April 2019

Dear friends and neighbors,

For the past five years I have led the County’s budget process, and it is one of the highest responsibilities I have as County Chair. Every budget has been a reflection of our priorities and the hard choices we made, but this next one is going to be more difficult than usual. Like many jurisdictions throughout the state, Multnomah County is facing a “structural deficit” that will make tough decisions even tougher, and unfortunately, this will mean some painful cuts.

So what is a structural deficit?

The simple answer is that the cost of doing the County’s business is now higher than the revenue we have coming in.

The market indicators that define a strong economy like business growth and low unemployment may have positive impacts on some residents of Multnomah County but they do little to increase the County’s revenue.

This is because inflation and interest rates are rising beyond the 3 percent annual rate of our revenue growth and it ends up putting our budget in a vice, pressing on every dollar in every department.

While this pressure will likely mean cuts, it still means that our values will be front and center on every decision we make.

So just as in prior years, my choices will remain guided by my commitment to focus on core services, and investments that respond to crisis and keep the safety net intact; that invest in racial equity and that empower people to overcome the underlying causes of homelessness, mental illness and addiction.

Over the next two months, my team and I will be working hard to ensure that the final budget will continue to reflect our highest priorities, focusing on essential services with an eye to building a leaner and more efficient county government.


Deborah Kafoury

County’s mental health system welcomes new leaders, as agencies commit to change

Panel of mental health experts applaud incoming county mental health director Ebony Clarke

People with a history of mental illness are given little or no voice in how the behavioral health system functions.

The behavioral health workforce is underpaid and overworked. And too often the workforce doesn’t reflect and struggles to understand the diverse cultural communities they serve.

Panel of mental health experts applaud incoming county mental health director Ebony Clarke

State and local agencies, despite a mandate to improve the lives of those who are most vulnerable, often fail to coordinate or often even communicate — creating confusion, inefficient and ineffective use of resources and devastating service gaps.

But change is already coming.

Read more here.

Commissioners push state to require pharmaceutical-funded drug-takeback

Policy Manager Rhys Scholes, right, says best practice is to include sharps and drugs in take-back legislation.

Multnomah County Commissioners want lawmakers to pass a bill requiring drug manufacturers to provide free and safe disposal for unused medications. And if lawmakers don’t, the Commissioners said during a hearing Thursday, they’ll work to create a take-back program of their own.

Policy Manager Rhys Scholes, right, says best practice is to include sharps and drugs in take-back legislation.

The Oregon Legislature is conducting hearings on House Bill 3273, which would direct manufacturers of prescription drugs sold in the state to develop, implement and fund a drug take-back program that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality would oversee.

Read more here.

All-women Board celebrates Women’s History Month in Multnomah County

(Left to right): Kandice Jimenez, Andrea Paluso, Cherie Martin and Shannon Olive brief the Board of County Commissioners on efforts to improve women's quality of life in Multnomah County.

The board room was filled with a sea of purple Thursday as the all-female Board of Commissioners declared March “Women’s History Month” in Multnomah County.

Women’s History Month honors all the achievements of women, past and present, and acknowledges the work that still must be done to achieve gender equity. Multnomah County is dedicated to lifting women of every race, ethnicity, class, gender identity, ability and sexual orientation.  

Read more here.

Multnomah County to join state, other local governments for 2020 Census kickoff

Commissioner Lori Stegmann briefs constituents on the upcoming U.S. Census.

With Census Day just a year away, Oregon is well positioned to gain another representative in the U.S. House and to continue receiving nearly $14 billion per year in federal funding. But that all depends on a successful effort to tally the number of residents in every county across the state.

On Thursday, April 4, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners will announce the official start of the 2020 Census countdown with a resolution acknowledging collaborative efforts by the State of Oregon, Metro, Washington and Clackamas counties, and the cities of Portland and Gresham. The year-long awareness campaign leads up to Census Day on April 1, 2020 when the federal government conducts a complete count of all United States residents.

Read more here.

Saving a life is easier than you think

For the thousands of people diagnosed every year with life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, a cure exists. Over the past 30 years, Be The Match®, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program® has managed the largest and most diverse blood stem cell registry in the world.

Multnomah County is partnering with this life-saving organization to raise awareness, encourage our residents to join the registry and to help increase racially and ethnically diverse registrations.

Right now, thousands of patients are desperately searching for their genetic match; someone willing to donate life-saving blood stem cells to be their cure. The good news?  By joining the Be The Match Registry®, you can save someone’s life—and it’s easier than you might think.

But more racially and ethnically diverse donors are needed.

Patients are most likely to match donors who share the same ethnic background because genetic traits used to determine a match are inherited. So improving the ethnic diversity of the Be The Match Registry improves all patients’ odds of finding a life-saving match, regardless of their ethnic background.

Right now 77% of White patients vs. 57% American Indian or Alaska Native, 46% Hispanic or Latino, 41% Asian or Pacific Islander, 23% of Black patients, or 5% of mixed race patients will find their genetic match. When more people of color register, more lives will be saved.

Five steps to save a life:

  1. Register online – Answer simple questions about your medical history to make sure you meet health guidelines. You can take a look at the medical guidelines HERE to see a list of common health conditions, many of which allow joining the registry and some which do not.

  2. Receive a cheek swab kit by mail in about 3-7 business days.

  3. Swab your cheek and return the kit – Your sample will be tested and your genetic type will be added to the Be The Match Registry.  Results of your DNA test will only be used to determine if you are a match with a patient in need.

  4. Stay committed while you wait to be matched – Because of the genetic complexity of matching donors to patients, it could be several months or many years before you’re matched to a patient.

  5. Say “Yes” when asked to donate – Patients and their families are counting on you to keep your promise to donate if needed. You could be someone’s only hope for a cure.

The people affected by blood cancers are not strangers; they are our friends, neighbors and colleagues. One Multnomah County employee shared just how important Be The Match was to her family:

"In late 2016 my young adult son was diagnosed with Ph+ALL (Philadelphia Chromosome positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia) which is a rare subtype of the most common childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

One of the treatments is transplantation of blood stem cells from a genetically similar donor. Thanks to someone in Europe who joined a donor registry, my son received a transplant which provided him with a new immune system to better fight the leukemia.

Unfortunately Ph+ALL can be a particularly virulent form of cancer and it kept mutating to the point there were no viable treatment options. Although my son recently died from this cruel disease, I was given more than two years of time with him and he was given more than two years of life and the hope that he would live.

I urge you to at least consider registering with Be The Match. I will be forever grateful to the generous person who donated for my son."

Learn more about how you can save a life and join the registry today.

Questions?  Contact Be the Match

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