Tackling HIV in Harris County / Partners in Primary Care


Tackling HIV in Harris County

Rep. Coleman with Dr. Umair Shah (Executive Director, Harris County Public Health) and Dr. Tammy Beckham (Deputy Assistant Secretary for Vaccines and Infectious Diseases – US Deptartment of Health and Human Services) at last week’s event.

Last week, The Houston Health Department and the Harris County Public Health Department invited me to a round table discussion with Dr. Robert Redfield at Texas Southern University: “Ending the HIV Epidemic in Houston/Harris County”. It was an opportunity for us all to provide Dr. Redfield and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) with our thoughts and ideas on how to best end the HIV epidemic from those addressing HIV on the ground in our jurisdiction.

Throughout my 28 years in the Texas Legislature, I have worked hard to address the HIV epidemic by working to reduce stigma, increase prevention efforts, and increase access to treatment. 

In 1995, I was proud to joint author HB 988 by the Texas Legislature’s first openly gay member, Representative Glen Maxey (D-Austin). HB 988 was signed into law and allowed people to collect a blood sample in the privacy of their own home, send their sample to a lab for testing, get their test results back along with anonymous counseling, and be referred to a service provider for follow-up services (if required).

In 1997, as a Budget Conferee, I made sure language was included that directed the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to maximize federal funding under Medicaid for treatment of HIV and AIDS. Also in 1997, I joint authored HB 179 with Representative Maxey (D-Austin) aimed at allowing dentists to operate non-profit clinics for people with HIV/AIDS. We were able to pass this bill out of the House, but it regrettably died in the Senate.

Following that session, The AIDS Action Foundation awarded me the AIDS Action Leadership Award in 1998 (pictured below).

During the 1999 session, I joint authored HB 2393 by Representative Maxey (D-Austin), which would have allowed needle exchange programs to be set up in Texas to help reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, and hepatitis B and C. Regrettably this bill did not pass, but I have continued to work on this issue to this day, including filling HB 1722 last session that would have allowed any county or municipality to grant permission to an organization to set up a needle exchange program.

In 2001, I authored HB 896 to require HHSC to develop a demonstration project to offer pharmaceutical treatment and medical services under Medicaid to HIV and AIDS patients. This demonstration project would have shown that investing up front in appropriate maintenance care for people with HIV/AIDS would reduce high medical costs later on. I filed this bill again during the 2003 session as HB 1559, which passed as a rider in the General Appropriations Act.

During the 2005 session, I authored 3 bills related to HIV/AIDS:

  • HB 2057: Relating to distribution of condoms in state prisons and jails;
  • HB 2520Relating to the development and availability of a curriculum regarding acquired immune deficiency syndrome and human immunodeficiency virus infection;
  • HB 2521Relating to the interagency coordinating council for HIV and hepatitis.

Unfortunately, none of these bills passed that session. Thankfully, HB 2521 passed the next session as HB 1370, creating the HIV Interagency Counsel to coordinate all the state agencies’ efforts for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

Following that session, I received the National HIV/AIDS Partnership Red Ribbon Award for my work on HIV/AIDS in 2005. 

Also in 2007, I authored HB 1159, which passed as SB 453 by then Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), requiring prisons to conduct HIV testing for all incoming prisoners. The cost of HIV/AIDS, for the state to provide care for the health of families or inmates, is enormous. Knowing how many prisoners are becoming infected with HIV while in prison made it easier for the state to figure out how to stop it.

In 2011, I authored HB 2229 to create a permanent Texas HIV Medication Advisory Committee to provide important input on the medication needs of low-income patients with HIV.

During the 2017 session, I passed HB 1629 to help HHSC treat HIV/AIDS more effectively. Texas spends a significant amount of money treating HIV through anti-retroviral therapy. This treatment prevents HIV from becoming full-blown AIDS and produces significant savings over the life of the patient. It decreases rates of transmission and complications associated with HIV. These treatments are provided by the state to impoverished children, the elderly, and disabled patients. In order to ensure that we are providing this treatment in the most cost-effective manner, HB 1629 requires Medicaid health plans to report viral load data to the HHSC. This increased the Legislature’s ability to target HIV prevention programs to areas of the state with high rates of HIV and under-performing treatment programs. Gathering this information will reduce any waste associated with HIV prevention programs and raise the quality of care for vulnerable Texans.

Partners in Primary Care Hosts
Senior-Focused Primary Care Medical Center in Downtown East

Tuesday’s grand opening at Partners in Primary Care in Downtown East.

Representative Ana Hernandez (D-Houston) and Representative Coleman at the grand opening.

On Tuesday, Partners in Primary Care (Partners) hosted a grand opening celebration to debut its new senior-focused primary care medical center in Downtown East.

This new Partners in Primary Care medical center allows patients to receive many of their primary care needs (such as annual wellness exams, lab tests and check-ups) conveniently in one location. The medical center is staffed by a board-certified doctor and care team, including a behavior health specialist, social worker, registered nurse care coach, and clinical pharmacist who have been specially trained to treat the senior population. Patients will have longer doctor visits, shorter wait times and same-day appointments available. The center has wider doors and hallways and free on-site parking making access inside and outside the building more convenient. In addition, Partners in Primary Care features an activity room open to the community offering health education classes, fitness demonstrations and various activities designed specifically for seniors.

We must improve the quality life for our senior citizens by expanding access to primary care. Moreover, there is a need to improve upon understanding, diagnosis and treatment of behavioral health issues that accompany seniors due to social and medical conditions.

The new primary care centers are designed to foster collaboration with the University of Houston College of Medicine and its Humana Integrated Health System Sciences Institute. The institute fosters inter-professional team-based care, with a focus on health professions training programs in the colleges of medicine, nursing, optometry, pharmacy and social work. In September 2018, Humana and the University of Houston announced a long-term strategic relationship to train future health care leaders with a focus on advancing population health and expand the use of value-based payment models.

During the 2019 legislative session, HB 826 (SB 650) authored by Representative John Zerwas (R-Richmond) and I, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston), created the University of Houston College Of Medicine. The Governor signed this bill into law on May 1st.

I am proud to have played a significant role in creating the University of Houston College of Medicine and look forward to their partnership with its Humana Integrated Health System Sciences Institute to improve health outcomes.

What To Watch This Week:

Our video of the week is from PBS NewsHour: “Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, questioned former special counsel Robert Mueller during his July 24 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee about how the investigation began. Mueller said in his opening statement that he could not address those questions. Mueller, who led an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible ties to President Donald Trump’s campaign, agreed to appear before Congress, but warned he would not go beyond what was already documented in his final report.”

You can watch below or click here.


Cartoon of the Week

Song of the Week

Our song of the week is from FX show Pose.

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