2023 Oregon State of Reform Health Policy Conference

Personalization & Engagement
2 min read
Michelle Izumizaki
November 30th, 2023

Portland again played host to Oregon State of Reform’s annual health policy conference. Key themes included behavioral health access and workforce, data integration and interoperability, social drivers of health, and state-level Medicaid innovations.  

A conference throughline was behavioral health workforce needs. Like many states, Oregon faces a severe shortage of behavioral health care services. Multiple breakout sessions discussed the lack of adequate care options and the prevalence of polysubstance use as additional challenges painting the behavioral health (BH) landscape. Speakers across sessions outlined strategies for solutions, like general fund allocations to subsidize supervisory roles in BH work, student loan reimbursement programs, and reduction of barriers to education and credentialing.  

In one session, Representatives Rob Nosse (D-Portland), Ed Diehl (R-Stayton), and Thuy Tran (D-Portland) discussed priority 2024 bills. Issues include health care costs, hospital safety, school-based health centers, pharmacy benefit managers, insurance mandates, and behavioral health workforce shortage solutions. In keeping with the day’s general theme, the lawmakers also addressed Measure 110, Oregon’s landmark ballot measure which decriminalized certain classes of drugs, funded community based behavioral health services, and making treatment for substance use voluntary instead of mandated. Potential solutions included funding more detox centers, developing laws around public use of substances, and re-criminalizing use outright.  

Regence’s Heidi Kriz, Director of Medical Policy, spoke on data integration and interoperability alongside Briar Ertz-Berger, Medical Director of Social Health and Quality Management at Kaiser Permanente, Carly Hood-Ronick, Chief Executive Officer of Project Access NOW, and Richard Gibson, Medical Director of Comagine Health. They discussed how systems that talk to each other – from providers, to payers, to community-based organizations (CBOs) – can help keep people safer and healthier.  

Kriz spotlighted Regence’s innovative use of Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) to enable faster electronic prior authorization and communication between providers and payors about members’ benefits. FHIR is free to all to use and maintains a universal data standard, meaning that it will meet compliance requirements across broad data use cases. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has funded further innovation of FHIR through the Da Vinci Project and has begun utilizing the system in its own data collection. With FHIR, Kriz says she “envision[s] a world where we can all communicate with CBOs and anyone caring for that patient can access that data”.  

The Regence Health Policy Center will continue to be a State of Reform sponsor into the new year, including the 2024 Washington State of Reform Health Policy Conference on Jan. 5.  

Michelle leads Washington state’s policy initiatives and develops strategies for Cambia’s Behavioral Health objectives. Prior to joining Cambia, Michelle was the Senior Policy Analyst for the Washington State Department of Health analyzing and advising state leadership on public health policies. Michelle brings with her a background in health advocacy, public health, and private philanthropy.