ALDINE – Reyes Garcia, president of the High Meadows North Civic Club, invited local residents to meet last Wednesday evening, Oct. 8 to hear information on various health programs available to citizens.
The Town Hall style meeting was held at the American Legion Hall on Aldine Mail Route, and attended by about 50 interested citizens, and a panel of health care specialists representing agencies such as Harris Health, One Voice Texas, Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and a representative from the Mexican Consulate.
Also speaking were Congressman Gene Green, State Senator Sylvia Garcia, and State Representative Armando Walle.
Information covered included legislative initiatives planned for the next session, ACA enrollment, Medicaid expansion, local health initiatives and services, and partnerships with Mexico for healthcare and Bi-National Health Week. There were also questions from the audience.
Congressman Green reviewed federal programs, including the Obamacare or ACA program, and said that 19,000 from his 29th District had signed up so far, a good number.
Representative Walle explained how he worked with the two legislative partners, Green and Garcia, to be effective in legislative issues. He then related his own experiences trying to get emergency health care when younger, and how difficult it was. He was suffering from a ruptured appendix, he explained, and without insurance most providers didn’t want to help him.
For these reasons, he said, expansion of Medicaid is important to our community. In addition, because more healthcare workers would be needed, this would open up more opportunities for jobs, including students who are now are MacArthur and could go on to healthcare training at Lone Star College and other institutions.
Ms. J. Jones from the State Health Commission explained various state funded programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, CHIPS, and Hanus. She concluded her talk by giving a phone number for residents to connect with the state health department with questions or needs: 2-1-1 Option 2.
Ms. E. Brown of Harris Health spoke about the health clinics in the county, and the so-called “Same Day Centers” which take walk-ins and encourage patients to come for minor health concerns instead of emergency rooms. The nearest of these are located at 1623 Airline Drive, and LBJ Hospital (Marble Hilyer Clinic).
The speaker from the Mexican Consulate was Martine Lopez, and talked in Spanish about the Bi-National Health week. He said that his office was charged with keeping track of, and helping legal immigrants with their health and legal needs.
Dr. Viola Garcia, school board member from Aldine ISD and a cousin of Sen. Sylvia Garcia, spoke about health services available at the local schools. She noted that school nurses often provide primary care for students and their families when necessary.
Ms. Lilian Ortiz of One Voice explained how here organization advocated to the state legislature on healthcare issues, and represented a number of local agencies advocating for their needs and goals. She explained how a transformational waiver was providing some federal funds for certain types of treatment in clinics, even though medicaid funding has been refused by the state.
Sen. Garcia noted that many state health and human resource agencies are now receiving what is known as a “Sunset Review” to make them justify their programs and their budgets.
She noted that issues dealing with Womens’ Health were critical, as well as behavioral health. There is a need for more funding for both of these, due to previous underfunding by the legislature, and population growth. She is quite concerned that the Tea Party affiliated legislators may want to cut the health budget even more.
During the question period that followed, Shirley Reed spoke about the need for more funds for grandparents raising grandchildren, a category she said often gets overlooked. However, Ms. Jones of the TDHHS said that there were actually two programs that provide funds for this, and told her how to get in touch with agencies that could help.