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OHSU receives funding to launch behavioral health services coordination effort

The Oregon Legislature provided $1.5 million to begin planning for the urgently needed resource
A psychologist takes notes as a teen speaks during a mental health meeting.
A psychologist takes notes as a teen speaks during a mental health meeting. Oregon Health & Science University will receive $1.5 million to develop plans for coordinated behavioral health services throughout the state. (Getty Images)

Oregon Health & Science University will develop a plan to coordinate available behavioral health services statewide, thanks to $1.5 million in funding passed by the Oregon Legislature last week.

With this funding, OHSU will develop a proposal and plan for the creation of a coordination center for acute and residential behavioral health services across Oregon. The center will be supported by a dashboard tool that will provide real-time data on facility capacity and available placement options for behavioral health patients, both children and adults.

OHSU will work with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), the Oregon State Hospital, community residential behavioral health providers, hospitals and health systems to develop a plan for the center and dashboard.

Matthias Merkel, M.D., Ph.D. A person with black framed glasses and facial hair, smiling.
Matthias Merkel, M.D., Ph.D. (OHSU)

“This will require unprecedented collaboration and a willingness to think differently in order to better connect Oregon’s fragmented and under-resourced behavioral health services, improve access for Oregonians, and support providers at every level of care,” says Matthias Merkel, M.D., Ph.D., OHSU senior associate chief medical officer for capacity management and patient flow, and professor of anesthesiology and perioperative medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine. “We are excited to partner with community behavioral health providers and the OHA to develop a proposal that will help improve our collective understanding of Oregon’s behavioral health utilization and maximize the impact of our infrastructure for Oregonians." 

Partners will work to develop a plan to present to the Oregon Legislature during the 2023 session; the goal will be to secure funding to put the plan into action.

This effort is a continuation of OHSU’s leadership in improving coordination and information sharing across the institution and around the state.

In 2017, OHSU opened OHSU Mission Control, which uses deep-learning technology to provide OHSU staff with real-time data that help them make decisions about how to use OHSU’s limited bed capacity to serve the most patients.

Peter Graven, Ph.D. (OHSU) a person with light hair, smiling.
Peter Graven, Ph.D. (OHSU)

During the pandemic, OHSU partnered with OHA, hospitals and health systems statewide to create a capacity tracking tool that provides real-time hospital census data to inform hospitals about inter-hospital transfer options for patients. The system centralized information-sharing efforts and improved coordination of critical care resources available across the state, as the number of critically ill patients, including those with COVID-19, surged; the data also informs hospitalization forecasts produced by Peter Graven, Ph.D., director of the OHSU Office of Advanced Analytics, which have helped inform Oregon’s public health response to coronavirus since February 2020.

And, in 2021, OHSU initiated the creation of the Oregon Medical Coordination Center, working together with OHA and other health systems in the Portland metro area to better serve Oregonians who need a higher level of critical care than is available in their communities. The center initially coordinated among Portland’s larger health systems, which provide the state’s highest level of critical care services, and it now coordinates across the entire state in an on-demand function.

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