We are incredibly excited to share the third feature of our health equity series! Last Month, Cascade Health Alliance announced a significant investment in Klamath & Lake Community Action Services (KLCAS), a nonprofit that assists individuals who have been financially impacted by the pandemic. KLCAS’ services to Oregonians include assistance with rental paymentsutility paymentsparenting supports, and more.

Cascade Health Alliance has long been dedicated to breaking down barriers that cause health inequities by focusing programmatic investments on the social determinants of health. These determinants, like stable housing, food security, access to transportation, connection to support systems and community, fit a new idea of what “health” is. This idea of health truly encompasses the full systemic view of a person’s life, and how other factors affect their health.

We know that across Oregon, hundreds of thousands of people have been laid off or furloughed without pay, and therefore have lost their health insurance. Additionally, they may have medical bills from contracting COVID-19, which leaves little to no room to continue to pay rent, buy groceries, and afford basic necessities. Even worse, our unemployment system is falling behind due to the staggering number of claims, leaving many without unemployment insurance for months. In a message from Director Pat Allen of the Oregon Health Authority, he shared that the COVID-19 pandemic has had disproportionate impacts on Black and African American communities, Asian and Pacific Islander communities, Native American communities, and Latino, Latina, and Latinx people in Oregon. When our communities are hurting, it is our job to ensure that they are cared for.

Because Cascade Health Alliance knows that health is more than just ensuring you see your doctor at regular intervals, they made the decision to invest $50,000 in KLCAS so they could continue to provide basic necessities to Oregonians who may not be able to afford them right now. The donation provided by Cascade Health Alliance was used as matching funds by KLCAS to secure an additional $198,738 for rent relief funding through COVID-19 CARES Act funding.

Tayo Akins, Cascade Health Alliance CEO, stated, “There is a tremendous need for organizations like Klamath & Lake Community Action Services right now. With more of our neighbors losing their jobs and uncertain about their futures, now is the time to step up and support agencies that extend a firm hand of relief. KLCAS had been one of them for a long time, and we appreciate their hard work to help those most in need.”

This dedication to dismantling health inequities before, during, and after COVID-19 does not just benefit Oregonians receiving rental assistance, utility assistance, childcare assistance, as well as stellar health care coverage. When we provide the support that Oregonians need to keep them safe and healthy, we save the state and all Oregonians money, because fewer people end up in the Emergency Department.

Have you been wondering how COHO CCOs are able to make quick decisions on dynamic investments in key areas across the State, while still focusing on the needs of their community? COHO CCOs all have strong, aligned, policy priorities that include their dedication to decreasing barriers and discrimination in health care. These policy priorities guide not only our government affairs teams in working with legislators and other public officials on passing legislation that protects Oregonians on the Oregon Health Plan (OHP), but also guides our CCOs in making programmatic investments. We look forward to continuing our health equity series, in which we share the stories of our CCOs working together across the state, to ensure that OHP members are getting the care that they need on the ground, and the advocates they need at the Legislature.

Thank you, Cascade Health Alliance, for continuing to lead the effort in building and maintaining healthy communities! To read Cascade Health Alliance’s press release on the topic, click here.