Central Oregon DailyChavez-Deremer bill promotes mental health, substance abuse care for homeless

Chavez-Deremer bill promotes mental health, substance abuse care for homeless

Chavez-Deremer bill promotes mental health, substance abuse care for homeless

Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, R-Ore., is co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill aimed at addressing mental health and substance abuse care in the homeless community.

Chavez-DeRemer, who represents much of Central Oregon in the 5th District, said she has joined with Rep. Summer Lee, D-Pa., to introduce the DIRECT Care for the Homeless Act.

The bill mandates the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create a pilot program providing healthcare services directly to homeless individuals. 

Chavez-Deremer said in a press release she believes this pilot program can help individuals transition into safe and stable housing.

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“To tackle the homelessness crisis, I believe we need to take a different approach that breaks up the never-ending cycle of substance abuse, mental illness, and poverty,” DeRemer said in the release. “Unfortunately, we have failed to provide homeless individuals with the accessible and affordable health care treatment they need.”

According to DeRemer, the bill would provide the following:

  • Creates a four-year pilot program within HHS, which expands street medicine access for the unsheltered homeless individuals;
  • Applies to cities or counties that have 150 unsheltered homeless individuals per 100,000 residents, as determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD);
  • Prohibits providers within the program from being reimbursed for supervising the consumption of Schedule I drugs, including fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine;
  • Incentivizes workers to join the field by expanding Public Service Loan Forgiveness eligibility to community service officers and making medical students pursuing street medicine eligible for a pause on their student loan payments without accruing interest;
  • Requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to publish a study analyzing the effectiveness of the program; and
  • Includes provisions to improve safety and expand resources available at homeless shelters.
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