from the office of State Senator Judith Zaffirini

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Chris Hudson
512/463-0121
March 15, 2001

ZAFFIRINI BILL TO GIVE TEXAS CHILDREN A HEALTHY START

Young Texans will get a healthier start on their first day of school because of legislation approved today (Thursday) by the Texas Senate. Senate Bill 54 by Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, requires the Texas Health and Human Services commission to coordinate services to Texas children from newborn up to age six.

"Improving the coordination of health care services available to children can help to ensure later academic success," said Sen. Zaffirini. "Research indicates that a child's brain is 85 percent developed by age three. By ensuring a child's health, we not only help them to develop good nutrition and health habits, but we also provide the foundation for life-long learning."

The bill requires state agencies that provide services to young children up to age six to report the results of their efforts to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. The commission must, in turn, report to the legislature and recommend plans for improving coordination between agencies.

In the 1999 Texas Performance Review the Comptroller of Public Accounts recommended that state agencies write and implement a "Texas Zero to Three Plan" to serve children from birth to age. To ensure that children are as healthy as possible by the time they reach school, SB 54 includes children up to age six.

The legislation is based on a Senate Interim Committee on Human Services recommendation. Organizations testifying on behalf of SB 54 included the Mental Health Association, United Way, Texas Hospital Association, ARC of Texas and other advocates for children and families.

SB 54 must be passed in the House of Representatives before being sent to the Governor for approval.

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