Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Leticia Van de Putte

For Immediate Release
September 26, 2007
Contact: Tiffany Champion, (210) 733-6604

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E-News from the Office of Senator Van de Putte

Dear Friend,

I hope this e-news finds you doing well. I am writing to send you an important update on the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and also to tell you about a myriad of valuable pilot projects for San Antonio. Our residents will have the opportunity to take advantage of several health initiatives to be implemented and evaluated in Bexar County in the coming year.

CHIP Update on New Bill in Congress
Congress has voted to adopt H.R. 976, the CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2007. CHIP is a low-cost insurance plan designed for children of working families who are unable to afford private insurance and earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid. The U.S. House and the U.S. Senate have agreed to increase the number of low-income children covered by CHIP, but the President is threatening to veto the bill.

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the bill later this week; and a strong bipartisan vote for the compromise could stop a veto, or at least strengthen the legislature in negotiations.

Texas ranks dead last in the nation when it comes to the percentage of our population without health care coverage, so this is an extremely important bill for our state. If you would like to let your U.S. Senators know how you feel about HR 976, you can find their contact information at: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/.

Haven for Hope
In Bexar County, a large number of people with mental illness or substance abuse problems are being "treated" through incarceration rather than through less-expensive options. House Bill 2524, which Representative Ruth McClendon (D-San Antonio) authored and I sponsored, authorizes the development of a pilot project in Bexar County, through which the Department of State Health Services will assist Bexar County in providing medical and mental health care through acute intervention and detoxification units.

It enables the non-profit Haven for Hope Partnership to establish and operate a public safety triage and detoxification center. The center will provide a mechanism for more appropriate and cost-effective treatment for homeless individuals with mental health and substance abuse problems. This legislation will have a tremendous impact on the State of Texas by saving lives and taxpayer dollars. The idea for the Haven for Hope was sparked by former Councilwoman Patti Radle and the leadership of San Antonio business legend, Bill Greehey. It is a partnership of the City of San Antonio, Bexar County, the University Health Systems and the Center for Health Care Services.

Reporting of Staph
The most common cause of skin infections in the country is a bacterium known as "staph," also known as Staphylococcus aureus. In the past, about 90 percent of staph infections occurred as a hospital-associated infection. However, in the last 10 years an antibiotic-resistant strain of staph bacteria has emerged, known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

No national or statewide tracking system of MRSA infections existed, which made the exact number and cause of the infections impossible to determine. We know that many of these cases are acquired outside of medical facilities, and more schools are reporting cases of this stronger infection. Even when treatment is available, the damage done to the victim's system is often irreversible leading to long-term health problems and sometimes death.

House Bill 1082, which Representative Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) authored and I sponsored, creates a pilot program for a data-gathering system enabling Texas and the national medical community to understand the growing problem of MRSA both inside and outside of healthcare settings and identify ways to reduce or eliminate outbreaks in the future.

Diabetes Registry
The rising number of diabetes cases in Texas poses a new challenge, especially in San Antonio, where we experience some of the highest rates of incidents in the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes has become more than twice as common as it was 20 years ago, and the Texas Diabetes Council reported in 2005 that 1.3 million adults in Texas had diabetes.

Although we have heard a great deal about the disease and its risk factors, we know very little that would help researchers spot patterns about the populations most at risk. House Bill 2132, which Representative Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) authored and I sponsored, creates a diabetes registry pilot program under the supervision of the Department of State Health Services and administered by the San Antonio Metropolitan Health Department.

A central diabetes registry will make it easier for doctors to understand the root causes of the disease and how to fight it; based on this information, we will learn which populations most need the precious resources available to help take preventive action against this debilitative disease and help save the precious lives of our loved ones.

As always, your input is crucial to me. Please contact my office with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

HOW TO CONTACT SENATOR VAN DE PUTTE
District Office
700 N. St. Mary's St. #1725
San Antonio, Texas 78205
(210) 733-6604
(210) 733-6605 - fax
leticia.vandeputte@senate.state.tx.us

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