Via Senator Kirk Watson we wanted to provide a few articles in the news relating to health. This is not meant to be a political post, just informational.
On June 6, the Hogg Foundation featured a blog post written by Dr. Octavio Martinez, Jr., calling for community members to support the proposed medical centers in Central Texas and the Rio Grande Valley. According to included data, Texas’ current health care system is more costly and ineffective largely because today’s limited medical infrastructure produces specialists, rather than primary care doctors, and educates students with an outdated curriculum. For a solution, Dr. Martinez pointed to new medical centers at UT-Austin and UT-Pan American, which would deliver groundbreaking opportunities to transform Texas health by teaching a greater variety of skills, fostering an environment for collaborative research, and creating a more diverse medical care workforce.
On June 1, the Austin American-Statesman reported that Mayor Lee Leffingwell has withdrawn support for a November bond election, effectively ending the possibility of an urban rail system appearing on the ballot this year. Mayor Leffingwell noted too many questions remained about the urban rail proposal and its continued operation. Regarding other potential ballot initiatives, Senator Kirk Watson said, “We’re going through a process to evaluate a medical school in Austin, new teaching hospital and other community health care priorities…None of these goals was ever contingent on other efforts or projects.”
The Austin American-Statesman reported on June 4 that some leaders of Save Muny, a group dedicated to the preservation of the Lions Club Municipal Golf Course located in West Austin, argue that the university-owned course should be promised to the City of Austin by the UT Board of Regents before local tax money is earmarked for a medical school at the University of Texas at Austin. Many other community leaders have suggested that these two issues should be kept separate and resolved independently.
An April 26 feature in Alcalde Magazine highlighted efforts by the University of Texas at Austin’s Counseling and Mental Health Center to provide quality mental health care in the wake of an on-campus shooting scare in September 2010. Following national trends, the number of students arriving at the center with urgent mental health needs has risen by 80 percent, and approximately four students commit suicide per year. To maintain services, UT has hired more psychologists, partnered with community mental health providers, launched innovative outreach initiatives, and switched to a triage system to cut wait time.
On June 1, Austin YNN featured a video clip and article on mental health advocates’ work with lawmakers in preparation for the upcoming legislative session. Health officials described a need for improvement in Texas mental health care, pointing to the state’s national ranking as last in mental health funding. Additionally, the group cites that one in five Texans suffer from some form of mental illness. Mental health community leaders have begun a dialogue with legislators on next session’s budgetary decisions, and emphasized the need to educate new members on the state of mental health in Texas.
The Houston Chronicle reported on June 4 about the growing number of doctors using coordinated treatment and research methods to deliver better health care at lower cost. New team-based groups like the Accountable Care Coalition of Texas — launched under the Affordable Care Act as a pilot program projected to save $1 billion nationwide over three years — aim to serve 60,000 Medicare patients in southeast Texas. The Memorial Hermann Healthcare System in Houston also announced it would institute a similar organization with a team of over 200 primary care doctors.
An article published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on May 30 announced the groundbreaking of a $57.7 million emergency department slated to triple the ER space of Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. Hospital president Lillie Biggins referenced her long-term goal of expanding emergency services to meet the needs of a growing population. Texas Health Fort Worth’s new facility will feature a fifty percent increase in hospital beds, a training floor with simulation lab, and a follow-up clinic for elderly patients.
On May 29, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Minority Health published a report on cooperative work with the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health to study integrated physical and behavioral health care. Researchers believe integrated care is more effective and cost-efficient, and that complete wellness depends upon anunderstanding of how different types of health care are intertwined. The project also found that integrated care is an optimal treatment model for racial and ethnic minorities, historically affected by a wide range of health concerns.
On June 6, San Antonio Express-News reported on a federal spending bill that sets aside $450 million in Texas construction projects, largely for military hospitals in San Antonio and El Paso. The majority of the funds will go toward the creation of a military hospital at Fort Bliss in El Paso and the replacement of facilities at Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio. Noting the increase in health spending for veterans, a bipartisan group of Texas congressmen emphasized the need to provide benefits, services and programs for the state’s active duty military and civilian employees.
On June 5, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) issued a press release about Datapalooza, an initiative to harness medical data that could improve health care. Hosted by the Institute of Medicine, HHS, and other members of the Health Data Consortium, the forum will feature over a hundred innovative applications providing health-related technology and solutions to consumers, providers and public health leaders. Expanded public access to HHS medical data and internal efforts to modernize and simplify the department’s intricate data systems were also announced in the press release.