A man counseling another in a group support environment near some folding chairs

Behavioral Health

Behavioral health is the relationship between behaviors, physical health and overall well-being. This includes mental health and substance use issues. These issues are common and can have a profound impact on overall health and wellbeing.

Oregon has one of the highest rates of mental illness among youth and adults in the nation. Access to behavioral health care is a challenge. Communities describe many barriers. These include:

  • Provider shortages
  • Long wait times
  • Transportation challenges
  • Difficulty finding a provider from their culture and that speaks their language

We want people to be able to get the behavioral health care they need, when they need it.

Our approach

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    Why This Matters

    There is no “one size fits all” to a community’s behavioral health needs. We need to understand gaps in services and opportunities for better coordination. To achieve this, we need to look at behavioral health care:

    • At the local level
    • At the state level
    • In tribes
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    Definition

    Culturally responsive is the ability of individuals and systems to respond respectfully to people of all cultures, in a way that accepts the value and preserves the dignity of individuals, families and communities.

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    Why This Matters

    Community based organizations provide a range of services. These include:

    • Counseling
    • Addiction treatment and support
    • Links to transportation and housing

    This strategy aims to make sure these programs have the right resources to provide these crucial services in our communities. 

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    Why This Matters

    Oregon has one of the highest rates of mental illness among youth and adults in the nation. Stigma around the need for mental health services is common. This strategy seeks to create and implement public awareness campaigns to normalize the need for behavioral health services.

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    Why this matters

    Institutional bias includes practices within institutions that are discriminatory to people who are not white. Institutional bias also gives white people different social, political and economic advantages. One example is the disproportionate discipline for students of color in schools. This creates what advocates call a school-to-prison pipeline. Another is the higher representation of BIPOC-AI/AN in the criminal justice system.

    This strategy seeks to improve mental health for people of color by reducing institutional bias in state agencies.

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    Why This Matters

    One of the barriers to effective mental health care is communication and information sharing with other health and social service providers. For example, a person who is houseless is referred to a program that would provide stable housing. If the health care provider and housing program work together, they can better coordinate treatment for the person. This strategy seeks to understand the gaps and improve coordination. This will  create a better continuum of care. 

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    Definitions

    Culturally responsive is the ability of individuals and systems to respond respectfully to people of all cultures, in a way that accepts the value and preserves the dignity of individuals, families and communities.

    Evidence-based means a practice that has been tested through science.

    Promising practice means a practice that reports positive outcomes but may not have yet been studied through science.

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    Why This Matters

    Evidenced-based approaches are an important foundation of public health. But there is also growing awareness for the limitations of research. In particular, evidence-based practices are rarely studied in non-white communities.

    This strategy aims to ensure reimbursement for culturally responsive best practices and programs in behavioral health care.

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    Why This Matters

    People face many barriers when they seek mental health services. A person may not have transportation to an appointment. Or counselling may not be available in their primary language. A person may not meet the criteria for a mental illness hold even though they are in crisis. 

    The aim of this strategy is to lessen barriers in the system so people can access the care they need.

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    Why This Matters

    Providers are not being reimbursed for all the mental health services they provide. This is because of gaps in insurance coverage.  By resolving these issues, providers will be paid for all services they offer to patients and families.

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    Definition

    The Mental Health Parity and Addictions Act of 2008 is a federal law. It requires that health plans and insurers offer mental health and substance use disorder benefits. These must be comparable to their coverage for general medical and surgical care.

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    Why This Matters

    Stronger enforcement of this federal law helps to expand access to treatment for mental health care and addictions.

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    Definition

    Culturally responsive is the ability of individuals and systems to respond respectfully to people of all cultures, in a way that accepts the value and preserves the dignity of individuals, families and communities.

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    Why This Matters

    In Oregon, communities at highest risk for suicide include:

    • American Indian and Alaska Natives
    • Older men
    • LGTBQ+ people
    • Veterans
    • People with disabilities

    Suicide prevention programs need to be tailored to those who are at a highest risk.