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Tell It Like It Is

Budget Balancing on the Backs of the Poor

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Thomas Segel is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or

June 24, 2011 | 2,045 views | 40 comments

Harlingen, Texas, June 24, 2011: For nearly half a century Rio Grande State Center has been a medical and mental health haven for people of meager means in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Operating in various configurations over the decades it has served as a mental health hospital, provided long term residential care for people with cognitive disabilities (MR), functioned as a tuberculosis hospital, and offered primary medical care to individuals of limited resources.

Today this state operated medical complex serves as the only public mental health hospital south of San Antonio, providing inpatient services for the people of eight southern counties. It is the residence for MR adults who require constant monitoring and care. The facility has also been blessed with a new 10 million dollar outpatient clinic that offers primary medical care and some women’s services. It took more than a decade of financial battles in the Texas State Legislature to make this clinic a reality and today it is only a few short months into limited operation.

Under the supervision of Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Commissioner David L. Lakey, M.D., this agency with more than 11,500 employees and a $2.5 billion dollar budget has already reduced expenditures by 5% during the current fiscal year. Already under orders not to request an increase in funding above the 2010-11 budget, the agency is implementing an additional 10% reduction in all spending. This mandate would be difficult for every hospital and state school if it were a straight across-the-board 10% spending reduction, but it would be understandable. However, it appears Dr. Lakey and his assorted Austin bureaucratic assistants have looked toward Deep South Texas and expect that region of the state to take the largest bite out of the reduced funding apple.

The Rio Grande Valley is the southernmost collection of counties in the Lone Star State. Nestled up next to the border with Mexico it is also the state’s most economically depressed region with a population that is 89% Hispanic, under educated and has an unemployment rate of 12% to 14% in a state, which has boasted only an 8% total unemployment. With an estimated population of about 1.5 million people, the Valley records show only about 100,000 to be English dominant. Where the national median household income exceeds $50,000, the median income of Rio Grande Valley residents hovers below $25,000. With such background information it is easy for anyone to see that this population group when faced with either keeping a roof over the heads of family members or purchasing healthcare would choose the former. When faced with buying either food or medicine the same logic would prevail.

So, when in need of medical services, the poorest people of the region seek government assistance. When there is a 10% reduction in state services that means some who were previously helped will no longer receive care.

For Dr. Lakey’s DSHS facilities, there has been no plan for an equal reduction of funds. Instead it appears the objective is to weight reductions disproportionately to the disfavor of South Texas. Planned cuts for the Rio Grande State Center outpatient clinic include a more than 33% reduction in funding. This will mean the clinic will be unable to perform almost 6,000 medical procedures that were offered this year. It will have all of its radiology services eliminated and service such as mammography will end. Most importantly, there will be at least 49,000 medical prescriptions that will remain unfilled.

Most of us are already aware of how appointed officials act when faced with difficult decisions. First, as is the case with DSHS, they try to muzzle their employees and will not allow Superintendents or department heads to even address the issues with staff members or the public. The facilities are not allowed to speak with media outlets or local officials. All news remains tightly controlled by the bureaucrats in Austin. Even the individual elected state officials are kept in the dark about what is transpiring in the regions or districts they represent. The DSHS leadership does not want to find itself explaining its actions to the citizenry who are in reality the actual employers of everyone in the agency. And of course, the mist of plausible deniability floats over the entire capitol city of Texas.

It is not unusual for governmental bodies to take actions that are detrimental to the poorest of their constituencies. Those of limited means do not have a strong public voice and usually suffer in silence. As Dr. Lakey has already admitted when quizzed by the state legislature...if critical needs medications for individuals suffering from chronic illness, HIV, diabetes and other diseases are stopped...people die. Is that really how we want to balance our budget?

Semper Fidelis
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Your Opinions and Comments

4th Generation Texan  
Sutherland Springs  
July 1, 2011 11:32am
One think to remember about balancing the budget on the backs of the poor...The poor do not put anything into the pot, but want to reach in and pull out ALL the goodies that someone else worked to hard to put in. If you are ... More ›

Alvin Charmaine  
June 30, 2011 11:52am
4th. I didnt say she was stupid. I'm waiting for someone to "hack her phone" so her nude pictures get "leaked" like all the other reality tv stars do when they want attention.

4th Generation Texan  
Sutherland Springs  
June 30, 2011 10:29am
Alvin, You didn't understand. There is a group that has done a study on communication level. And, an 8th grade level of communication is pretty high. What don't you understand about that? I know you are trying to kick some ... More ›

Alvin Charmaine  
June 30, 2011 9:45am
While im not a big Bachmann fan, simply because she panders too much, she is infinitely more qualified then Palin to run for President.

Alvin Charmaine  
June 30, 2011 5:57am
An IQ of 93 certainly substantiates your statement. 8th grade writing is impressive. With such an emphasis on education in the Palin household it's no wonder Bristol was able to sneak out so much. This can be an episode on ... More ›

4th Generation Texan  
Sutherland Springs  
June 29, 2011 8:12pm
Yes, and communicating on an 8th grade level is on the UPPER (highest level) of similar groups when communicating by email. God, Alvin don't you read and understand Anything?

Alvin Charmaine  
June 29, 2011 3:28pm
She communicates with her professional associates and peers during the performance of her job at an 8th grade level. Fantastic.

Senior Citizen  
Wilson County  
June 29, 2011 2:16pm
The Flesch-Kincaid scores for Palin were not based on her speech. They were based on her E-MAILS ....

4th Generation Texan  
Sutherland Springs  
June 29, 2011 2:02pm
Not only did she write her speech she did not have to use a teleprompter. And not once did I hear her say, "Let me make it clear" and proceed to do just the opposite like O...the reason he doesn't take questions ... More ›

Alvin Charmaine  
June 29, 2011 11:21am
Palin is a sharp cookie? Did she write her speech? I know John Mccain promoted her as the worlds foremost expert on energy, but her solution to the Gulf Oil spill was to call Denmark and ask for aide because they have experience ... More ›

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