James Schroeder, former CEO of Health Share of Oregon, used his first day in the top state health role to lay out his top three priorities.
PORTLAND, Ore. – With a new year comes new appointments in key positions, including the Oregon Health Authority. James Schroeder has officially stepped into the role and is already targeting some of the biggest issues affecting Oregonians.
On his first day in leadership, Schröder identified his top issues as affordable health insurance, access to housing, and mental health care.
Schroeder began his career as a family physician but most recently served as CEO of Health Share of Oregon before Gov. Tina Kotek appointed him to the OHA director role.
Schroeder replaces Patrick Allen, who left the position on Jan. 2 after five years in the lead to become New Mexico Secretary of Health.
Setting the stage for his time at the agency’s helm on Jan. 10, Schroeder outlined what he sees as the state’s main shortcomings: hospitals overwhelmed with respiratory virus patients and others not being discharged due to mental health issues or long-term may need care. He also blamed trigger substances like methamphetamine and fentanyl for worsening mental health problems and causing death on the state’s streets.
Schroeder also identified deficiencies in the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s Medicaid insurance program. He expressed concern about people being denied insurance coverage because of minor changes in income. He also urged other agencies to fill the gap as federal pandemic funding continues to dwindle.
Under his leadership, the new director set the following goals for OHA:
- Maintain OHP coverage for those who have it and ensure vulnerable families have options when funds for the pandemic run out.
- Implement the state’s updated Medicaid program.
- Help communities across the state develop behavioral health care that can meet the specific needs of their communities.
Schroeder wants OHA to place a greater focus on providing preventive medicine, such as screening and immunizations, to at-risk populations and make these services more accessible to those enrolled in OHP. Part of this commitment to preventive health is the elimination of health inequalities.
Much of this work is underpinned by the second goal that Schröder set out. The state’s updated Medicaid plan is good through 2027 and does a variety of things. It aims to provide more services to historically disenfranchised groups and the homeless. It is also designed to ensure people can maintain their insurance coverage despite temporary changes in their eligibility and improve residents’ overall quality of life.
Schroeder holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado and a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska. He also completed a Community Health Leadership Program at the University of Washington and an Executive Leadership Program at Harvard Business School.