All Eyes on Austin: Our Health Policy Pre-Briefing for the 88th Texas Legislative Session
In preparation for the 2023 Texas legislative session, which begins Jan. 10, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas recently partnered with the United Ways of Tarrant, West Ellis, Grayson and Denton counties to host a special three-part virtual public policy series. During each event, our panels of experts explored the most pressing state policy issues facing North Texans in the areas of education, health and income.
Our final virtual event in the series, held Oct. 4, focused on health policy and featured experts who delivered insights into some of the key topics that are likely to come up this legislative session:
- Stephen Love of the DFW Hospital Council, who discussed physical healthcare
- Will Seilheimer of Meadows Mental Health Policy, who covered mental and behavioral healthcare
- Jaime Olson of Feed Texas and the Texas Food Policy Roundtable, who explored the topic of food access
- Kate Murphy from Texans Care for Children, who discussed child abuse prevention and CPS reform
These topics directly impact our own health priorities, which center around improving access to quality, affordable health resources—including health insurance coverage—for all North Texans.
View a video recap of the speaker’s remarks, or read on for highlights:
Stephen Love, DFW Hospital Alliance – Physical Healthcare
Will Seilheimer, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute – Mental & Behavioral Healthcare
Jaime Olsen, Feed Texas and Texas Food Policy Roundtable – Access to Food
Kate Murphy, Texans Care for Children – Child Abuse Prevention & CPS Reform
Our three experts agreed that next year’s legislative session is likely to have significant impacts on the state’s health policy.
Love began by offering a reminder of the importance of health coverage and access. He emphasized the need to expand Medicaid and to support post-partum mothers.
“We’re leaving $5 billion on the table every year,” he said. “All of us pay federal income tax. Those tax dollars are paying for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana, Oklahoma…but not here in Texas. So we’re going to support sponsoring bills to expand Medicaid. We also need to address maternal mortality; we’ve got a lot of women who die 12 months after birth. And unfortunately, 11% of live births are from African American women, yet 31% die from maternal mortality. That is a staggering statistic. We need to expand to 12 months Medicaid coverage [for post-partum mothers].”
On the topic of mental and behavioral health, Seilheimer discussed both children and youth mental health specifically, as well as challenges across the broader mental health system. Some of the key issues he expects the legislature to address include therapy tactics to reduce instances of youth violence, mental health services and telemedicine in schools, mental health for youth in foster care, long waitlists for mental health care and more.
Olsen shared that 13% of households in Texas are food insecure, making us one of nine states that are above the national average. She highlighted several topics around food access that the legislative may address this session, specifically around Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), our nation’s largest and most effective hunger program.
“Several of our priorities this session focus on improving access to SNAP, especially for vulnerable populations,” she said. “Our No. 1 priority is modernizing the SNAP vehicle asset test…which is a limit placed on the value of people’s vehicles in order to qualify for food assistance. This one policy keeps thousands of hungry Texans from accessing the program.”
Finally, Murphy outlined key priorities for child welfare policy, including the safety and sustainability of Texas’ foster care system, state investigations into families of transgender children, tactics for keeping families together and the rise of community-based care—all of which may be addressed this legislative session.
Advocate with United Way
As you can see from our All Eyes on Austin health event, the upcoming legislative session is poised to have a big impact on our state’s health policies. We invite you to join us in advocating for our key health priorities:
- Expand prevention efforts and early intervention services seeking to divert families from the child welfare, juvenile justice and criminal justice systems
- Expand access to affordable physical, mental, and behavioral healthcare
- Enhance non-medical drivers of health, including transportation, food
Throughout the 140 days of the 2023 legislative session, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas will work with advocates like you to demonstrate community-wide support for key policy issues that impact education, income and health in North Texas. No one organization or person can successfully create significant change on any given issue; rather, we are most successful when we can rally the entire community—individuals, corporate partners, nonprofits and more—and make it a true movement.
Interested in learning more? Read our blog about how and why we advocate.