Physicians Offer Help to State in Care of Refugees

TMA Testimony on Texas’ Refugee Resettlement Program

Senate Health and Human Services
April 21, 2016

The Texas Medical Association (TMA) recognizes the importance and timeliness of your review of the state’s Refugee Resettlement Program and the important services this program provides. Texas has been a longtime leader in federal and state efforts to support refugees — who are predominantly women and children — and we support efforts to maintain the provision of state funds to assist with extreme health care needs and crisis. Physicians can speak to the need for a strong, ongoing program to coordinate services for children and families who are fleeing violence and persecution in their countries. 

TMA physicians responded to the unprecedented events during the summer of 2014 when thousands of unaccompanied minors and families entered Texas without legal documentation. These minors and families came from Central American countries where there are widespread drug-related criminal activities and violence. For many weeks, dozens of physicians from across the state worked with local charitable organizations and other volunteers and public health officials to provide health screening for arriving children and adults. 

But that is not unusual; our members also serve legal refugees who settle in diverse communities across the state. This includes victims of human trafficking, who, along with other refugees residing in Texas, have suffered great trauma. This is a particular concern for young children and adolescents, whose traumatic experiences in early life are likely to affect their physical and mental health into adulthood.  Currently, several of our members are developing health screening resources for physicians who may come into contact with victims of human trafficking. As you know, management of mental health issues is complex and can be even more costly if not addressed as early as possible.

We recognize your concerns and responsibility for addressing public safety and security, but Texas can be confident in the effectiveness and management of the state’s refugee resettlement activities. Our state refugee program has been a federal/state and public/private partnership that works. In dozens of Texas communities, private, non-profit organizations work with HHSC to coordinate support for our newest Texas residents until they are able to support themselves. The minimal funding which assists with these services, most especially in the area of health care case management, should not be cut. 

We stand ready to work with the Chairman and this committee to assist your review of the Refugee Resettlement Program.

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Last Updated On

March 08, 2017

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