The director of the Oregon Health Authority, Patrick Allen, has submitted his resignation, effective Jan. 9.
He did not give a reason for stepping down. On the campaign trail, Governor-elect Tina Kotek said she’d fire him over the health authority’s failure to provide Oregonians adequate access to health care for mental illness and treatment for addiction.
Allen, who is 59, suffered a serious medical emergency in January, when he fell and required hospitalization. He has been working while officially retired and drawing his pension, according to The Lund Report.
Allen has led the Oregon Health Authority for the past five years. Gov. Kate Brown tapped him for the agency’s top job in 2017 after a series of high-profile scandals rocked the agency.
“I brought the values that have guided me throughout my career — transparency, accountability, and the wise use of public resources — to the task of rebuilding public trust in OHA,” Allen wrote in his resignation letter.
Allen, alongside Brown, became synonymous with the state’s aggressive response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That response may well have saved lives. Oregon imposed an early lockdown and was one of the last states to lift public masking orders. And the state had a notably lower death rate for older adults from COVID-19 than most other states.
But the pandemic response that thrust Allen into the spotlight left him and Brown unpopular, particularly as the pandemic took a toll on the state’s education system.
Oregon has ranked especially poorly on measures of student learning loss during the pandemic.
Allen used much of his resignation letter to defend his record, and Brown’s, and to underscore the agency’s goal of ending health inequities by 2030.
“I have been proud to serve a governor who cares about health and health equity,” he wrote. “You have made hard choices that enabled us to save thousands of people in Oregon.”
Allen pointed, in particular, to Oregon’s high vaccination rates for communities hit hard by the pandemic: 81% among the state’s Latino population and 95% for people who identify as Black, African American or African immigrant.
“No state in the nation has posted a higher COVID-19 vaccination rate for the Black community,” he wrote.
Public health oversight is one of the Oregon Health Authority’s main roles. It also administers the state’s Medicaid program, the Oregon Health Plan, which provides insurance to about one in three Oregonians. In addition, the agency coordinates the state’s behavioral health system and runs the Oregon State Hospital, a secure psychiatric facility in Salem.