Gov. Tina Kotek on Thursday announced the appointment of Juliana Wallace to become her office's behavioral health initiative director. (Photo by Julia Shumway/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

A long-time Oregon behavioral health professional who rose through the ranks in Portland-area programs is joining Gov. Tina Kotek’s office.

Juliana Wallace will become the administration’s behavioral health initiative director on Sept. 5, Kotek announced Thursday. 

In her last role, Wallace was the senior director of mental health and culturally specific services at Central City Concern, a Portland nonprofit that provides an array of services to access housing, health care and recover from crises.

Her career began at the Portland-based nonprofit Outside In, where Wallace worked with homeless youth for 10 years and managed the StreetRISE Project. The federally funded program helps youth access housing and behavioral health care as they transition into adulthood. She also has served as the director of services at Unity Center for Behavioral Health, a psychiatric hospital in northeast Portland.”Oregonians deserve a coordinated, accessible behavioral health system that meets them where they are and matches them with the appropriate level of care that they need,” Kotek said in a statement. “We have a ways to go to achieve this vision, and I am grateful that Juliana is bringing her years of experience and expertise to help us move this critical work forward.”

Wallace’s appointment comes amid a behavioral health and addiction crisis in Oregon. The state has long been an outlier in the nation, with residents struggling to access care. Fentanyl addiction and overdose deaths have increased on the street, with no signs of slowing down.

Kotek has made the behavioral health and homelessness crisis among her top priorities. She has shown a preference for tapping homegrown behavioral health professionals who are already familiar with the state’s complex system, which experts and advocates agree is fragmented and overly complex.

In January, Kotek appointed Ebony Clarke, director of the Multnomah County Health Department, to lead the behavioral health division in the Oregon Health Authority.

Wallace also has been an adjunct professor at the Portland State University School of Social Work for the last five years.  

Kotek’s office did not respond to questions about Wallace and her salary by the end of day Thursday. 

Oregon Capital Chronicle

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

Ben Botkin covers justice, health and social services issues for the Oregon Capital Chronicle. He has been a reporter since 2003, when he drove from his Midwest locale to Idaho for his first journalism job. He has written extensively about politics and state agencies in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon. Most recently, he covered health care and the Oregon Legislature for The Lund Report.