The Oregon Caregiver SPRING/SUMMER 2022 www.ohca.com 30 PROFILE Rep. Tawna Sanchez (D-North and Northeast Portland) POLICY MAKER Representative Tawna Sanchez (D-North and Northeast Portland) serves as the Oregon State House chief budget writer. She is Shoshone-Bannock, Ute, and Carrizo and grew up in Portland. She shares her life experiences and how she plans to humanize bills and the legislative process. What have you learned about Oregon’s long term care sector that you didn’t know before you took office? My mother was in a couple of long term care facilities before she died, so I did have some experience. I learned a little bit also about the dynamics of the levels of care. It’s very overwhelming for folks in terms of the reality of what you can pay for care and how much the state invests in that. I also know people who work in those fields, and I recognize how much work that is for people and how we significantly undervalue it. Certainly, during this pandemic, we’ve come to look at it much more clearly in terms of value. Oregon’s continued investment in Medicaid, long term care services, and supports is a top priority for OHCA members to ensure access to care for all. What did you learn during the 2022 session in your new role as chief budget writer in the Oregon State House? It is far more complex than most people realize, and there are really, really tough decisions to make. The overall the budget is for things that we must invest in and there are things that we still have to invest in. Generally speaking, we make significant investments in this state on many very important things, and they may seem nice to some folks, but on other levels, they are paying people to do the work that needs to get done. We are seeing so very clearly how much we expect from folks and yet we don’t invest as well as we possibly could in that work. We’ve seen that over and over again in these last couple of years, how bad and how hard that is for folks to do that work daily and know that they may or may not get paid to the degree that they should for it. What are your policy interests and why they are important to you? I’m a social worker and I manage early childhood, domestic violence, foster care, aging, disability, veteran services, and housing situations. Human services all the way around is so very, very important. We recognize that if we are supporting and investing in humans and the future generations, in the long run, we don’t have to spend as much money on the other end. The criminal justice system costs us a lot of money. The prison systems cost us a lot of money. Mental health and addictions cost us a lot of money; we haven’t invested in that really well and we haven’t invested as best we possibly could in our education system. I think investing in humans is one of the most important things that we can do. We invest in people’s lives to create a better opportunity or outcome for them in the long run. We should invest in health so that in the long run, people are not struggling with it. If people live better in the long run, then they can live better until the end of their lives. What made you decide to run for office? We don’t have Native people in the Oregon State Legislature. I thought about the experience that I’ve had over the years with the laws that we make in this state and the decisions that we make about resources. I know what the effects are of some of the laws that we make in this state, and I don’t know that people necessarily consider them from the perspective of a service provider, somebody who actually does this work. Recognizing the decisions that we made about child welfare things, the decisions that we made about criminal justice issues, those things were actually really important and maybe people were not seeing them from the perspective of somebody on the ground who does the work with people every single day. The decision was about, “How do I serve the Native community?” because we lacked representation and, “How do I serve the people in my district and my Native community?” who didn’t have a voice I think investing in humans is one of the most important things that we can do. We invest in people’s lives to create a better opportunity or outcome for them in the long run.