Thursday, February 26, 2015

House budget markup funds prison health below what's needed to meet 'minimum standards'

At the Texas House Corrections Committee meeting this morning, TDCJ chief Brad Livingston said the House budget markup on prison healthcare gave the agency $85 million of the $174.8 million extra that they said in their Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) would be required to meet "minimum standards" in the coming biennium.

This news raises several questions which remain unasked after this morning's session: Which standards will TDCJ fail to meet under the budget scenario in the markup? Can that failure be quantified? What would that $89.8 million have paid for that the agency must do without if the House budget number stands? Given that it's presently operating at a lower budget level, is the agency meeting "minimum standards" right now?

That said, it's early in session, they were hustling through the agenda to adjourn before the full House convened, and most of the committee members including the chairman are new to these issues. They'll learn a lot more about correctional managed health care, I've little doubt, and gain a better understanding of what questions to ask as the session progresses.

Moreover, I was comforted to see the committee at their first meeting appeared open to continuing the reformist track that  John Whitmire and Jerry Madden sent the agency down beginning in 2007. Chairman Jim Murphy in his introductory remarks mentioned a serendipitous moment when, the morning after the Speaker asked him to become Corrections chair, his pre-scheduled Bible study included Hebrews 13:3, which admonished Christians to "Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies." Let's face it, if one must choose a Bible verse to encapsulate a model attitude toward criminal justice, one could do worse.


Anonymous said...

There should not be one dime spent to increase UTMB Managed Care. Representive Sylvester Turner was correct to push the issue of medical parole and using non-secure facilities to push the cost onto Federal Medicaid. There are too many inmates who a little threat that can be medically paroled to reduce cost and free up services to other inmates thy need it. Increasing funding doesn't always improve the quality of care.

goodman said...

See comment above: Prison medicine (including psych) is a medical practice the is unique. Brillant academic credentials do not in any way qualify as a source of excellence in prison medicine.

In addition, this notion that has been in vogue for several decades that by privatizing a government function one gains benefits is a fiction. CMC is the prime example ... costly, marginally corrupt and massively destructive to a fine university's reputation occurs. Combine those two concepts and one forms UTMB-TDCJ CMC and the path toward the loss of the admirable standards (imposed by the Justice Court) is paved ... one of those many well meaning mistakes that this state has gotten into.

Correction of the mistakes can't be done by modification of the present structure and function. Correction, modernization and efficient practices must spring up anew.

Pursuit of the present practices has lead to sad results. Overhaul is in order.


The Comedian said...

Cash strapped UTMB-CMC just held a gala two-day convention at the Moody Gardens Hotel in Galveston last week. 500 CMC employees were mandated to attend. Feedback was that the presentations were mediocre at best and very little new info was provided that the employees haven't already heard before. CMC's gotta spend that moolah before the fiscal year ends!