Legislative Interim Update, Feb. 14

During the 85th legislative period, Methodist Healthcare Ministries tracked roughly 1,400 bills, supported over 500 bills, and worked to assist the passage of 224 laws that affect access to health care for Texas families. Keep up to date on how those laws are being effectively implemented and funded as intended through our legislative updates.

Interim Updates

Upcoming Meetings & Events
Health Care Policy in the News


View our 2017 Legislative Agenda





Interim Updates

Texas awards $27.5 million for local mental health programs 
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) recently announced it is awarding up to $27.5 million in grant funds through two grant programs that support local mental health services and programs. The Mental Health Grant Program will award up to $12.5 million to justice-involved individuals (SB 292), and the Community Mental Health Grant Program (HB 13) will award up to $15 million. Methodist Healthcare Ministries informed all funded partners of the grants and assisted interested organizations with the application process (read more).

Congratulations to our partners Border Region Behavioral Health Center, Center for Healthcare Services, Gulf Bend Center, and MHMR Services for the Concho Valley for being among the 25 local mental health authorities selected by HHSC as awardees for HB 13. All selected organizations will begin providing services pending execution of contracts. Final contract terms will be negotiated over the next few weeks with anticipated start dates in April.

All 14 local mental health authorities who submitted applications under SB 292 were chosen to receive funding.

Congress passes continuing resolution (CR) to fund Community Health Centers 
After technically allowing the federal government to shut down for five hours on Feb. 9, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) that will keep federal programs running through March 23. The CR includes a two-year funding extension for Community Health Centers, with an increase of $600 million for the program over the two-year period. It also includes funding for the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program which funds residency programs in community health centers and adds an additional four years to the Children’s Health Insurance Program bringing the total CHIP funding period to 10 years. The CR increases the budget caps by $300 billion for fiscal year 2018 and fiscal year 2019 and provides nearly $90 billion in hurricane disaster relief for Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In Texas, more than 1.3 million residents were at risk of losing access to primary care services if the federal government had not renewed funding for community health centers. The budget impasse that began five months ago had forced many centers to freeze hiring, put off service expansions, and tap into financial reserves.

Methodist Healthcare Ministries releases bill summaries for new behavioral health laws 
Of the more than 1,400 bills tracked by our Policy & Advocacy department this past session, 34 bills impacting mental health services and funding were signed into law. View our bill summaries for behavioral health bills that impact programs and services for children, veterans, and homeless populations. In the coming weeks, we will share bill summaries on health care workforce shortage bills and women and children’s health bills.

Maternal mortality crisis in Texas 
Across the United States, maternal mortality jumped by 27 percent between 2000 and 2014. In Texas, researchers were stunned to learn that the maternal mortality rate had doubled between 2010 and 2012. However, the state’s maternal mortality rate is now a matter of public debate. Although the Department of State Health Services website currently shows that Texas’ maternal mortality rate was 35.2 deaths per 100,000 births between 2012 and 2015, agency officials now say that the number of mothers who died during that period is actually 30 percent lower — thanks to new methodology the state recently began using to calculate deaths. A study published by Birth this month analyzed CDC data from 2006 to 2015 and found that the state’s maternal death numbers are inflated. Marian MacDorman, a research professor with the Maryland Population Research Center and the Birth study’s lead author, stated that the new methodology is also flawed because it omits women who died after miscarriage or other complications that prevented them from giving birth.

Major causes of maternal deaths in Texas are often linked to overdose or a lack of access to health care before, during and after pregnancy. Texas moms often have difficulty getting prenatal care and other services they need due in large part to current state policies. Texas Medicaid typically doesn’t cover working-age adults unless they have a disability or are pregnant — making it harder for women to manage health conditions prior to pregnancy. Just two months after delivery, Texas Medicaid cuts off a new mom’s health care coverage at a time when it is needed most. Improving women’s access to health care will save the lives of mothers and ensure that more children get a healthy start in life.

Methodist Healthcare Ministries' advocacy partners share voter guides and toolkits 
In Texas, the most important election for many communities is the March primary election, due to the fact that the winning candidate often has no opposition in the general Nov. election. However, most Texans aren’t in the habit of voting in the critical March primaries. In 2014, only 10 percent of registered Texan voters took part in the Republican primary, and only 4 percent of registered voters voted in the Democratic primary. Primary campaigns provide the best chance for voters to declare which solutions and governing approaches best fit this moment in our state’s history. Below you'll find helpful voter guides and toolkits developed by Methodist Healthcare Ministries' advocacy partners:

The League of Women Voters has released its voter guide for the Texas primary election. The voter guide allows you to see the races on your ballot, compare candidates’ positions side-by-side, and print out a “ballot” indicating your preferences that you can take along with you on Election Day. Personalized information on candidates and issues, verification of registration status, and upcoming debates and forums can be found at vote411.org.

The Texas Hospital Association has helped increase engagement and participation in the March 6 primary election by sharing a voter toolkit with their hospital partners. The toolkit includes a sample CEO email to emphasize the importance of voting and provides resources and information to prepare for voting. It also contains imagery for emails, webpages, monitors, and digital posters for elevators and employee break rooms. Social media posts that advertise key deadlines and voter resources are included as well.

Texans Care for Children released a voter guide on children’s issues that state policy-makers will have to address if elected in 2018. The guide encourages voters to: ask candidates about urgent state policies, educate them on issues, and let them know what issues are important to them.

Important Primary Election Dates:

  • Early voting: Feb. 20 to March 2, 2018
  • Election day: March 6, 2018

The Nonprofit Council releases ‘State of the Nonprofit Sector’ report 
The Nonprofit Council released its “state of the sector” report, sharing an organizational snapshot of more than 421 nonprofits in Bexar County and 16 surrounding counties. Funded by Methodist Healthcare Ministries, the report concludes that nonprofit survey respondents provide services across a broad spectrum of areas; the largest are human services (22 percent); arts and culture (10 percent) and education. Human service organizations are the most financially stressed as they govern the gap between service costs and reimbursements. The most frequently expressed challenge, outside of funding issues, was the need to engage in community education and awareness. Read the report here.

Upcoming Meetings & Events

February: LUPE Mobile Clinic Calendar
La Union Del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) has released the monthly schedule for its Health on Wheels program. Funded by Methodist Healthcare Ministries, the Health on Wheels program seeks to broaden access to health care in the Rio Grande Valley — particularly in low-resource communities — by connecting border residents with local and accessible health care providers. View the schedule.

February 15: Medical Care Advisory Committee 
Texas HHSC’s Medical Care Advisory Committee will meet Feb. 15 at 9 a.m. in Austin, Texas to review the 1115 Medicaid Waiver DSRIP program amendments and mental health screenings. View the meeting agenda.

February 20: Mental Health Condition and Substance Use Disorder Parity Workgroup
Texas HHSC’s Mental Health Condition and Substance Use Disorder Parity Workgroup will meet Feb. 20 at 9 a.m. in Austin, Texas to hear updates from HHSC and the Texas Department of Insurance on parity violations. View the meeting agenda.

February 28: Members Sought for the Texas Brain Injury Advisory Council
Texas HHSC is accepting applications for membership to the Texas Brain Injury Advisory Council. The executive commissioner will appoint members to the council to serve a three-year term. Applications are due by Feb. 28. Download the application.

March 6: Texas Health and Human Services' Regional Community Partner Forum
Texas HHSC and the Community Partner Program (CPP) are hosting Regional Community Partner Forums around the state. Join them in San Antonio on March 6 for training and updates from HHSC, CPP, and YourTexasBenefits.com. Network with local community partners and develop relationships to connect clients to services. Learn more.

March 14: Fourth Annual San Antonio Food Bank Food IQ Nutrition Summit
The San Antonio Food Bank will host its fourth annual nutrition summit, "Preventing Food Waste: Initiatives to Decrease & Recover Wasted Food," March 14 from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The summit will propose initiatives to address food waste reduction from the government to households. The event is free to attend. Register now.

April 16-18: The Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy’s 7th Annual Symposium
Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy’s Annual Symposium will bring together professionals from across the state to participate in panel discussions, presentations and professional development workshops. The event will focus on creating change and improving adolescent health in Texas. Register by March 31 for a discounted rate. Scholarships are available to assist with travel costs. Register now.

April 17: Bexar County Joint Opioid Task Force Meeting
The Joint Opioid Task Force is seeking to decrease the number of opioid deaths in Bexar County and develop strategies to address the opioid crisis in a comprehensive manner. The next meeting will be held April 17 at 9:30 a.m. Meetings are held at the Robert B. Greene Pavilion (903 West Martin Street). Learn more.

Health Care Policy in the News

Texas Healthy Women Program
Abbott Requests Federal Medicaid Exemption for Texas Healthy Women Program (Texas Public Radio)
Gov. Greg Abbott appealed to the federal administration for federal money to help fund the state’s Healthy Texas Women’s program. The proposal, submitted through a federal 1115 waiver, would allow the state to receive and re-distribute federal Medicaid dollars for women’s health care services. Read more.

Foster Care
Texas Should Begin Implementing Parts of the Foster Care Order Now (Texans Care for Children)
On Jan. 19, Judge Janis Jack issued her final order instructing the state of Texas to improve child safety in the foster care system managed by Child Protective Services and overseen by the state legislature. The order was based on years of testimony in a federal lawsuit against the state of Texas. Read more.

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