Legislative Update, March 1
- Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer Convenes San Antonio Meeting with House Budget Chair John Zerwas and local leaders
- House Human Services Committee Discusses SNAP Work Requirements
- Methodist Healthcare Ministries Support School Mental Health Bills
- House Appropriations Subcommittee Adopts Healthcare Budget Items
- El Paso Lawmaker Proposes Texas Health Care Workforce Study
Bexar Legislative Delegation members meet with House Budget Chair John Zerwas in San Antonio to share top funding priorities.
Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer (D – San Antonio) convened a meeting Friday, Feb. 22., for local Bexar officials and business leaders, providing them with an opportunity to share their top legislative priorities with House Appropriations Chair John Zerwas (R - Richmond). County Judge Nelson Wolff and Mayor Ron Nirenberg welcomed Chair Zerwas and focused their remarks on the potential harm that would come to local government if Senate Bill 2 were to pass. SB 2 by Senator Paul Bettencourt (R – Houston), would limit the amount of revenue that local governments like cities, counties and special districts can collect without voter approval.
Specific to issues impacting Methodist Healthcare Ministries’ work on mental health, healthcare stakeholders asked for Chair Zerwas’ support to fund the construction of a new San Antonio State Hospital, estimated to cost roughly $300 million. Local mental health providers were instrumental in securing $14.5 million in 2017 to develop the plans for a new SASH facility and delivery system that serves a 54-county catchment area. Other issues brought forward included funding for public and higher education, medical schools and family protective services.
This week, the House Human Services Committee heard testimony on House Bill 285 by Representative Drew Springer (R-Muenster), prohibiting work exemptions for adults without dependents in the SNAP program. Currently, adults without children who are not able to work can receive SNAP benefits for up to three months every three years, but federal regulations allow states to waive this time limit in areas where jobs are not available. The bill would remove Texas’ waiver of the time limit and require all adults to receive job training and work for at least 30 hours a week.
The Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP), expressed concerns about the bill and how it could lead to higher rates of hunger by ending Texas’ flexibility in SNAP assistance to respond to disasters, local workforce conditions and needs of special groups, such as former foster care children. Young adults aging out of the foster system often struggle to find work and report high rates of hunger. HB 285 would prevent the state from aiding these young adults while they are looking for work. Methodist Healthcare Ministries supports public policies that work to reduce hunger for our neediest families, especially for those in rural and underserved communities.
Methodist Healthcare Ministries weighed in favorably on several bills in Tuesday’s House Public Education hearing that would increase mental health resources for students. Representative Shawn Thierry (D-Houston) laid out House Bill 198, which would permissively allow school-based health centers to provide mental health resources and services, and House Bill 204, which would include mental health in the required curriculum for public school students. Additionally, Methodist Healthcare Ministries supported House Bill 129, by Representative Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio), and House Bill 239, by Representative Jessica Farrar (D- Houston) which would increase mental health workforce in schools. HB 129 would require schools with 90 percent economically disadvantaged students to have at least one social worker or counselor on campus and HB 239 would allow social workers to provide services in schools.
One in five Texas school children live with a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety, but over 60 percent of students do not receive the mental health treatment they need. These bills would increase access to mental health services in school settings and help students address mental health challenges to improve grades, behavior, health and safety. Methodist Healthcare Ministries strongly supports legislation that enhances mental health services and support programs for students.
The Texas House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article II met this past week to adopt funding requests for several exceptional items brought forward by the state’s health care agencies. The committee adopted the Health and Human Services Commission’s (HHSC) request to provide an additional $72.6 million for Early Childhood Intervention (ECI), an additional $88.13 million for caseload and cost growth in Women’s Health Programs, an increase of $45.7 million to expand substance use treatment and an additional $3.5 million for housing and case management support for individuals with disabilities.
Methodist Healthcare Ministries appreciates the efforts of Chairwoman Sarah Davis (R-Houston) and members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article II, including Rep. Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio), to ensure adequate funding is allocated for Texas’ most vulnerable populations such as children, women and individuals with mental illness.
Representative Lina Ortega (D-El Paso) presented House Bill 80 in the House Higher Education Committee Hearing Wednesday, Feb. 27, which would require the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to conduct a study that would identify statewide and regional shortages in health professions, with emphasis on shortages in professions with doctoral degrees. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board would make recommendations on new and existing programs to meet the increased need for health professionals in a report to the Legislature by December 1, 2023.
Currently, Texas only meets 55 percent of the needed primary care workforce, 46.3 percent of the needed dental workforce and 35.5 percent of the needed mental health workforce. Adding to the shortage is the 34 percent of primary care physicians and 60 percent of psychiatrists who will be past retirement age by 2025.
If passed, HB 80 would allow the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to understand statewide and regional shortages and find solutions to mitigate the effects going forward. Supporting legislation that improves Texas’ healthcare workforce shortages in rural and underserved areas is a legislative priority for Methodist Healthcare Ministries.
Mar 4: Let the People Vote! Texas Rally for Medicaid Expansion (Austin)
Mar 4: House Appropriations Committee Hearing – Regulatory Agencies (Austin)
Mar 4: House Appropriations S/C Infrastructure, Resiliency & Investment (Austin)
Mar 4: House Defense and Veterans’ Affairs – Mental Health (Austin)
Mar 5: Viva San Antonio Legislative Day at the Capitol (Austin)
Mar 5: House Human Services Hearing (Austin)
Mar 5: Health Insurance Committee Hearing – Healthcare (Austin)
Mar 6: Recovery Day at the Capitol (Austin)
Mar 6: Senate Higher Education Hearing (Austin)
Mar 6: Texans Care for Children’s 13thAnnual Founders Luncheon (Austin)
Mar 7: House Appropriations Hearing (Austin)
Mar 28: Texas Impact Advocacy Day (Austin)
Mar 30: SASH Spring Thing 5K (San Antonio)
Apr 2: Immunization Advocacy and Rally Day (Austin)