Rising OHP enrollments in Southern Oregon have mental health professionals scrambling to provide care

KOBI-5.com, Oct. 6, 2014

The number of patients in Jackson County with health insurance skyrocketed after the Affordable Care Act leaving clinics and doctors scrambling to figure out how to better serve patients.

It’s been nine months since the Affordable Care Act went into effect and since then more than 380,000 Oregonians have enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan.

And health care providers in Southern Oregon are feeling the strain.

“Last month was a new high for the number of adults that were presented for services here at Jackson County Mental Health and the numbers have not decreased,” Jackson County Mental Health Clinical Operations Manager Rick Rawlins said.

Rawlins said they expected 8,000 OHP patients in 2014, but so far this year they’ve got 16,000.

“They’ve doubled in less than that full year and we’ve seen the same increase in clients here at Jackson County Mental Health,” he said.

Rawlins said they’re seeing about 200 adults and 100 children every month for mental health services. They’ve already hired 45 mental health clinicians and support staff to try to keep up.

But Rawlins said even that hasn’t been enough. According to their website they still have 14 more mental health positions to fill.

And they’re not the only ones needing more help.

“In the last 12 months we’ve hired almost 1,200 employees at Asante,” Asante’s Director of Human Resources Robert Begg said. “Our census at the hospital has been higher than it has been in a long time.”

Begg said Asante is still looking to fill more than 160 positions. And they’re hoping to fill them as soon as possible.

“It’s difficult because you’re working the staff longer. Some of the part time have to work longer than they’re used to. It stretches the resources of the hospital,” he said.

But finding qualified workers is a task. Rawlins said they’ve hired locally, now they’re looking all over the country. Asante’s search is national too, but they hope to hire people from Southern Oregon.