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May 25, 2004     (512) 463-0300

Senate Finance Committee Continues Reorganization Review

AUSTIN - The Health and Human Services programs in Texas are being reorganized into four separate agencies and today, May 25, 2004, the Senate Finance Committee continued reviewing how that reorganization is progressing.

The Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, or DARS, is one of those new agencies. Its new commissioner, Terry Murphy, told committee members that four agencies are combined under the DARS umbrella. Those are the Texas Rehabilitation Commission, Texas Commission for the Blind, Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and Interagency Council on Early Childhood Intervention. Murphy said that they are listening to the clients of those old agencies, to get their input on how services can be delivered more quickly and efficiently. He added that there were some concerns among the staff during this merging of agencies, but that those were being addressed.

The newly-created Department of Aging and Disability Services, or DADS, is responsible for pulling regulation of nursing homes, state schools, long-term care facilities, mental retardation and Medicaid Waiver programs under one roof. Commissioner Jim Hine described how the agency was being structured and which employees were responsible for which programs. DADS is making a special effort to help people who are dual-diagnosed, that is, people who need two or more services. When asked by Senator Judith Zaffirini how they were ensuring that clients didn’t “fall through the cracks,” he said that properly assessing each client’s needs was an important part of tracking their progress.

Thomas Chapmond, Commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services, testified that case loads for child protective services continue to grow, but that payments for foster care are growing at a rate lower than expected. He also discussed adult protective services and child care regulation. When asked by Senator Royce West, Chapmond said that, as the Legislature reduces funding, fewer people can be served by the agency.

Dr. Eduardo Sanchez finished up today’s testimony with a review of the new Department of State Health Services, or DSHS. Like the others, he gave the committee an overview of how the various health functions of state government are being combined into this new agency. He also reviewed progress on the costs of obesity, how many Texas children have been immunized this year, the status of trauma care, tobacco use and other health-related issues.

The Senate Finance Committee is chaired by Senator Steve Ogden. Members include Senators Kip Averitt, Gonzalo Barrientos, Kim Brimer, Bob Deuell, Robert Duncan, Kyle Janek, Jane Nelson, Florence Shapiro, Eliot Shapleigh, Todd Staples, Royce West, John Whitmire and Tommy Williams. The Health and Human Services Committee is chaired by Senator Nelson. Members include Senators Ken Armbrister, Bob Deuell, Kevin Eltife, Mario Gallegos, Kyle Janek, Jon Lindsay, Royce West and Judith Zaffirini. The committee recessed subject to call of the chair.

Health and Human Services Committee Examines Indigent Health Services

The Texas Senate Committee on Health and Human Services is taking a look at health care for the poor as part of its work during this interim of the 78th Legislature. At today’s meeting in the Senate Chamber, Jan Maberry, Director of County Indigent Health, described how people are declared eligible.

Senator Royce West told her that many hospitals around the state, such as Parkland in Dallas, are handling more than their share of indigent patients, and he wanted to make sure that those hospitals were getting properly reimbursed. For example, when an indigent patient seeks treatment at a hospital outside of their home county, the home county is supposed to reimburse the treating hospital. However, that does not always happen.

The Health Department representatives said this is becoming especially important in the case of trauma care, as costs for that specialty are increasing. Currently, the state’s bill for that is more than 300 million dollars a year.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee is chaired by Senator Jane Nelson. Members include Senators Kyle Janek, Ken Armbrister, Bob Deuell, Kevin Eltife, Mario Gallegos, Jon Lindsay, Royce West and Judith Zaffirini. The committee recessed subject to call of the chair.

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