That looks infected

Will somebody please tell me what the heck is going on with the Oregon state health department? We've known it's a bad scene since the building permit guy who was running it fumbled everything having to do with Covid. But in the last few days, some really disturbing things have been exposed under some turned-over rocks, and they show that the dysfunction hasn't improved with his departure.

For one thing, it turns out that the state bureaucrats can't actually manage to get their jobs done, and so they have been paying mid-eight figures a year to a consulting firm.

What is clear from invoices released to WW is that a series of crises have caused OHA to lean hard on Deloitte, relying on outside contracts to do work that overwhelmed state employees apparently couldn’t. All told, between the three biggest contracts, Deloitte was paid $57 million last year alone....

For the first three months of 2023, OHA was still paying Deloitte over $5 million per month on a pair of contracts to help the agency respond to the pandemic. “OHA staff lack the specialized technical experience and expertise,” the contracts explain, and ask consultants to pick up the slack. Together, the contracts list over a dozen broad tasks, from coordinating community events to staffing phone lines, but offer few details about why the state needed high-priced consultants to do them.

The invoices break down costs by broad topic area and role, which range from “analysts” being paid $245 per hour to top directors earning $395 per hour. The bulk of the work on the behavioral health contract, which was signed in June 2022, went to “business analysts” earning $280 per hour....

Initial invoices for the behavioral health contract showed the money being spent primarily on Measure 110-related tasks. Heider said specific tasks included creating “funding templates” for grantees and crunching data.

Since then, invoices show consultants have taken on new projects, including “workforce,” “social determinants of health,” and the state’s troubled “aid and assist” system, which relies on the overburdened Oregon State Hospital to treat all the state’s criminal defendants too mentally ill to stand trial.

And there’s more to do on the horizon....

You can read the whole thing here. Heck of a way to run a state government. But don't worry, our politicians, like Kate Lieber and Lew Frederick, are watching over it all. And Khanh Pham! It will all be fine.

Which brings us to the other disturbing thing. Guess who's been a go-between between the state and the cozy consultant? Why, none other than the governor's wife.

That contract, which WW previously reported on, was worth a total of $21.5 million dollars, is under new scrutiny after First Lady Aimee Kotek Wilson’s calendar revealed she’d been meeting regularly with Deloitte officials last year (“First Priority,” WW, May 1). Her office said Kotek Wilson was not involved in contract negotiations and was just using the high-priced consultants to organize a behavioral health “roundtable.”

That gal gets around. She's been playing footsie with the Providence health care suits, too.

For instance, Kotek Wilson’s calendar shows at least six calls or meetings with Dr. Robin Henderson over the past 15 months. Henderson is CEO of behavioral health at Providence Health & Services Oregon.

Providence is in the middle of at least two pressing behavioral health issues. The first is whether Multnomah County should spend $25 million the Legislature recently allocated for a new sobering center.... Providence has also been unsupportive of another behavioral health initiative: the development of a statewide “mission control” system that Oregon Health & Science University developed to bring transparency to the availability of psychiatric beds, according to OHSU’s report to the Legislature.

That is quite a smell right there. And although the headlines have mostly centered on whether Mrs. K. should get a state office and a salaried flunky, this activity is far more troubling. It would look pretty bad even if she were doing this solo, out of her car. 

We also learned this week that the First Lady hasn't signed any of the state conflict-of-interest disclosure forms that you might expect to see filed in a situation like this. 

One example of a potential conflict: Last year, Kotek Wilson joined the steering committee of Pathways to Resilience, a group that seeks to “help states and communities advance trauma-responsive policies.” That sounds pretty benign, but according to Pathways’ website, it gets its funding from Aurrera Health Group, a national for-profit healthcare consulting firm based in Sacramento. Aurrera specializes in Medicaid and Medicare policies and programs, which are a huge part of state budgets. 

Governor Kohoutek, who's been in office for 16 months and change, says the happy couple are waiting to hear what the state ethics commission says before the Mrs. signs anything. But I dunno, if you were trying to show everyone that things are totally on the up and up, wouldn't you go ahead and file every disclosure form in sight, and let the ethics people tell you later that you didn't have to? Instead, they're waiting to figure out what the bare minimum disclosure is, and that's what the public will get. Someday.

Something is not right here. There's all kinds of money sloshing around, and an appearance of at least potential impropriety. Maybe the U.S. attorney, Natalie Wight, should take a look at it. Ha! Ha! Only kidding. I'm sure Ms. Wight's counting down the days until Saint Wyden makes her a federal judge. Until then, waves will likely not be made from that quarter. 

Or maybe the state attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, should investigate. Okay, I'll quit with the jokes. The A.G.'s already been a judge, and is about to retire as a five-star general in the Army of the Status Quo. Plus, she's already pretty booked investigating the OLCC and La Mota. I wonder how those are going.


  1. Kotek Wilson apparently hasn't signed/filed any of the State-mandated workplace policy documents necessary for State employment either:

    I've been following this story pretty closely. Tina has been trying to bully her way out of this "rules for thee but not for me" conundrum ever since the "Office of the First Spouse" thing came to light. The punted on that but apparently the infrastructure to keep Kotek Wilson on the payroll without any kind of citizen oversight is now well-entrenched.

    1. Is she getting paid by the state? I thought not. But even so, it would be nice to know what's in it for her at the "roundtables."

    2. I don't think she's getting paid by the State but she's sure acting like a de facto Chief of Staff... I've also read reports that, like Tina, she's a bully (viz. raft of staff departures from the Gov's office). Salem being what it is, I'm sure there's a "confidential" consulting agreement or two underneath the top layer of trash.

  2. Hiring a consultant is an open admission that you’re over your head and your staff is completely adrift.

  3. I grew up in Chicago in the days of Richard J Daley and a series of governors who spent more time in prison than Springfield. When I moved to Oregon I thought I left all that corruption behind. Little did I know I entered the Premier League.

  4. Silly me, I thought the serious mental health crisis was just folks in tents.

  5. "Initial invoices for the behavioral health contract showed the money being spent primarily on Measure 110-related tasks. Heider said specific tasks included creating “funding templates” for grantees and crunching data." WTF does this even mean? What are they funding, crack pipes and needles? Getting a cut of the drug trade and finding ways to steer it into their slush funds? One wonders.

  6. Even if KW hasn't filed any disclosure statements, Tina is required to do so herself for the same [potential] conflicts under the relative clause. Did she do that?

    OHA needs to be stripped back down to OHD for starters.

  7. Has OLCC stopped their legislative bribery program or was it just temporarily suspended?

  8. The inmates are now running the asylum and the credentialed staff is on leave.

  9. Sounds about right; contractors, consultants & NGOs all the way down!

    Suck up all those dollars before anything can change or be planned by the govt. to recognize and seize any opportunity to plan for a future or better in an environment of atomized none-too-informed liberal subjects & bourgeois politicians that love ribbon cuttings and photo ops allergic to responsibility on a short money-loaded election cycle,

  10. Deloitte makes a fortune off of the State. OHA is not the only agency to contract with them.

  11. With sharing gym facilities with both active and retired top level managers with the State of Oregon, I found most were intellectually suited for blue collar positions... at best.


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