PRINEVILLE, OR -- Governor Tina Kotek brought her One Oregon Listening Tour to Crook and Jefferson counties Wednesday. While in Madras, she visited the COCC campus expansion project, which will eventually house an early childhood education program. "Central Oregon is doing some amazing work," she told reporters Wednesday evening, "We have to develop the pipeline of early childhood educators who are there to support our families."
During her conversations with local leaders and others, she says she consistently heard two big challenges, "It’s housing and homelessness, and behavioral health, as the two leading issues. Hearing about how some of the housing resources and resources for people who are unsheltered have helped in the community, or what the plans are to increase services, was good to know. And then, on the behavioral health side, every community is dealing with a mental health and addiction crisis."
In Crook County, she took part in a behavioral health and addiction roundtable discussion, "The crisis related to fentanyl is significantly impacting the community. The ability to treat individuals who have a fentanyl addiction is very challenging, because of the nature of that addiction. We talked about the need for more services for young people." She added, "One of the things that’s important for me is to make sure that whether you’re urban, suburban or rural, you have equitable access to the resources. In a community like Prineville, you see incredible amounts of collaboration. So, I want to make sure when they have the dollars, it actually supports what they’re trying to do." And, she says, the solutions aren’t the same for every community, " I can tell you, every corner of the state is trying to help their residents with mental health issues, being homeless, substance issues. We have to make sure every community has what they need, and support what they’re doing locally."
Kotek started the day Wednesday at Macy Farms in Culver, "I wanted to learn more about carrot seed farming. They also do potato seeding and they do mint, which are obviously hugely important crops for Central Oregon." While there, Kotek also talked with the head of the North Unit Irrigation District about overall conditions amid the ongoing drought, "I do think the irrigation districts and the entire Deschutes Basin area are doing very smart things around new pipeline projects, better irrigation systems to conserve water. As a state, I want to support that. As Governor, I want to say, ‘that’s where we need to go.’ I don’t want to lose any more farmers to other states, or just going out of business completely, because we’re having a water issue."
This was Kotek’s first visit to Crook and Jefferson counties since becoming Governor. She says she is impressed with the amount of growth that’s occurred since her last time here. Kotek also noted the poor air quality and smoky skies are a good reminder to take steps to prevent human-caused fires.
She says she will have visited 26 counties by Labor Day on the One Oregon Listening Tour.