BEND, Ore. - Rep. Greg Walden was at St. Charles-Bend for over an hour Friday morning talking to a dozen health professionals. That includes, doctors and psychiatrists, all with their own issues they face and changes on the horizon with the affordable care act.
"Its a great education to be able to sit down with these professionals in our community providing health care and learn first hand from them -- the inequities, the problems, the silly rules that are in place," Walden said.
Taking a break from Washington to visit the people of Central Oregon, Walden gets a heavy dose of our area's health problems.
One of the biggest topics brought to the table: more room and more services for pediatric mental health.
"Pediatric mental health services and prescribers and in-patient beds, all of which we are struggling very much with in Central Oregon, in terms of access and huge need that goes unfulfilled," said Logan Thomas Clausen, a pediatrician with Central Oregon Pediatric Associates.
"When there are only 40 beds in the entire state of Oregon -- and they are all in Portland on a waiting list, this is not good," Walden said.
The Affordable Care Act was also brought up. More insured people could mean pent-up demand.
"You have 45 million people whose teeth are falling out of their mouth because they haven't had health care who are now going to get health care. That's 40 million people," said Chris Richards, an emergency department physician with St. Charles-Bend.
But it's funding for enough primary care physicians to care for the 40 million people that has some doctors worried about the future of health care.
"We're still griping about the Constitution 250 years later, we're still griping about Medicare 50 years later," Richards said. "We're going to be griping about the Affordable Care Act for a long time."
Walden said, "There's some train wrecks that are going to occur here that could have been avoided, should be avoided, and still can be avoided."
Walden also recently re-introduced a bill he believes will create jobs and clean energy in Crook County.
The bill allows Prineville to use about 5,000 acre-feet of water from the Prineville Reservoir. Walden says it will help attract new tech businesses and provide water to homes there.
The Central Oregon Jobs and Security Act unanimously passed the House last year, but it never got a vote in the Senate.
"The (House) Resources Committee unanimously approved the bill this week," Walden said. "We hope to have it on the floor next week or in September when we return.
"There's some issues people have raised, they want to dedicate the absolute last drop in that reservoir that's unallocated to go down that river -- and that makes me a little nervous."
Opponents also say it will have negative impacts on fish and wildlife in and along the Crooked River. However, Crook County and Prineville leaders say the bill is vital to the community.
Walden wrapped up his visit Friday afternoon with a stop at Madras Airport, to talk with Erickson Aviation about its move and expansion plans there.