Deschutes County mental health services aim for better access after oversight agency warning

Deschutes County is expanding mental health services after being warned it could lose money if it didn’t improve access to care.

In February, the county was placing people who requested routine mental health care on a callback list. Patients who were going through mental health crises got help immediately, but the waiting list to schedule routine care grew to more than 100 people by the beginning of February, according to records obtained by The Bulletin through a public records request.

Some patients waited 30 to 60 days for someone to call them back and schedule an appointment, said Jeff Emrick, program support manager for Deschutes County Health Services.

This raised concerns at the agency that oversees the state and federal funds the county had been getting. The Accountable Behavioral Health Alliance, or ABHA, realized the county was not meeting the state’s requirement to provide patients covered by the Oregon Health Plan with prompt access to mental health care.

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