Feb. 20 Hotline: Legislators Urged to Fund Treatment and Prevention of Mental Health Issues
By Jennifer Perkins


The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article II (which covers health and human services) continues to have a full calendar and heard several hours of public testimony yesterday.

One of the speakers was Austin psychiatrist James Halgrimson, DO, who urged the legislature to increase funding for services for Texans living with mental health and substance use disorders. He pointed out that only 12 percent of people who need specialty alcohol and drug-use treatment receive it.

He also said expanding access to community mental health services, including increasing outpatient treatment capacity and reducing waitlists, can help expedite treatment.

“The longer a person remains on a waitlist for community-based care, the less likely they are to receive an appropriate intervention,” Dr. Halgrimson told the budget writers. And “if a crisis occurs during that waiting period, a person whose condition could have been effectively managed in the community may instead present at a hospital or jail.”

Rachael Keefe, MD, testified on behalf of TMA and the Texas Pediatric Society about the need to fund programs that support children in foster care in order to keep families together.

Dr. Keefe shared the story of a new mother with untreated postpartum depression whose infant died, causing her other children to be placed in foster care.

“I cannot help but think how the outcome would have been different if this mother had received the mental health or in-home parenting supports” she needed, Dr. Keefe said.

In the House Public Education Committee, TMA submitted written testimony in support of House Bill 111 by Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint).

HB 111 would provide additional tools to school employees to prevent sexual abuse and maltreatment of children with cognitive disabilities. Those children are at least three times more likely to experience some form of abuse than children without special needs, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Children’s Bureau.

More than six weeks into session — and two and a half weeks before the filing deadline — nearly 3,000 bills have been filed. TMA is monitoring almost 700 of them — in keeping with previous sessions’ rates of more than 20 percent of all bills filed. Fewer than 100 days remain in this legislative session.


This list will change frequently during the session, but here are some bills the Texas Medical Association is watching now. Keep an eye on your email inbox for Action Alerts as we work to pass or kill bills. 

  • House Bill 1792 by Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth) would grant full practice authority to Advanced Practice Registered Nurses. TMA strongly opposes this bill. 
  • House Bill 1353 by Rep. Tom Oliverson, MD (R-Cypress) would protect health care providers from civil liability for assistance provided in disaster situations. Senate Bill 752 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) is identical. 
  • House Bill 765 by Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston) would index the liability caps established by the 2003 tort reform bill. TMA opposes this bill. 
  • House Bill 25 by Representative Gonzalez would require Medicaid to reimburse the transportation costs for a child younger than 13 to accompany a mother to a pregnancy-related medical appointment. TMA strongly supports this bill. 


Healthy Vision 2025 — released late last month — is TMA’s all-inclusive, health care roadmap for legislators.

Want to help spread and promote TMA’s Healthy Vision for Texas? Become a TMA social media ambassador.


Nothing drives home the importance of an issue like a personal story. When calling or writing your legislators, tell them specifically how the issue affects you, your colleagues, and patients. (Students can offer credible anecdotes from their own medical school experiences.) This is the best way to persuade lawmakers that what may seem like an abstract or arcane point really affects their constituents deeply. Get more tips in our Grassroots Advocacy Guide


If talk of bills and committees and backroom deals initiate tachycardia, you might want to join TMA Leading Advocates. It’s TMA’s exclusive Facebook group for legislative advocacy. Enjoy special features, news in advance, and a community of TMA members who are excited to talk about the Texas Legislature and medicine's advocacy priorities. This closed group is open only to TMA and TMA Alliance members, and TMA and county medical society staff. Join today.


TMA’s 2019 legislative agenda includes priorities to help advance patient care in Texas.

Top on the list are the state budget, insurance reform, scope of practice, maternal health, the Texas Medical Board and Medical Practice Act, and public health.

TMA member physicians and medical students, and TMA Alliance members play a significant role in advancing medicine’s priorities at the Capitol. Here are some ways you can help:

  • Tell your senator and representative why you oppose independent practice for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). 
  • Register for First Tuesdays at the Capitol – there are three left;
  • Testify before a House or Senate committee;
  • Learn more about TEXPAC, TMA’s bipartisan political action committee;
  • When called to do so, respond to Grassroots Action Center alerts on specific bills via our new VoterVoice app; and/or
  • Make sure you receive TMA’s Legislative News Hotline each day, via Texas Medicine Today. Here’s how: Just log in to the Edit My Interests page on your TMA profile. Ensure you get all the legislative updates by selecting "Health care issues in the Texas Legislature" as one of your Grassroots and Advocacy interests. TMA’s updates on the latest bills affecting medicine will arrive in your inbox as part of Texas Medicine Today at 2 pm each day lawmakers convene at the Capitol throughout Texas’ 86th legislative session.


Physician of the Day is a service the Texas Academy of Family Physicians (TAFP) provides the Texas Legislature. Each day the legislators are in session, the group names a physician to serve in the Capitol. This tradition started in 1971 and has continued every legislative session since, including special sessions.

Today’s physician of the day is T. David Greer, MD, of Henrietta. Dr. Greer graduated from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and is a member of both the Texas Medical Association and the Wichita County Medical Society.

Mediation program in Texas helps patients fight surprise medical bills – CBS News

Corpus Christi nurse practitioner pushes for change – KIII-TV

Editorial: Health Care must be a priority in Texas legislative agenda – Longview-News Journal

Supply of primary care doctors linked with mortality rates – Reuters

Local doctors respond to ‘vaccine hesitancy’ – KRIS-TV

The largest mental-health facility in Texas shouldn’t be a jail [Opinion – Editorial] – The Dallas Morning News  

Last Updated On

March 13, 2019

Originally Published On

February 20, 2019

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