young adults in Oregon from dying by suicide.
  • Oregon LGBTQ Support, from Oregon LGBTQ Youth & Family Resources, lists resources that focus on providing services and support to reduce mental health risks and promote well-being for LGBTQ young people.
  • Oregon YouthLine for teen-to-teen support. A 24/7 phone line and texting support are available where trained youth respond from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Pacific Time, daily (adults available by phone at all other times).
    • Call 1-877-968-8491
    • Text teen2teen to 839863

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D River Beach health advisory lifted June 6 - 06/06/24

June 6, 2024

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

D River Beach health advisory lifted June 6

PORTLAND, Ore.—Oregon Health Authority (OHA) today lifted a public health advisory for contact with ocean water at D River Beach, located in Lincoln County.

The health authority issued the advisory June 4, after water samples showed higher-than-normal levels of fecal bacteria in ocean waters.

Results from follow-up tests taken by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) showed lower bacteria levels. Contact with the ocean water no longer poses a higher-than-normal risk. Officials recommend staying out of large pools on the beach that are frequented by birds, and runoff from those pools, because the water may contain increased bacteria from fecal matter.

Since 2003, state officials have used a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to monitor popular Oregon beaches and make timely reports to the public about elevated levels of fecal bacteria. Oregon state agencies participating in this program are OHA, DEQ and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

For more information, visit the Oregon Beach Monitoring Program website at http://www.healthoregon.org/beach or call 971-673-0440, or call OHA’s toll-free information line at 877-290-6767.

CMS Places Oregon State Hospital in Immediate Jeopardy Status - 06/06/24

June 6, 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. Surveyors cited issues related to hourly checks of patient location and wellness. The hospital is instituting an administrative directive today that specifies updated procedures for completing and documenting viability checks. 

“We know that patients find viability checks disruptive of their sleep,” said Interim Superintendent and Chief Medical Officer, Sara Walker, M.D. “We hope to find a technology solution that will be less intrusive. It is our responsibility to ensure the safety of our patients day and night.”

OSH will submit an immediate jeopardy removal plan early next week. If the plan receives preliminary approval, a surveyor will conduct another unannounced visit to review implementation.

If the review is successful, CMS will take OSH out of immediate jeopardy status. Otherwise, the hospital may lose its eligibility to receive federal Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement for services. This does not change the termination tracks the hospital is already on from other CMS investigations.

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OHA director concludes 7-stop statewide visits in Eastern Oregon - 06/05/24

June 5, 2024

Media contact: Larry Bingham, Oregon Health Authority, 971-239-6499; Larry.Bingham@oha.oregon.gov

OHA director concludes 7-stop statewide visits in Eastern Oregon

Pendleton, Ore._On a sunny afternoon in downtown Pendleton, staff from the Eastern Oregon Center for Independent Living non-profit gathered with partners, funders and clients to mark a milestone years in the making.

While a food truck served tacos, and the crowd milled around tables stocked with information about substance use treatment, HIV testing and harm reduction resources, a special guest made her way to an impromptu stage hung with a red ribbon. Oregon Health Authority Director Sejal Hathi, MD, MBA, said it was an honor to cut the ribbon on new transitional and emergency housing at one of the few facilities like it in Eastern Oregon.

“I know there are people in your community who do not always understand your work,” Dr. Hathi told attendees. “But I want you to know I see you, and OHA sees you, and your work is making a difference.”

Dr. Hathi’s words came on the last stop in a series of seven visits to communities around Oregon. The goal of the listening sessions was to provide local public health partners, coordinated care organizations, providers, community-based organizations and community members an opportunity to tell the new OHA director about their needs and priorities and how OHA can support and facilitate their work.

From Pendleton to Astoria, and Medford to The Dalles, she heard from “the people who have rolled up their sleeves and are doing the work” and their concerns about access to health care, the overdose crisis, and racial and geographic inequities, among other issues.

In rural Eastern Oregon, one immediate need is more emergency and transitional housing for people who are houseless and seeking treatment for substance use disorder or harmful substance use, like the facility celebrated in Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Other issues heard during meetings with providers, community-based leaders, local public health and mental health authorities, and the CCO in Eastern Oregon included difficulties with funding models that don’t scale down for sparse populations, the challenges of operating remote clinics and small hospitals, a shortage of health care workers, particularly OBGYNs, and the travel cost of providing care in a landscape where towns are hours apart.

“As I have started my new role at OHA, my priority has been to listen, to learn, and to partner with Oregonians to design the best solutions to our shared challenges,” Dr. Hathi said. “I am grateful to everyone who attended one of the sessions, shared their ideas and innovations, their concerns and complaints. Working together, I sincerely believe we can improve the health and wellbeing of everyone in Oregon, no matter where they live.”

OHA will release a report this summer highlighting what Dr. Hathi has heard during these regional visits and how OHA is addressing the issues raised.

Click here to watch the video. Additional resources and B-roll can be found here.

Sejal Hathi Visit thumbnail

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D River Beach health advisory issued June 4 - 06/04/24

June 4, 2024

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

D River Beach health advisory issued June 4

High bacteria levels prompt OHA recommendation to avoid water contact

PORTLAND, Ore.—Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is issuing a public health advisory today for unsafe levels of fecal bacteria in ocean waters at D River Beach in Lincoln County. People should avoid direct contact with the water in this area until the advisory is lifted.

Unsafe levels of fecal bacteria can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections and other illnesses. Children, older adults and those with compromised immune systems should use extra caution, as they are more vulnerable to illness from waterborne bacteria.

Visitors should avoid wading in nearby creeks, pools of water on the beach, or in discolored water, and should stay clear of water runoff flowing into the ocean. Levels of fecal bacteria tend to be higher in these types of water sources.

Unsafe levels of fecal bacteria in ocean waters can come from both shore and inland sources, including:

  • Stormwater runoff.
  • Sewer overflows.
  • Failing septic systems.
  • Animal waste from livestock, pets, and wildlife.

Even if there is no advisory in effect, avoid swimming in the ocean within 48 hours after a rainstorm.

Ocean waters will be re-tested after an advisory is issued. Once bacteria levels are at a safe level, OHA will notify the public that the advisory is lifted.

While this advisory is in effect at D River, state officials continue to encourage other recreational activities (flying kites, picnicking, playing on the beach, walking, etc.) on this beach because they pose no health risk, even during an advisory.

For the most recent information on advisories, visit the Oregon Beach Monitoring Program website at http://www.healthoregon.org/beach or call 971-673-0482, or 877-290-6767 (toll-free).

OHA launches traumatic brain injury data dashboard - 06/03/24

June 3, 2024

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

OHA launches traumatic brain injury data dashboard

Goals of new tool are to understand magnitude, demographics, costs

PORTLAND, Ore.—Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has published a new online, interactive data dashboard for tracking incidence of traumatic brain injuries, or TBI, so it can better understand the magnitude, demographics and costs of the injuries and deaths they cause.

The Injury and Violence Prevention Section at OHA’s Public Health Division developed the Oregon Traumatic Brain Injury Safety Dashboard and launched it May 28. The data on the dashboard include deaths, emergency department discharges and hospital discharges for TBI across all ages, including youth younger than 25. Data are aggregated for annual, statewide trends and a three-year average for county-level and demographic trends.

Discharge data for hospitals and emergency departments come from OHA’s Health Policy and Analytics Division and the Hospital Association of Oregon; fatality data come from OHA’s Center for Health Statistics; and population data come from the National Center for Health Statistics and Portland State University.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, TBI is an injury that affects how the brain works. It may be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt, or penetrating injury to the head (e.g., from a fall, motor vehicle crash, bicycle crash, assault, or sports injury).

“The purpose of the TBI data dashboard is to help us better understand the significant frequency impacting individuals and our community as well as higher burdens to different groups of Oregonians. The initial version of the dashboard provides a brief picture of who is more affected by TBIs and where TBIs are more often occurring, with which we can better assess trends for ongoing prevention work and evaluation,” said Dagan Wright, Ph.D., senior injury epidemiologist and informaticist in the Injury and Violence Prevention Section.

TBI is a major cause of death and long-term disability in the United States. A TBI is difficult to detect visually, can affect a person short or longer term, and may affect a person’s daily functioning, interaction with others, overall health, and quality of life due to cognitive, behavioral, emotional and physical effects that affect interpersonal, social and occupational functioning. In addition to the impact of TBI on the individual, TBI can harm families and communities.

So far, the data on the Traumatic Brain Injury Safety Dashboard show that TBI fatalities in Oregon are increasing year over year for all ages, with the highest rate of TBI fatalities among males older than 65.

Nationally across all age groups, the leading causes of TBI fatalities are firearm-related suicides, unintentional falls, and unintentional motor vehicle crashes. Leading causes of nonfatal TBIs are unintentional falls, motor vehicle traffic crashes, strikes by or against an object such as those occurring in sports, and assaults.

Anyone can experience a TBI. However, some groups are at greater risk of dying from a TBI or experiencing long-term health problems after the injury. Examples of groups who are more likely to be affected by TBI include: communities of color and tribal communities; service members and veterans; people who experience homelessness; people who are in correctional and detention facilities; survivors of intimate partner violence; and people living in rural areas.

The Injury and Violence Prevention Section is working with a diverse team of subject matter experts including physicians, educators, researchers, lawyers, epidemiologists and school nurses to raise awareness of the risks of TBI, and to help connect students returning to school after a traumatic brain injury to needed accommodations. One project involves a pilot program at a pediatric clinic in southern Oregon where parents whose children have experienced TBI are being connected with their Education Service District to find out about return-to-school accommodations. In addition, the Injury and Violence Prevention Section is in the process of creating a series of short TBI informational videos for public distribution sometime early next year.

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Tolovana State Park Beach health advisory lifted May 30 - 05/31/24

May 31, 2024

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

Tolovana State Park Beach health advisory lifted May 30

PORTLAND, Ore.—Oregon Health Authority (OHA) today lifted a public health advisory for contact with ocean water at Tolovana State Park, located in Clatsop County.

The health authority issued the advisory on May 29, after water samples showed higher-than-normal levels of fecal bacteria in ocean waters.

Results from follow-up tests taken by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) showed lower bacteria levels. Contact with the ocean water no longer poses a higher-than-normal risk. Officials recommend staying out of large pools on the beach that are frequented by birds, and runoff from those pools, because the water may contain increased bacteria from fecal matter.

Since 2003, state officials have used a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to monitor popular Oregon beaches and make timely reports to the public about elevated levels of fecal bacteria. Oregon state agencies participating in this program are OHA, DEQ and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

For more information, visit the Oregon Beach Monitoring Program website at http://www.healthoregon.org/beach or call 971-673-0440, or call OHA’s toll-free information line at 877-290-6767.

OHA asking people who harvested, ate any Oregon Coast shellfish to complete survey - 05/31/24

May 31, 2024

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

OHA asking people who harvested, ate any Oregon Coast shellfish to complete survey

PORTLAND, Ore.—State health officials are asking people who recently harvested or ate any shellfish from the Oregon Coast to complete a survey as part of an investigation of illnesses linked to shellfish biotoxins.

On May 28, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) urged people to throw out mussels gathered from beaches between Seal Rock State Park north to the Washington border after cases of paralytic shellfish poisoning were reported to the agency. The shellfish were harvested at beaches in Lincoln, Tillamook and Clatsop counties.

OHA is now asking people who harvested or ate Oregon shellfish since May 13 to take a short survey to help investigators identify a possible cause of the outbreak and how many people became sick. Responses are secure and confidential, and will help OHA Public Health Division investigators learn more about the sources and size of this outbreak.

Those who already completed an interview with their local public health agency do not need to complete the survey.

Contact Rosalie Trevejo (rosalie.trevejo2@oha.oregon.gov) or June Bancroft (june.e.bancroft@oha.oregon.gov) of OHA’s Public Health Division with any questions or concerns about the survey.

On May 23, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) closed a stretch of Oregon Coast to mussel harvesting from Seal Rock State Park north to Cape Lookout due to high levels of PSP. The mussel harvest closure was extended from Seal Rock State Park north to the Washington border on May 26.

People who experience any symptoms of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) – numbness of the mouth and lips, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and in severe cases, shortness of breath or irregular heartbeat – should immediately contact a health care provider. They can also get advice by calling the Oregon Poison Center at 800-222-1222.

PSP is a foodborne illness caused by saxitoxins produced by marine algae and caused by eating shellfish contaminated with the naturally occurring biotoxin, including scallops, mussels, clams, oysters and cockles, as well as some fish and crabs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There is no antidote for PSP – treatment involves supportive care and, if necessary, respiratory support.

For additional information:

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Oregon State Hospital receives CMS statement of deficiencies - 05/30/24

May 30, 2024

Media contact: Marsha Sills, Marsha.Sills@oha.oregon.gov, (971) 240-3344

Oregon State Hospital receives CMS statement of deficiencies

Salem, Ore. – Oregon State Hospital (OSH) has received a statement of deficiencies from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), following an April 2024 survey related to a patient death shortly after arrival.

The deficiencies identified in the report cite the hospital’s medical emergency response procedures, response equipment organization and patient assessment. The CMS report determined that OSH failed to meet its conditions of CMS participation, and the conditions outlined in the findings contributed to the hospital’s capacity to provide safe and adequate care.

On Friday, May 31, OSH will submit its Plan of Correction (PoC) related to policies, procedures and trainings that address the CMS findings. “Our number one priority at Oregon State Hospital is the safety and health of our patients and staff,” said Dr. Sara Walker, OSH interim superintendent and chief medical officer. “We proactively reported the death to CMS the day of the incident, and we continue to work closely with CMS. We began addressing CMS concerns earlier this month and have started implementing changes to address the findings identified in this report. The hospital is committed to continuous improvement and ensuring a safe and therapeutic environment for the people we care for.”

After CMS approves the PoC, surveyors will conduct an unannounced survey to review implementation. The hospital is awaiting CMS revisits for two other active CMS surveys.

Following the April CMS survey, CMS placed OSH in immediate jeopardy status of losing its CMS eligibility based on concerns about the organization of Code Blue emergency response equipment in the admissions area. OSH quickly addressed the concern, and CMS lifted the immediate jeopardy status on May 2.

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Sharp rise in Oregon pertussis cases prompts public health warning - 05/30/24

May 30, 2024

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

Sharp rise in Oregon pertussis cases prompts public health warning

Vaccine-preventable disease known as whooping cough can be deadly for infants

PORTLAND, Ore.—Oregon health officials are concerned about a sharp increase in cases of pertussis – known as whooping cough – across nine counties and are encouraging people to get vaccinated against the disease.

As of May 29, 178 pertussis cases have been reported to Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division. That’s a 770% increase from the 20 cases reported by that date in 2023. However, the 2024 numbers are roughly in line with those seen during similar time frames in the immediate pre-pandemic years, including 2019, when there were 93 cases, and 2018, which saw 248 cases.

Pertussis is cyclical, and before the COVID-19 pandemic – when restrictions that included masking requirements and school closures were in effect – pertussis peaked every three to five years. In 2012, 910 cases were reported, the highest annual count since 1953.

“Our concern is with how quickly we jumped to such a high number of pertussis cases, which tell us that the disease is doing what it does best: spreading fast and taking a greater toll on undervaccinated persons,” said Paul Cieslak, M.D., medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations at the Public Health Division.

Among the nine counties with reported pertussis to date in 2024, Lane County leads with 64 cases, followed by Multnomah (41), Clackamas (33), Deschutes (15), Washington (13), and Jefferson (8). Three other counties have also seen cases. School-aged children and adolescents account for 92 (52%) of cases. Among them, only 51 (55%) are up to date with recommended pertussis vaccinations.

Infants are at highest risk of pertussis-related complications and death, and they have the highest reported incidence rate. Between 2003 and 2023, infants accounted for 12% of cases and 76% of pertussis hospitalizations. And Oregon pertussis deaths have been limited to infants – five have occurred since 2003.

Babies too young to have been fully vaccinated are most likely to be hospitalized with pertussis. Cieslak said that pregnant people can protect their young babies by getting Tdap vaccine – which protects a person against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis – at 27–36 weeks’ gestation. The mothers will make antibodies and pass them to their babies across the placenta, protecting them from birth. Among 16 infant cases reported in Oregon to date in 2024, only one mother had a documented dose of Tdap during the pregnancy.

When an infant or pregnant person is in the household of someone with pertussis, all household members should receive a course of antibiotics effective against Bordetella pertussis – typically, a five-day course of azithromycin.

Vaccination against pertussis is routinely recommended for infants, children, adolescents and adults. Children should receive the DTaP vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis at 2, 4, 6 and 15 to 18 months, and again at age 4 to kindergarten age.

All persons ages 10 and older should receive a single dose of Tdap.

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Tolovana State Park health advisory issued May 29 - 05/29/24

May 29, 2024

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

Tolovana State Park health advisory issued May 29

High bacteria levels prompt OHA recommendation to avoid water contact

PORTLAND, Ore.—Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is issuing a public health advisory today for unsafe levels of fecal bacteria in ocean waters at Tolovana State Park in Clatsop County. People should avoid direct contact with the water in this area until the advisory is lifted.

Unsafe levels of fecal bacteria can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections and other illnesses. Children, older adults and those with compromised immune systems should use extra caution, as they are more vulnerable to illness from waterborne bacteria.

Visitors should avoid wading in nearby creeks, pools of water on the beach, or in discolored water, and should stay clear of water runoff flowing into the ocean. Levels of fecal bacteria tend to be higher in these types of water sources.

Unsafe levels of fecal bacteria in ocean waters can come from both shore and inland sources, including:

  • Stormwater runoff.
  • Sewer overflows.
  • Failing septic systems.
  • Animal waste from livestock, pets, and wildlife.

Even if there is no advisory in effect, avoid swimming in the ocean within 48 hours after a rainstorm.

Ocean waters will be re-tested after an advisory is issued. Once bacteria levels are at a safe level, OHA will notify the public that the advisory is lifted.

While this advisory is in effect at Tolovana State Park, state officials continue to encourage other recreational activities (flying kites, picnicking, playing on the beach, walking, etc.) on this beach because they pose no health risk, even during an advisory.

For the most recent information on advisories, visit the Oregon Beach Monitoring Program website at http://www.healthoregon.org/beach or call 971-673-0482, or 877-290-6767 (toll-free).

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Eastern Oregon Center for Independent Living (EOCIL) invite the media to a ribbon-cutting ceremony - 05/29/24

May 29, 2024

Media Contacts: Larry Bingham, Oregon Health Authority, 971-239-6499, Larry.Bingham@oha.orergon.gov

Kirt Toombs, Eastern Oregon Center for Independent Living, 208-230-0198, ktoombs@eocil.org


PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Eastern Oregon Center for Independent Living (EOCIL) invite the media to a ribbon-cutting ceremony with OHA Director Sejal Hathi, M.D., MBA, at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, May 30, at 322 SW 3rd St., Pendleton.

Dr. Hathi will help EOCIL celebrate the opening of a remodeled facility that will provide emergency and transitional housing to people who are houseless and receiving treatment for substance use disorder or harmful substance use. The remodel features two ADA units to address a need for housing for people with disabilities.

Project supporters and funders will join EOCIL staff, clients and community members at 4 p.m. to tour the facility and enjoy food from a vendor onsite. The ribbon-cutting ceremony and brief remarks will take place at 4:30 p.m.

The project also expands EOCIL’s harm-reduction services by investing in mobile and facility-based access to peer counseling, safe use supplies, naloxone, and access to HIV testing, telehealth, PrEP and safe sex supplies. In addition, the expansion provides enhanced service coordination and links to other support until the individual is ready to access substance use treatment. 

The $500,000 project was funded in collaboration with EOCIL, the Measure 110 Oversight and Accountability Council, Umatilla Behavioral Health Regional Network (BHRN) partners, Eastern Oregon Coordinated Care Organization (EOCCO) and OHA’s HIV Care and Treatment program.

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New OHA report shows Oregon health costs grew by 3.6% in 2021-2022, driven by prescription drug costs and other factors - 05/28/24

May 28, 2024

Media contact:

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

New OHA report shows Oregon health costs grew by 3.6% in 2021-2022, driven by prescription drug costs and other factors

Report highlights opportunities to improve health care affordability

(PORTLAND, Ore. –) The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) released its annual report on cost growth trends for health insurance plans and large provider organizations across the state. The report provides insight into health care spending in the Commercial, Medicaid, and Medicare markets statewide, and for 30 health plans and 53 provider organizations; more than half of plans and provider organizations met the cost growth target.

The report shows that between 2021-2022 health care costs in Oregon grew 3.6%, slightly above the cost growth target of 3.4%. Cost growth was driven by increases in hospital outpatient services, behavioral health services, and changes in how providers were paid, with more providers receiving prospective payments, quality payments, and other value-based arrangements.

“It’s important to continue to shine a light on health care spending in Oregon. This report allows health insurers and large providers to see where they stand in comparison to others and help focus their efforts on containing health care costs,” said David Baden, Oregon Health Authority Deputy Director for Policy and Programs.

In 2019, the Oregon Legislature established the Sustainable Health Care Cost Growth Target Program, which is designed to prevent health care costs from growing faster than wages, inflation, and other economic indicators. In collaboration among large provider organizations, hospitals and health insurance plans, employers, and patient advocates, the program sets a statewide target for the annual per-person growth rate of total health care spending.

Accountability measures for health plans and provider organizations exceeding the target cost growth rate will be phased in with a multi-year approach. Performance improvement plans (PIPs) for entities exceeding the cost growth will begin in 2025. No health plans or provider organizations will be subject to a PIP based on the data in this report.

Key trends from the 2021-2022 report include:

  • Overall cost growth was greatest in the Medicare market. Statewide, total health care expenditures grew 2.2% in the Medicare market, compared to 1.5% in the Commercial market, and 1.2% in the Medicaid market. Even though health care cost growth in Oregon was below the target for this measurement period, cumulatively, health care costs in Oregon have grown 12.4% between 2018-2022.
  • More than half of health plans and provider organizations met the target in at least one market. Health plans were more likely to meet the cost growth target for their Medicaid and Commercial lines of business; only 3 Medicare Advantage health plans met the target. Provider organizations were more likely to meet the target for Medicaid.
  • Primary cost drivers include an increase in hospital outpatient services, behavioral health services, and non-claims payments. Medicare Advantage non-claims spending increased substantially, largely due to prospective payments. Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and Commercial markets also saw more performance incentive dollars.
  • Retail pharmacy spending continued to grow across the state, even after more than $1.2 billion in pharmacy rebates were taken into account. Retail pharmacy spending grew 2.9% in the Commercial and Medicaid markets, and 2.6% in the Medicare Advantage market.

The 2024 Cost Growth Target Public Hearing will be held June 4. You can share your story about the high cost of health care via email (HealthCare.CostTarget@oha.oregon.gov) or comment at the public hearing. More information available online.

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Throw out mussels harvested between Washington border, Seal Rock State Park - 05/27/24

Health officials say at least 20 people sickened by naturally occurring biotoxin after gathering mussels from Short Beach near Oceanside, Hug Point, and near Seaside

PORTLAND, Ore.—An outbreak of paralytic shellfish poisoning that sickened at least 20 people is prompting health officials to urge those who harvested mussels from a stretch of Oregon’s coast since Saturday to discard the mollusks. 

Officials at the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division also recommend people who experience any symptoms of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) – numbness of the mouth and lips, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and in severe cases, shortness of breath or irregular heartbeat – immediately contact a health care provider. They can also get advice by calling the Oregon Poison Center at 800-222-1222.

All 20 people who fell ill reported recreationally harvesting mussels Saturday or Sunday at Short Beach near Oceanside in Tillamook County, and Hug Point and near Seaside in Clatsop County. Some of the cases have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported.

On May 23, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) closed a stretch of Oregon Coast to mussel harvesting from Seal Rock State Park north to Cape Lookout due to high levels of PSP. On Sunday, the mussel harvest closure was extended from Seal Rock State Park north to the Washington border.

“We have two messages: If you have any mussels gathered since Saturday from beaches within the area of coastline that ODFW and ODA closed to harvesting – that you are preparing for a meal or keeping in the freezer for a later time – throw them out now and do not feed them to pets,” said Emilio DeBess, epidemiologist at the Oregon Public Health Division’s Acute and Communicable Disease Prevention Section. “And if you have eaten any of these mussels and are feeling ill, see a doctor right away.”

DeBess added the recommendations only apply to mussels harvested by private individuals, not those harvested commercially and purchased in a grocery store or at a restaurant.

PSP is a foodborne illness caused by saxitoxins produced by marine algae and caused by eating shellfish contaminated with the naturally occurring biotoxin, including scallops, mussels, clams, oysters and cockles, as well as some fish and crabs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There is no antidote for PSP – treatment involves supportive care and, if necessary, respiratory support.

PSP is the most common and most severe form of shellfish poisoning. It occurs worldwide but is most common in temperate waters off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America.

Signs of illness usually appear 30 to 60 minutes after a person eats toxic shellfish and include numbness and tingling of the face, lips, tongue, arms and legs. Patients also might have diarrhea and vomiting, headache, and nausea. Severe cases are associated with ingestion of large doses of toxin and clinical features such as poor muscle control, clumsiness or slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, loose or floppy limbs, mental status changes, and respiratory failure. 

PSP can be deadly, especially for children. Appropriate medical care can lessen the risk of death.

Shellfish poisoning can be prevented by avoiding potentially contaminated shellfish, which is particularly important in areas during or shortly after algal blooms. Marine shellfish toxins cannot be destroyed by cooking or freezing, and shellfish that carry them do not necessarily taste different from uncontaminated shellfish.

Avoid harvest and consumption of seafood from beaches with biotoxin closures.

Treatment for paralytic shellfish poisoning is symptomatic and supportive. Severe cases of paralytic shellfish poisoning might require mechanical ventilation.

For additional information:

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