OHA Increases Air Conditioning Unit Distribution

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has stepped up distribution of air conditioning units to individuals most at risk for heat-related illness, while also offering tips for staying cool during extreme-heat conditions.

In addition, the agency is reminding Oregon employers of a rule that requires them to take steps to keep workers safe against the dangers of high heat. Such steps must be taken when the temperature equals or exceeds 80 degrees.

The National Weather Service is forecasting increasing temperatures through the week. They’re expected to get above 100 degrees in Pendleton, Redmond and the Portland metropolitan area by Tuesday, with Medford reaching 108 degrees. Temperatures are expected to stay above 100 in all parts of the state through at least Friday.

The program offering air conditioning units to vulnerable Oregonians, including older adults, homebound individuals and those with medical conditions exacerbated by high-heat events, was created following passage of Senate Bill 1536 during the 2022 legislative session. The bill allocated $5 million to purchase air conditioners for high-risk Oregonians who are eligible to receive medical assistance through OHA, Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) or Medicare, or have received any of these services in the past 12 months. The law also allows the units to be installed in homes even if they’re not allowed in homeowner or renter agreements as long as they don’t pose a safety hazard.

Over the weekend, OHA – with coordination and support from ODHS – delivered about 500 AC units with the help of three community-based organizations: Portland Open Bible Church, Rockwood Community Development Corporation and Somali American Council of Oregon. OHA is procuring an estimated 3,000 units this summer and has received about 1,000 to date. OHA will be working with more community-based organizations on distributing AC units in the days to come.

Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs) can directly purchase AC units and assist with any increased electric bill costs for their enrolled OHP members through their flexible services offerings. Members enrolled in a CCO can call member services to inquire about flexible services. 

“Climate change has made extreme heat events the rule, not the exception, during Oregon’s summer months,” said OHA Director Patrick Allen. “These air conditioning units are a necessary step for building resilience to this health threat, particularly for those most vulnerable to heat exhaustion, heat stroke and death.”

Source: Oregon Health Authority

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