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State is first to secure enhanced federal reimbursement under Medicaid, which covers one-third of Oregonians.

PMG FILE PHOTO: PETER WONG - U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, at an Aug. 9 appearance at Electric Island in North Portland. He praised a Sept. 12 announcement of federal approval of Medicaid reimbursement for services by mobile crisis intervention teams. Medicaid under the Oregon Health Plan serves 1.4 million people, about one-third of the state's population. Federal reimbursement will be 85% for the next three years.Oregon is the nation's first state to win approval of federal reimbursement for mobile crisis intervention teams under the Medicaid program.

The announcement by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was praised by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and Gov. Kate Brown. Medicaid supports services to low-income people under the Oregon Health Plan, which covers 1.4 million recipients, about a third of the state's population.

As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees Medicaid and other big federal health insurance programs, Wyden secured planning money in the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act for states to set up mobile crisis intervention teams. Oregon is the first of the 20 states that got grants to qualify for federal reimbursement at a rate of 85% (the rest from the state) for the next three years.

Oregon pioneered such services with CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Street), which the White Bird Clinic in Eugene created back in 1989.

Portland Street Response is run by Portland Fire & Rescue. Washington County has teams consisting of a sheriff's deputy and a mental health technician. Clackamas Mental Health Clinic also has a mobile team.

Wyden said after the announcement:

"In the true spirit of the 'Oregon Way' focusing on smart solutions, CAHOOTS has long proven a success at de-escalating these crises by getting people the mental health help they need without involving law enforcement.

"That stepped-up federal investment makes it much easier and cost-effective or local communities to build CAHOOTS-like programs tailored to their needs. And I'm going to keep working with the state and the federal government to ensure Oregon cities and counties interested in this fresh approach to crisis response continue to get the resources they need."

Wyden's younger brother, Jeff, had schizophrenia and died 20 years ago. Their father, Peter Wyden, wrote a book, "Conquering Schizophrenia: A Father, His Son, and a Medical Breakthrough," his last published before Peter Wyden died at age 74 in 1998.

Gov. Brown also weighed in during a Sept. 12 conference call with Wyden and federal officials.

"Oregon's model for community-based mobile crisis intervention teams is centered on the value that a behavioral health crisis should be met with a behavioral health response," she said in a statement afterward.

"This investment will be a game changer for our state, enabling us to provide mental health services that will reach Oregonians in communities across the state and that are culturally, linguistically and developmentally appropriate. We are incredibly grateful to our federal partners for supporting and investing in the building of our behavioral health crisis response system."

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