Press Release from the Office of State Senator Craig Estes, District 30

For Immediate Release

December 5, 2011

Council is tasked with submitting Rural Policy Plan to Legislature

AUSTIN -- In an effort to enhance the quality of life in rural Texas, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples today announced the formation of a nine-member Texas Rural Health and Economic Development Advisory Council. The council is tasked with identifying rural policy priorities and reviewing the effectiveness of existing rural programs. The council also is responsible for developing a Rural Policy Plan to be submitted to the Texas Legislature on or before Dec. 1, 2012. "Twelve percent of Texas' population lives in rural areas where there is demonstrated potential for creating jobs, advancing technology and improving health care services and careers," Commissioner Staples said. "By exploring these and other opportunities, we will attract and nurture the talent and resources needed to improve our rural communities while also benefitting the state's overall economy and quality of life."

According to state law, Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus have appointed State Senator Craig Estes and State Representative Chuck Hopson respectively.

"Addressing rural Texas health needs requires strong local leadership and collaboration across multiple stakeholders within rural communities," said Sen. Estes.

"I am honored to be a part of this advisory council and look forward to working with this group to do what is best for rural Texas," said Rep. Hopson.

In addition to Sen. Estes and Rep. Hopson, the council is comprised of: Polk County Judge John Thompson; Raymondville Mayor Orlando Correa; Uvalde City Councilman Jay Carnes; Childress City Manager Bryan Tucker; Sul Ross University Director of Nursing Education Program Donna Kuenstler; Advocacy and Communications Director Don McBeath of the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals; and Brady Community Development Director Kathi Masonheimer.

The council's Rural Policy Plan will include strategic initiatives for economic and community development; rural health care improvements; and recommendations for the use and allocation of Community Development Block Grant funding, which is used to make improvements in rural communities.

The council will create a Rural Health Task Force from within the council's membership, which will look for ways to expand and improve access to health care in rural areas, and offer recommendations for legislation and program development or revision.

The first meeting is being planned for January 2012.