Recaps: Opioid & Substance Abuse Hearing, Opioid & Substance Abuse Disorder Symposium, UHD Panel/LSG Update: The State of Redistricting/And More

Recap: Opioid and Substance Abuse Hearing

On Tuesday, the House Select Committee on Opioid and Substance Abuse held its second hearing. Chaired by Representative Four Price (R-Amarillo), the Committee convened to examine the opioid epidemic and substance abuse disorder. Topics of Tuesday’s hearing included:

  • The impact of opioid and substance abuse on children and foster care
  • A review of the opioid and substance abuse epidemic
  • A review of prevalence of substance abuse and substance use disorders in specified populations
  • A review of policies/guidelines of state agencies to monitor for and prevent abuse of prescription drugs in state-funded/administered programs

I invited Sherry Lachman, Founder and Executive Director of Foster America. Ms. Lachman testified on the effects of the opioid epidemic on children in foster care, explaining that welfare agencies aren’t equipped to handle the growing demand. She also discussed the Family First Act, which includes the most sweeping reforms to federal child welfare law in 30 years. She urges Texas to do their part and provide a 50% match for the federal funds they can now use on family drug treatment.

Ms. Lachman applauded the efforts of family drug courts in Dallas that have been shown to increase the percent of parents who complete their drug treatment and reunite families.

Foster America is a much-needed organization that recruits highly talented fellows from other sectors to prevent children, when possible, from going into foster care in the first place. They also aim to make foster care better for the kids who wind up there.

The Family First Prevention Services Act was signed by the President on February 9th, 2018 as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act. Over 500 organizations supported this Act which provides new options for states to claim Title IV-E finds for prevention activities, new policy to ensure appropriate placements for children in foster care, reauthorized numerous child welfare finding streams, and more.

Thank you to Chairman Price for allowing us to continue such an important conversation.

Sherry Lachman, Founder and Executive Director of Foster America testifying in front of the Committee. From left to right: Rep. Coleman – Chair of the County Affairs Committee, Committee Clerk Sandra Tarlton, Rep. Four Price – Chair of the Select Committee on Opioid and Substance Abuse, Rep. Joe Moody – Chair of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, Rep. Carol Alvarado – Chair of Urban Affairs, Rep. J.D. Sheffield, and Rep. Poncho Nevarez.

Click here to watch the full video of Wednesday’s hearing.

Click here to view the documents and resources provided to the Committee at Wednesday’s hearing.

Recap: Opioid and Substance Abuse Disorder Symposium

On Wednesday, I was honored to speak at a symposium on opioid and substance abuse disorder held by the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs and Baylor College of Medicine.

Assistant Secretary Dr. Elinore McCance-Katzspoke, who is the lead federal official on opioid and substance abuse disorder and heads the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The symposium took place on at the Baylor College of Medicine’s Cullen Auditorium in the Texas Medical Center.

Left to right: Representative Coleman, Chairman of the House Committee on County Affairs, Representative Four Price (R-Amarillo), Chairman of the Select House Committee on Opioid and Substance Abuse, and Dr. Jim Granato, Executive Director of the University of Houston-Hobby School of Public Affairs at Wednesday’s symposium. House Speaker Joe Straus appointed Representative Coleman to the House Committee on Opioid and Substance Abuse.

CNN Coverage: The high cost of taking away prisoners’ Medicaid coverage

On Wednesday, CNN published an article regarding the high cost of taking away prisoners’ Medicaid coverage. “Local jails and prisons are required to provide prisoners with adequate health care. But the interruption of federal and state programs inmates had been depending on can cause major problems, making it more likely that people will cycle in and out of jail. ““Federal rules prohibit states from billing Medicaid for any inmate care unless the covered individual requires a hospital stay of at least 24 hours. They also cut off Social Security and Disability payments and some veterans’ benefits. Medicaid benefits are taken away as soon as a suspect has been booked into jail, whether they’ve been proven guilty or not. If they are convicted and incarcerated, Social Security and VA benefits disappear 30 and 60 days later, respectively. “

During the 85th Legislative Session in 2017, Representative Collier (D-Fort Worth), Senator Menendez (D-San Antonio), and I worked together to pass House Bill 337, which was in the original filed version of the Sandra Bland Act, but passed as a standalone bill. HB 337 allows County jails to suspend state benefits for people who are held in jail instead of terminating their state benefits. Suspension is much better because once released individuals can then be automatically access their benefits, where if benefits are terminated they must go through the lengthy process of reapplying for their benefits.

HB 337, and the Sandra Bland Act that I passed will act as the foundational policies for continuing work on criminal justice reform. The County Affairs committee that I chair will once again look into what can be done during the interim to approve policing in Texas, prohibit arrests for fine-only offenses hearings, and push bail reform.

LSG Update: The State of Redistricting
Click here to read an update on Texas’ redistricting case from Raul Lopez, Executive Director of the Legislative Study Group Caucus that I chair.

Recap: Needle Exchange Panel at UHD

Below is an explanation of the event from the organizers.

Important conversations are the driving forces of change. The University of Houston- Downtown’s (UHD) Center for Public Service and Community Research (CPSCR) will host a discussion panel titled “Criminal Justice and Public Health: Where Are We and Where Do We Need to Go?” Wednesday, April 18. The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in room A-300 of the Academic Building.

The purpose of the panel is to address the topic of drug abuse by viewing it as a social or public health issue rather than a legal issue. The audience will be presented with a broader perspective in harm reduction, public health in the community and in incarcerated populations.

Students, faculty, staff and alumni are welcome to attend and will have the opportunity to hear from Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg and Texas House of Representatives member Garnet Coleman (D). Ogg will be speaking on the topic of “How Public Health Impacts Criminal Justice” while Coleman will tackle “Syringe Exchange Legislation and Condom Distribution in Prison.” Other panelists include Dr. Jessica S. Khan, director of Clinical Virology at the University of Texas- Medical Branch, and UHD’s Dr. Heather Goltz, associate professor of Social Work.

The mission of the CPSCR is to initiate and develop collaborative partnerships within the community, to participate in active engagement and mutually beneficial problem solving, to advocate and effect positive change, and to facilitate community based research. The CPSCR supports the growth of students, faculty, and staff through authentic, academic and profession-based high impact experiences in community engagement, service learning, research, and internships.

“The issues addressed in this panel are important to the fields of Criminal Justice, Public Health, and society as a whole,” said Dr. Beth Pelz, associate professor of Criminal Justice.   “Intravenous (IV) drug use affects not only individuals who abuse drugs but also their families and friends, various businesses, and government resources. These panelists will provide ‘food for thought’ for policymakers and their constituents.”

Save the Date:
TxDOT Professional Services & Heavy Highway Construction DBE Contracting Event

The Texas Department of Transportation is continuing its series of events focused on expanding the participation of DBE/SBE and HUB certified firms in the upcoming Houston District contracting opportunities.  Details of the second event are below.

The second event will focus specifically on the heavy highway construction contracts anticipated to be let/awarded in the next 6-18 months. 

WHAT: The Heavy Highway Construction DBE Contracting Event
WHEN: Friday, May 4th , 8:30a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: Texas Department of Transportation-Houston District Auditorium, 7600 Washington Avenue, Houston, Texas 77007

Click here to RSVP.


Last Weekend to View Neighborhood Fantasies at Project Row Houses

Project Row Houses presents Neighborhood Fantasies. This exhibit integrates the spirit of an emerging art photographer Evan Coleman with the work of PRH founding artist Jesse Lott. This is the last weekend to view the exhibit, which runs through April 22nd. Please see below for details.

Neighborhood Fantasies, presented by Project Row Houses

Community Gallery
2521 Holman Street
Houston, TX 77004

Wed – Sun | Noon to 5pm
*Neighborhood Fantasies runs through April 22nd*


Below is an explanation of Neighborhood Fantasies from Project Row Houses.

Curated by Kathleen Coleman in conjunction with Fotofest 2018.

“Neighborhood Fantasies integrates the spirit of an emerging art photographer Evan Coleman with the work of PRH founding artist Jesse Lott.Kathleen Coleman curates this exhibition .

The Houston urban landscape is an eclectic image of symbolic eras in time. The photographer Evan Coleman has captured the images of homes, office buildings, flora, fauna, roads, and houses; front yards where a person rides in a car or walks down a major street and a back road, familiar depictions portrayed in photo montages such as: a trailer, hamburger joints, resale businesses or party events are included. There are familiar images in the collages–a water hose, a variety of mangoes, giant watermelons floating across the sky to create everyday dreams as we ride along. Let us not forget the porcelain cats resting in the window of a house, in a daydream; a central, focal image throughout the exhibition. The fantasy photo of a windowsill of cats is inviting Jesse Lott, who inserted a dog to peer at them through the window.

Jesse Lott has made blind cuts, and separated them by color, thus creating the opportunity to assemble a puzzle, which has never been solved. This concept in brief can be thought of as documentation of the reality reconstructed as a fantasy supplemented with the original subject matter. Recontextualisation places the images into a new perspective, meaning changes within the point of view of the artist applied, which inspires the public to visualize and imagine the symbols or the object commonly viewed in our daily lives. In the collages, a bounce house is cut up and fruit from a stand is placed to add color with common objects to form depth and structure such as concrete.

The countless forms of architecture from one neighborhood to another incorporate Houston’s diversity at its finest, in addition to revealing gentrification from one street to another. Repetitive objects are common features in the artwork in Neighborhood Fantasies therefore a perception is a sense of belonging in the heart of the city through art and collective experiences. The concept is evolving to produce involvement within the community to enlighten themselves within their own area. The artist team will continue to conceive fantasy from random reality.

Thank you to our sponsors Melanie Lawson, John Guess, A Rocket Moving and Storage, Womack Development, and Mayberry Homes.

Please click here for more information.

Sandra Bland exhibit at Houston Museum of African-American Culture EXTENDED until April 28th

The Houston Museum of African-American Culture is celebrating the life of Ms. Sandra Bland with an interactive exhibit, running until Saturday, April 28th. The museum is CLOSED Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

See below for hours and details. Click here for more information.

Photo courtesy of African American News.
Houston Museum of African-American Culture
4807 Caroline Houston, Texas 77004 

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday: 11am-6pm
Thursday: 11am-8pm
Friday, Saturday: 11am-6pm

General Admission to the museum is free, however donations are accepted.

(713) 526-1015

Our song of the week is “White Coat Man” by Creek Don’t Rise.

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