Ebony Clarke, who has household expertise with dependancy, plans to take a collaborative strategy to a high-profile job: addressing Oregon’s psychological well being and substance abuse disaster.
Authorities-elect Tina Kotick introduced Friday the appointment of Clark, director of the Multnomah County Well being Division, to guide the OHA’s behavioral well being division.
Clark has made her mark on behavioral and public well being in Oregon’s largest county along with her care by way of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a concentrate on vaccinating minority communities and increasing entry to psychological well being companies.
As the brand new Director of Behavioral Well being, she faces the duty of addressing Oregon’s psychological well being disaster and shaping state insurance policies and applications that can have an effect for years to return.
Oregon’s behavioral well being system is dealing with a disaster that features a excessive fee of dependancy and restricted entry to remedy and applications that may serve individuals and assist them recuperate.
Clark, 45, will depart Multnomah County on Feb. 3 and substitute outgoing Behavioral Well being Director Steve Allen, who started the job in 2019 and labored alongside OHA Director Patrick Allen, who took an identical job in New Mexico. Her appointment was amongst a number of different workers introduced by Kotek on Friday.
Clark is Kotec’s second-ranking medical officer. James Schroederthe brand new interim director of the Oregon Well being Authority, is the previous CEO of Well being Share of Oregon, the state’s largest Medicaid insurer.
Clark was director of the Multnomah County Division of Behavioral Well being, previously the Division of Psychological Well being and Habit Companies, from 2018 to 2020, when she turned interim director of the Well being Division. She was appointed Everlasting Director of Well being for the county in 2021. She has labored for the county since 2010 as Deputy Director and Director of the Youngsters’s Psychological Well being Care System.
Its enterprise portfolio is diversified. She helped set up COVID-19 vaccination clinics for low-income and deprived individuals, together with individuals of shade. Communities. Clark satisfied the Multnomah County commissioners to declare racism a public well being disaster in April 2021. Clark additionally helped launch the Multnomah County Behavioral Well being Useful resource Heart, which opened in December and serves greater than 1,000 individuals per week in downtown Portland.
“I’m honored and privileged to have been known as on to tackle this position,” Clark mentioned in an interview with the Capital Chronicle. “I do know it is time, and we’re in important occasions. What I am conscious of is that we’ve got to succeed. Now we have to see the outcomes that we’re in search of and we’ve got to have the ability to transfer ahead with actual options and significant impression. I do know it is a scary position.”
She faces an infinite job. Oregon has one of many highest charges of dependancy within the nation, and surveys normally rank the state among the many final by way of entry to remedy and companies.
Behavioral well being suppliers in Oregon are struggling to retain and recruit workers to fulfill calls for, each at Oregon State Hospital and in personal applications throughout the state. Hospitals sued the Oregon Well being Authority for leaving civilly obligated sufferers in personal hospitals for prolonged durations of time as an alternative of in a state hospital. The state hospital is topic to a federal courtroom order to confess people who find themselves in jail and who want remedy extra shortly in an effort to face felony expenses.
In the meantime, the system is rising. Oregon lawmakers have put aside $1.35 billion in 2021 in order that the state has extra sources, whether or not by way of housing services or different applications like incentives to encourage individuals to coach and enter the sector. Most of this cash is being allotted, however the state remains to be engaged on applications. Lawmakers say the state must do extra to assist Oregonians, whether or not by way of direct remedy or extra housing applications.
Clark mentioned options will be discovered inside communities throughout the state and that the state must be versatile.
She pressured that Oregon State wants a collective strategy because it appears to enhance the system.
“There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all strategy,” Clark mentioned. “The methods we devise and transfer ahead need to be versatile sufficient to fulfill the person. People are distinctive and sophisticated, and so we won’t take a cookie-cutter strategy to what we do. There actually, actually needs to be a collective strategy to what we do.”
In a farewell e mail to workers on Friday, Clark mentioned neighborhood connections are key to well being — and equity should stay entrance and middle.
“Everybody in our neighborhood deserves well being,” Clark wrote. “And that is what we assist members of our neighborhood entry and protect, particularly those that haven’t got entry to the instruments, connections, and companies that it requires.”
In interviews, individuals who have labored with Clark say she takes a collaborative strategy and listens for enter.
Former Multnomah County Chief Deborah Cavoury mentioned Clark is making efforts to incorporate enter from individuals who have confronted psychological well being difficulties when creating applications and insurance policies.
“She would not simply rant about it,” Kafoury mentioned. “I’ve already completed that.”
The Behavioral Well being Useful resource Heart is one instance of this strategy, Kafouri mentioned. The middle caters to homeless individuals combating psychological well being or dependancy crises, offering them with a secure place to get off the road for refreshment, bathe or eat. Software program info.
“That is simply one of many many issues I have been in a position to do,” Kafouri mentioned. “She walks her discuss. She is aware of the significance of involving individuals with lived expertise in creating applications and insurance policies that have an effect on them.”
In one other occasion, Clark created the Workplace of Client Participation for behavioral well being work within the county. The workplace conducts outreach and works with friends and people who find themselves customers within the behavioral well being system to amplify their enter.
Kavori mentioned the hassle helps be sure that “their voices aren’t simply an afterthought however are literally an essential a part of the dialog.”
Clark was born prematurely in Portland, and her mom used medication all through her being pregnant. Clarke had opioids in her blood when she was born and spent a part of her early childhood taking them to her adoptive dad and mom, kinfolk and hospitals earlier than reuniting her along with her mom at a residential remedy middle, in response to Posted profile Multnomah County. She attended her mom’s 12-step conferences when she was older and ultimately headed the county company that helped her mom.
Kevin Fitts, a longtime psychological well being advocate in Portland and the statehouse, mentioned Clarke’s work in Multnomah County — her background and life story — makes her a compelling candidate for the job.
“Her reside expertise is profound, and I feel it shapes her conscience,” Fitts mentioned. “She’s a cry of reality and I feel she has a noble dedication to being sincere and forthright and that is refreshing.”
Clark mentioned her story is considered one of her inspirations.
“It drives my dedication to doing the whole lot I can do to make this a greater Oregon for all Oregonians,” she mentioned.