Guest Opinion: Wrestling with the struggle to find a mental health care provider

·2 min read

In the 2021 Oregon legislative session, a mental health crisis was declared, and funding was authorized to expand access to mental health services for all populations with a focus on the Medicaid population.

In our community, people often struggle to find any provider accepting new patients and it is even more difficult to find someone who is a good fit for them. Every local paper has run stories describing the effects of this crisis on individual citizens.

For those enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan (OHP), it is nearly impossible to access because Pacific Source has a policy that significantly compounds the lack of access issue.

In the Salem area, OHP is served by Pacific Source CCO. OHP requires members to be assigned to a CCO unless they request and meet the criteria for an exception to be “open card,” meaning they are not assigned to a plan.

Pacific Source will not process credentialing applications for associate providers in private practice. As a result, anyone assigned to Pacific Source CCO cannot access providers to which other community members have access.

In Oregon, the Social Work Board currently has 1,437 active associate providers, and the Counseling Board has 1,942 providers in this category. This makes 3,379 providers that could help elevate the current mental health crisis in Oregon.

Oregon Administrative Rules specifically prevent a CCO from discriminating against a provider simply based on provider type. While they are not required to include any specific provider, preventing associate mental health providers on that basis alone is prohibited.

Despite significant attempts to resolve this with Pacific Source and Oregon Health Authority, the issue remains. No one is willing to take steps to ensure the CCO contracted by OHA follows Oregon Administrative Rules.

At the same time, OHA is spending millions of taxpayer dollars to recruit new therapists from outside Oregon.

This is a big problem and is not going to be fixed overnight.

Kelly Haider
Kelly Haider

But there are rules in place that can benefit the community immediately, and providers are ready to serve if only the current rules would be enforced and this organization would fulfill its commitment to the community.

Kelly Haider is a mental health provider based in Keizer and is registered with the Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Councilors and Therapists as an LPC associate and a rendering provider for Medicaid. You may reach her at kellyahaider@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: Guest Opinion: Wrestling with the struggle to find a provider

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