Senate Health And Human Services Committee Begins Interim Hearings

February 13, 2014

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee begins its interim studies next week with hearings on two key issues -- protecting children from abuse and neglect and improving women's health.

The hearings will be led by Senator Jane Nelson -- who chairs the committee -- beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday, February 20, 2014, in the Senate Finance Committee Room (E1.036). "We are eager to get to work on these important issues, which deserve a strong focus in the next legislative session," Senator Nelson said.

The committee's interim assignments include a charge to review the state's efforts to reduce child fatalities and ensure effective data usage to improve outcomes for children in the Child Protective Services (CPS) system. Last session the Legislature funded all agency requests for new caseworkers, providing the funding necessary to hire an approximate 800 additional caseworkers. However, challenges within the agency persist. Although child fatalities due to abuse and neglect have decreased overall from the previous year, there has been a troubling increase in child fatalities in foster care. Last October, Senator Nelson called on the agency to develop an immediate remediation plan in response to those deaths.

"Even one preventable child death is unacceptable, and I am deeply concerned by the tragedies that have occurred involving children in foster care. We need to pinpoint exactly why this is happening and address it head on," Senator Nelson said.  

The committee is also tasked with monitoring the expansion of women's health care approved in the last legislative session. The 83rd Legislature added funding to deliver cancer screenings, wellness exams, and other health services to an additional 170,000 women.

"We worked very hard to ensure that our network has the funding and provider capacity necessary to meet the health needs of Texas women. Now we need to educate women about how to navigate the system, improve our reach to women in underserved areas, and ensure that family planning remains a priority," Senator Nelson said. "I am also interested in exploring whether the various programs serving women can be consolidated into one seamless system. "

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.