Seeking Solutions to Healthcare Challenges

September 22, 2014

Bexar County Healthcare Summit Produces Recommendations in Four Key Areas

A series of recommendations aimed at improving the health of Bexar County residents emerged Monday from the Bexar County Health Summit, a gathering of some 300 health and community leaders led by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor.

The recommendations address a range of issues in four key areas of concern, and include finding a “Texas way” to expand healthcare coverage to the uninsured, increasing the availability of mental health treatment, combating obesity and growing the supply of a diverse pool of doctors, nurses and allied health workers in Texas.

“We’ve come a long way, but we have much further to go,” Judge Wolff told attendees at the event, which took place at the OMNI San Antonio Hotel at the Colonnade. “We now stand at a unique time when we can take a major step to enhance and expand our healthcare system.”

Mayor Taylor acknowledged the challenge of tackling these complex issues. “Progress in addressing these problems will depend not only upon the expertise of the folks here in this room, and their compassion in providing care to our residents, but also on the ability and the will to implement the policy recommendations that we discuss today,” Mayor Taylor said.

The complete set of recommendations can be found on the Bexar County Healthcare Summit web page at www.universityhealthsystem.com/bexar-county-healthcare-summit. Those recommendations include:

Public Health

  • Seek new legislation to require a syphilis test during the third trimester of pregnancy, to reduce the problem of mothers passing along the infection to their newborn.
  • Improve the state’s ability to collect and monitor immunizations, requiring people to opt out of taking part in the state immunization registry if they wish to be excluded.
  • Educate communities on the link between sweetened drinks and obesity, and reduce access to sugary beverages in schools.

Higher Education and Healthcare Workforce

  • Seek legislation to encourage and support Hispanics and military veterans to enter healthcare professions.
  • Increase funding to alleviate the nursing shortage.
  • Support the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s request for some $30 million in additional funds for programs to increase the number of medical residents, to reduce physician shortages.

Healthcare Coverage

  • Support the Texas Way program, a “uniquely Texan, private market-based coverage program” to extend healthcare coverage to low-wage working Texans. An $8.2 million state investment would bring $6 billion in federal funds.

Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice

  • Seek legislation to equalize funding for local mental health authorities to the statewide average of $15.37 per capita. In Bexar County, the Center for Healthcare Services receives $13.71.
  • Seek additional state appropriations to fund Bexar County drug courts, which divert drug and alcohol abusers from jail to treatment under judicial supervision, reducing costs and recidivism.

The Healthcare Summit was a partnership between Bexar County, the city of San Antonio and University Health System. Co-sponsors included Christus Santa Rosa Health System and Methodist Healthcare Ministries.

The first Bexar County Healthcare Summit took place in September 2001.