OHCA The Oregon Caregiver Spring Summer 2022

www.ohca.com SPRING/SUMMER 2022 The Oregon Caregiver 31 PROFILE and whose perspectives were different than a lot of other folks in the Legislature? You have a strong background in social justice. What role has diversity, equity, and inclusion played in your approach to shaping policies? I don’t use the words, “diversity” or the word “equity” or the word “inclusion,” rather the ability to help people understand a different perspective that is diverse, a different experience that is sometimes a lack of equity, and a different just overall conversation that we have not been able to be a part of. We have not been included in the conversation, so I don’t necessarily use those words, but very often I’m able to help people understand what this all means, in particular, to communities of color who have not had their voice heard in this process for a long time, if ever. What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from the pandemic? There is an under investment in behavioral health issues. It was significantly worse than I thought, even though I thought it was really horrible in the beginning. I literally remember being in meetings in the city council chambers telling people we do not have enough behavioral health systems in place. We do not have enough mental health workers. There are not enough providers; that is the problem, and this is prior to the Affordable Care Act. We are still sitting in that same place of not having enough providers, not to mention the fact that we have providers who are as traumatized as the rest of us are. How will the Legislature help Oregonians prepare for and support the rapidly growing aging population? I think it behooves us to pay attention to this issue. It is my job to bring the human aspect to the legislature, even though people have their areas of expertise that they bring, no matter what their age, they have their different areas of expertise that they bring to this work. The Speaker of the House chooses who gets to be on which committees because the Speaker wants to make sure people who bring that information to those committees can actually support the work. As a social worker and as somebody in the field to bring that information forward, it may not be something that everybody else focuses on, but it is something that’s extremely important, especially here in Oregon, knowing what that system suffered during this pandemic. Is there anything else you want your constituents to know about you? Overall, we have a system that doesn’t work for everyone. The pathway in for folks is not always clear, like the qualifications to be able to get state supported services or that type of thing; those are complex. I don’t think the average person knows or understands that. We’re older people now and we have aging parents. The long term care system is always different than you expect. If you look at Oregon compared to other states nationally, we have this really great home and community-based care type system. Thinking about it from the perspective of family members and consumers is something we’ve thought a lot about. The affordability component of long term care is huge as well as the navigability and just understanding how to do it right, making the system work for you and the needs of you and your family members. 