ENTERPRISE — In May, the Wallowa County commissioners voted to hand over the county’s mental health authority to the state level at the Oregon Health Authority.
What does that really mean for Wallowa County? Very little, according to Wallowa Valley Center for Wellness Executive Director Chantay Jett, saying it essentially just eliminates a middleman.
“That’s just it. Nothing really changes. Honestly, there is really no changes,” she said. “It’s positive. It takes out the county, who has had a big administrative burden (on) them.
“The service delivery doesn’t change. The relationship with Oregon Health Authority doesn’t change. And how we are held to compliance standards does not change.”
In fact, Jett said what the county’s basic service in being a mental health authority was to be a “holding tank” for funding to be sure the center was in compliance.
Even the communication stream with the state will not change.
“We are still reviewed in the same way. It was a pass-through of the funds having the counties be involved and having the county serve as the mental health authority,” she explained. “Now it just takes out that middle person, and we are just dealing now directly with the state.”
Jett explained in an email what happened when a county transfers control to the state.
“A county government that chooses not to operate or contract for a community mental health program (CMHP) is not a local mental health authority (LMHA). The term LMHA becomes moot, and OHA takes responsibility for direct oversight of the Community Mental Health Program,” Jett wrote. “In this case, OHA is contracting directly with Wallowa Valley Center for Wellness, a private nonprofit to continue functioning as the local Community Mental Health Program.”
She cited Douglas, Klamath and Curry counties as having made this move in the past decade, with positive results.
“I haven’t spoken with them directly, (but) we sit in a lot of state meetings together,” Jett said, referencing the other counties. “I haven’t heard any negative comments from them regarding contracting from OHA. This has come up in conversion, just not direct conversation. It seems to work fine.”
The center assists about 900 people in Wallowa County annually, Jett said.