P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 20, 2014
AUSTIN — The Senate Health and Human Services Committee held its first interim hearing today, beginning studies on two key issues — reducing child fatalities and improving access to women's health services.
"Today we had a meaningful discussion about two very important issues — protecting children and improving women's health," said Committee Chair and Texas State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound. "I appreciate today's testimony, which will be carefully considered as we make our recommendations to the next Legislature."
For the last several years, the Legislature has invested significant resources in CPS, including increasing funding by $225 million in the last session, providing the funding necessary to hire an approximate 800 additional caseworkers. While child deaths due to abuse and neglect are down overall, there has been a recent spike in foster care fatalities. Last October, Senator Nelson called on the agency to develop an immediate remediation plan in response to those deaths, which was discussed today.
"It is unacceptable for any child to die from abuse or neglect, certainly when that child has been entrusted to the state," said Senator Nelson. "In order to focus our time and resources on the right solutions, we must accurately identify the underlying issues."
The 83rd Legislature provided $240 million in funding — a $100 million increase — for women's health services, including cancer screenings, wellness exams, and other health services to an additional 170,000 women. As a result, women's health in Texas is now funded at record levels and Texas has the capacity to serve more women than ever before.
In today's hearing, Senator Nelson identified four major areas of focus for the committee, including:
- Education and Navigation: Continue to educate women and providers about the array of services available and how to navigate between the different programs;
- Coordination: Better coordinate or even consolidate the different programs to ensure a more seamless women's health system for clients and providers;
- Statewide Coverage: Although the provider network is strong, we must aggressively target areas of the state that continue to lack sufficient provider capacity; and
- Family Planning: Continue to prioritize family planning across all programs.
"We should all be heartened that there was strong support in the Legislature last session to advance the cause of women's health," said Senator Nelson. "Now we need to ensure that the resources we invested are truly meeting the needs of Texas women."
The Committee will continue to study these and other interim charges throughout the year, before interim reports are due prior to the next legislative session in January 2015.