On Wednesday, Governor Abbott laid out his “School and Firearm Safety Action Plan.” The plan has 3 sections, one section being “Preventing Threats In Advance,” which calls for improving mental and behavioral health systems in our schools. It’s great to see the Governor taking action on this cause that Representative Garnet Coleman has worked his entire legislative career to advance.
The first recommendation under the section, “Preventing Threats In Advance” is to “Provide Mental Health Evaluations That Identify Students At Risk Of Harming Others And Provide Them The Help They Need.” The Governor specifically highlights how the Texas Tech Health Science Center’s Telemedicine Wellness Intervention Triage & Referral (TWITR) Project is working in the panhandle to intervene early with students who need help. Representative Garnet Coleman joint-authored HB 1878 (84R) with Representative Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker), which made the project fiscally possible by reimbursing telemedicine services in schools through Medicaid. Additionally, the TWITR program and similar programs received additional state funding through HB 13 (85R) by Representative Four Price (R-Amarillo). This was the bill Representative Garnet Coleman was instrumental in developing during the 84th interim on the Select Committee on Mental Health, and helped it move out of the Public Health Committee during the 85th session.
The next recommendation is to “Increase Mental Health First Aid Training.” The Governor’s plan notes that, “[s]ince 2014, Texas has trained approximately 24,736 public school employees, 875 instructors, 503 university employees and 18,133 community members.” This training was first made possible because of HB 3793 (83R) authored by Representative Garnet Coleman. This training was expanded by companion bills HB 2220/SB 133 (84R), authored by Representative Garnet Coleman and Senator Charles Schwertner (R- Georgetown), which expanded Mental Health First Aid training to all school personnel. Furthermore, companion bills HB 2218/SB 674 (84R) authored by Representative Garnet Coleman and Senator Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), aligned mental health training for both new and old teachers; and SB 1533 (85R) by Senator Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) which Representative Garnet Coleman joint-sponsored, expanded Mental Health First Aid training to university employees.
Moreover, Mental Health First Aid training has been so widespread because of HB 1386 (82R), which Representative Garnet Coleman passed in 2011 that made several approved forms of Mental Health and suicide training for teachers optional. In 2013, Representative Garnet Coleman and Senator Bob Deuell (R-Greenville) passed companion bills SB 460/HB 3224 (83R) that made those several approved forms of Mental Health and suicide prevention training for teachers mandatory. Without these bills, it is likely that many teachers and school personnel would not receive this vital training.
The next recommendation is to “Provide Schools with Behavioral Threat Assessment Programs.” Last session Representative Garnet Coleman authored HB 3887 (85R) which would have accomplished this by training teachers, counselors, nurses, administrators, and other staff, as well as law enforcement officers and social workers who regularly interact with students, to recognize children who are going through trauma and refer them to appropriate treatment. This bill passed out of the House, but was left pending in the Senate Committee on Education. Representative Garnet Coleman will re-file this bill in the next session.
The next recommendations are to “Better Utilize and Expand On-Campus Counseling Resources,” and to “Improve Mental Health Crisis Response Infrastructure.” Last session Representative Garnet Coleman authored HB 3853 (85R) which would have ensured that every student in Texas would have access to a behavioral health professional at school. Unfortunately, this bill was left pending in the House Committee on Public Education. Additionally, Representative Garnet Coleman and Senator Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston) almost passed companion bills SB 196/HB1847 (85R) that would have required schools districts with over 10,000 students to notify parents if their child’s school did not have the equivalent of a full-time counselor. Regrettably, the Governor vetoed this bill.
The next recommendation is to “Expand Campus Crime Stoppers Programs.” Crime Stoppers is an effective program that Representative Garnet Coleman helped expand in 2015 by passing HB 3067 (84R), which allows counties of over 1 million people to provide four times as much money (from $25,000 to $100,000) to the program as they had previously allowed to do so.
As in the past, Representative Garnet Coleman will continue to work on these important issues and build upon laws he has already passed. He looks forward to working with the Governor next session on improving mental and behavioral health and keeping our schools safe.
Upcoming County Affairs Hearing
County Affairs Committee Hearing
Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies
at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi
6300 Ocean Drive, Corpus Christi, TX 78412
Room Number: HRI 127
Wednesday, June 6th, at 10am
- Examine how emergency response activities are organized, funded, and coordinated. Review the impact of natural disasters on county finances. Identify any deficiencies in authority for the most populous counties related to infrastructure planning, emergency response, and recovery. Explore ways to improve efficiencies and manage costs while protecting public safety. Additionally, study the relationship between the state, counties, non-governmental organizations, and churches in preparing for and responding to Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath, and determine if preparedness plans are adequate
- Evaluate whether counties have the necessary ordinance-making and enforcement authority to deal with flood risk in unincorporated rural and suburban areas of Texas. Additionally, examine whether counties have adequate resources and authority to ensure that new development in unincorporated areas is not susceptible to flooding.
BUY FLOOD INSURANCE
Hurricane season is already upon us as Tropical Storm Alberto hit the Gulf Coast last weekend. Now is the time to buy flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), if you have not already.
Furthermore, FEMA/NFIP will be holding 3 open houses this week in the Greater Houston Region.
NFIP Claims Open House La Marque
Galveston Extension Office
4102-B, Main St, Classroom 1
La Marque, TX 77568
NFIP Claims Open House Conroe TX
Lone Star Convention & Expo Center
9055 Airport Rd
Conroe, TX 77304
NFIP Claims Open House Cypress TX
Richard and Meg Weekley Community Center
8440 Greenhouse Rd
Cypress, TX 77433
Below is an article from the Washington Post outlining Virginia’s Medicaid expansion. In 2013, 2015, and 2017, I authored legislation that would have expanded Medicaid in Texas, similar to how Virginia just did it. If Virginia can do it, Texas can do it.
You can read below, or click here.
The Daily 202: Why Virginia’s Medicaid expansion is a big deal
THE BIG IDEA: As Joe Biden put it a little differently when Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act eight years ago, Virginia’s expansion of Medicaid on Wednesday is a big dang deal. And not just because 400,000 low-income citizens will now have access to government health insurance.
It’s another nail in the coffin for efforts to repeal Obamacare and a fresh reminder of how difficult it is to scale back any entitlement once it’s created. Many Republicans, in purple and red states alike, concluded that Congress is unlikely to get rid of the law, so they’ve become less willing to take political heat for leaving billions in federal money on the table.
Years of obstruction in the commonwealth gave way because key Republicans from rural areas couldn’t bear to deny coverage for their constituents any longer, moderates wanted to cut a deal and, most of all, Democrats made massive gains in November’s off-year elections.
As President Trump steps up efforts to undermine the law, from repealing the individual mandate to watering down requirements for what needs to be covered in “association health plans,” the administration’s willingness to let states impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients has paradoxically given a rationale for Republicans to flip-flop on an issue where they had dug in their heels.
— Effective Jan. 1, Virginia will join 32 other states and the District in expanding Medicaid coverage under the ACA. There are indications that several more will soon follow.
Maine became the first state to expand Medicaid by ballot initiative last fall, but Republican Gov. Paul LePage has blocked funding for its implementation and continues to fight the will of the voters in court. But he’s term limited and deeply unpopular, and it seems more likely than not that his successor will open the door for 70,000 poor Mainers to get insurance.
Utah will vote on a referendum in November to further expand Medicaid to an additional 150,000 residents. The measure officially qualified for the ballot on Tuesday.
Enough signatures have been submitted to qualify a ballot measure in Idaho. They’re now being reviewed by elections officials to make sure they meet that state’s strict requirements.
Nebraska’s governor opposes Medicaid expansion, but there is a grass-roots campaign underway to get enough signatures to put the measure on the November ballot. Organizers say they’re on track to get what they need before the deadline.
In blue states, meanwhile, Democratic governors are taking steps to protect the expansion. Yesterday in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed a law creating an individual mandate for people in his state to offset the repeal of the federal mandate (which was included in the December tax bill). This will help keep insurance markets stable in the Garden State.
— Expanding Medicaid in Virginia wasn’t easy. Big things never are. Four Senate Republicans defected to allow the measure to pass 23 to 17 in a special session. Then the House of Delegates, which passed its own version of expansion earlier in the year, approved the Senate’s measure 67 to 31.
There were 10 hours of procedural moves in the Virginia capitol on Wednesday. Police had to separate protesters who got into a shouting match. Former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), of all people, even held a news conference to speak out against expansion. The majority leader of the state Senate tried a last-ditch parliamentary gambit to pigeonhole expansion during a Finance Committee hearing on Tuesday. But that was nothing compared to the five years of steadfast GOP obstruction.
“Opposition in the House crumbled after Democrats nearly won control of the chamber in November, amid a blue wave widely viewed as a rebuke to Trump,” Laura Vozzella and Gregory S. Schneider report from Richmond. “A chastened House Speaker M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights), seeking to rebrand Republicans as results-oriented pragmatists, came out in favor of expansion if work requirements, co-pays and other conservative strings were attached. In February, 19 of the 51 Republicans in the House joined Democrats to pass a budget bill that expanded Medicaid, apparently concluding that they have more to fear from energized Democrats and independents than from potential primary challengers on the right.”
Easing their evolution was Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s assumption of the governorship in January: “The former state senator and lieutenant governor, a soft-spoken pediatrician and former Army doctor once wooed by Republicans, has close friends on both sides of the aisle. His predecessor, Terry McAuliffe (D), tried to expand Medicaid for four years but did not enjoy the same respect and trust from Republicans in Richmond.”
Virginia’s bill requires that most adult recipients who don’t qualify for disability either work or volunteer as a condition of receiving Medicaid. Cox, the Republican speaker, said the Trump administration’s openness to work requirements “was probably the biggest key” in garnering Republican support.
— Rural conservatives also provided critical support. One of the four Republican senators who supported expansion, Ben Chafin, is a cattle farmer from a rural district where health care is hard to find. “I came to the conclusion that ‘no’ just wasn’t the answer anymore, that doing nothing about the medical conditions, the state of health care in my district, just wasn’t the answer any longer,” he told my colleagues.
The first Republican in the House of Delegates to explicitly endorse expansion was Del. Terry G. Kilgore, the chairman of the powerful House Commerce and Labor Committee. He broke the dam of GOP opposition when he announced in mid-February that the struggling swath of coal country he represents in southwest Virginia would get a desperately needed “hand up” if the uninsured could access Medicaid. “For my district, for my part of the state, it’s the right thing to do,” Kilgore said. Others from poor parts of the state quickly followed his lead.
— These GOP defectors have experienced few repercussions back home. Americans for Prosperity, a political arm of the network led by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers, ran ads attacking several of the 19 GOP delegates who voted for expansion in hopes that they would change their minds when the issue came up again in the special session. It showed that the anti-expansion effort was more bark than bite.
In Kilgore’s district, which went heavily for Trump, AFP radio ads broadcast his office phone number and urged people to call. “No calls, no comments,” Kilgore told Vozzella back in March. “I’ve been to Republican mass meetings. I’ve been out and about, ballgames, this and that. What I’ve heard people say is, ‘Hey, what you said made sense. We don’t mind helping people if they’re helping themselves.’”
The milder than expected blowback for those who walked the plank emboldened additional Republicans to break ranks. (To be sure, some of these incumbents might wind up drawing primary challengers in low-turnout 2019 elections.)
– Another pivotal moment came in early April when state Sen. Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach), who unsuccessfully sought the GOP gubernatorial nomination last year and has served a quarter century in the legislature, announced that he had changed his mind. He said he could support Medicaid expansion on two conditions: that recipients not suddenly lose coverage if their earnings rise and that new tax credits be created to help middle-income people who already have insurance but are struggling to pay soaring premiums. Wagner played a key role negotiating the final deal.
“This is not just about helping this group of people,” Wagner said yesterday. “This is about getting out there and helping to bend the cost of health care for every Virginian. … It is the number one issue on our voters’ minds. By golly, it ought to be the number one issue on the General Assembly’s mind.”
— Some Virginia GOP strategists have been eager to take the Medicaid issue off the table. The most recent credible survey is from Christopher Newport University in January and February, which found that 58 percent of registered Virginia voters supported the expansion while 38 percent opposed it. The survey provided detailed arguments for and against the idea, which can lead to different results than a simple support-oppose question.
That poll corroborated a Quinnipiac University poll in April 2017, which found a similar 59 percent of registered Virginia voters saying a Medicaid an expansion is a “good idea” while 30 percent said it was a “bad idea.” Support was similar, 57 percent, when respondents were told the federal government will cover 90 percent of the costs while the state would cover just 10 percent.
— Democrats believe they can play offense on health care in 2018 for the first time. Republicans used Obamacare to their advantage in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. But the law has become more popular as the GOP tried to repeal it, and the fear of losing coverage might galvanize lower-propensity voters to turn out in the midterms.
More than half of all ads run by Democratic House candidates since the start of this year have mentioned health care (53.3 percent), according to data from Kantar Media. That’s more than any other issue, including anti-Trump messages (which have appeared in 43 percent of Democratic commercials).
— Democrats are taking a victory lap after Virginia’s vote last night
— But the war is not over. “Some conservative activists unable to surrender their long-held dream of repealing Obamacare are poised to release a long-shot plan next month to resurrect their failed effort, despite massive political odds against such a measure ever becoming law anytime soon,” Paige Winfield Cunningham wrote Tuesday in The Health 202. “But these conservatives are right about one thing: Republicans don’t have a coherent health-care message this election cycle. And they need one. The plan isn’t likely to garner much — if any — attention from GOP House and Senate leaders, who after last year’s repeal-and-replace debacle resigned themselves to the impossibility of fully ditching the law as they’d promised for so long. Now, health care is one of the last policy issues Republicans want to discuss at this point in the midterm election season, although most of them won’t admit it.”
— A wild card, as always, is Trump. He said yesterday that he’s not giving up on his efforts to eviscerate Obama’s signature domestic achievement. During a signing ceremony for right-to-try legislation at the White House yesterday, he said he’ll make a health-care related announcement in the next two to four weeks. “We’ll get rid of the individual mandate. Without that, we couldn’t be doing what we’re doing in a few weeks,” he said. “We’re going to have great, inexpensive, but really good health care. … We’re going to have two plans coming out. For the most part, we will have gotten rid of a majority of Obamacare.” As the crowd applauded, Trump added: “[We] could have had it done a little bit easier, but somebody decided not to vote for it, so it’s one of those things.”
PBS NewsHour Airs New Special Report
On Policing in America
Over the weekend, PBS aired a special report on NewsHour. The first segment is called “Has Policing Gone Too Far In America?” which aired on May 26, 2018 (click here). The second segment is called “When is it necessary for police to shoot a person?” which aired on May 27, 2018 (click here).
This special segment is important because it sheds light on criminal justice reform efforts and what still needs to be done.
You can click below to watch Part 1 and Part 2.
Part 2, “When is it necessary for police to shoot a person?”