Our organization has been through challenges before, but I believe those facing DHS and OHA today may be unprecedented.
Oregon remains in a recession -- it was announced earlier this week that for the eighth month in a row our unemployment rate has been stuck at about 10.5 percent. We are in the third year of double-digit case load increases that are straining our system.
The resulting budget crisis means that we are reducing services and workforce in ways that could have a long-term effect.
Dealing with that alone would be enough to strain any organization. But for us, these challenges are coming at the same time that we are leading the charge on state and federal health reform, creating two new agencies with no new resources, and creating fundamental change in the way government services are delivered through our Transformation Initiatives.
So the question is, how do we do all that is before us? There is no going backwards -- the creation of the Oregon Health Authority is not only legislatively mandated, it is a crucial part of containing the cost of health care which will, in turn, contain the cost of public services. Rising health care costs are straining everyone and lack of access to affordable health care is literally killing people, so broad health reform must move forward. And to do all of this we must continue to advance the way we do our work.
Sometimes when organizations or people face challenge or stress, it is tempting to be risk averse and fall back into old and safe patterns.
But we don't have that luxury. Because the people of this state are counting on us to find a way to provide them the services they need in the most efficient way possible, we must keep moving forward with the things that are going to make us do our work better.
I believe this is an opportunity to test not only the tools we have learned through our continual improvement process, but the change in our culture that must happen in order to tackle change of this magnitude.
I have been so grateful for the feedback and emails I have received from DHS and Oregon Health Authority employees since the budget shortfall. Many of them are creative and innovative ideas on how to do our work better during a budget crisis. That is encouraging to me because our improvements count on employees being bold and empowered to be the drivers of change. I hope that everyone who has sent me an email with an idea has also talked to fellow employees and supervisors to find out what can be done. When the challenges are this large each and every one of us has a personal responsibility to do all we can to meet them.
I want to end this week by again thanking you, everyone, for your work, for all that you do for our organization and our state, and for the manner in which you are moving forward during these busy times. I also want to recognize the management service employees who received the news this week that they are being laid off as part of our workforce reduction. I know this was not good news for them or their families and I know all DHS and OHA employees are thinking of them.