DATA: Download Personal Financial Statements

World series, money, Houston, economy

When lawmakers are transparent and accountable, we all benefit. Unfortunately, current laws don’t require the state to post Personal Financial Disclosure of Texas legislators online. This forces constituents and the media to go through a bureaucratic process just to see if there are any conflicts of interests among those who are supposed to represent us.

That’s why we’re making Personal Financial Statements from 2019 available to download to anyone online.
Click here to view our Google Drive folder and download specific statements or the entire database.

State-run institutions for Texans with IDD floundering, yet flush with cash

For Texans living with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), there are few options for state sponsored long-term care. And with the state funneling money into institutions deemed inattentive and restrictive, an additional burden is placed on those left waiting years for a spot at group homes with better care and services. 

The recent death of LeCarvin DeKevin “Kevin” Lewis put this fact into stark relief earlier in July. Lewis, 41, was a patient at the Denton State Supported Living Center when he was found dead on campus grounds Thursday, July 4. His death came in light of a report that Kevin walked off the Denton campus the afternoon of Saturday, June 29. 

Residents are frequently reported as “walk-offs,” or unauthorized departures, at state supported living centers. These walk-offs often happen in plain sight, with center personnel accompanying the residents. What is atypical, however, is that a resident left in state care turns up dead and unaccounted for, rather than located and returned to the facility. 

While Denton has seen a relatively low amount of walk-offs in the past five years, other state-run institutions across Texas experience these circumstances at an almost alarming rate. Also shocking is the treatment of residents at state facilities: In 2008, a caregiver-led “fight club” was discovered at the Corpus Christi center. Employees that were tasked with supervising the residents had provoked them into battling with each other, showcasing a campus rife with exploitation and abuse. 

Federal investigations of state facilities did nothing to close any of the campuses, with the legislature instead continuing to fund the institutions. Additionally, many of the campuses are under capacity, which leads critics to question why the state won’t allocate funding to other low-cost, community-based options that are often better choices for Texans living with IDD. 

In order to pay for community-based care options, such as group homes and in-home care, families can apply for Medicaid. However, these applications must be supported by the state before any federal funding is released. This leads to an appalling 140,000 people waiting for services better-suited to their needs, which can stretch over 10 years. 

With 12 out of the 13 state-led institutions in Texas under capacity, it’s troublesome that people with IDD don’t receive the care and attention they need to live a healthy life. While there is a steep drop in individuals receiving services, the state continues to increase funding 25% each biennium, according to the Texas Council for Developmental Disability. 

Uptick in hot spots for preventable diseases continue to cause alarm following exemptions and avoidance

Although it may not be clear if you followed the spate of measles outbreaks throughout the United States in 2019, scientific beliefs about vaccines haven’t changed—decades of research amongst doctors and scientists routinely show that vaccines are both safe and effective. 

Yet Texas continues to see an increase in preventable diseases like measles at the same time that “Austin, Fort Worth and Plano…are among the nation’s cities with the highest number of kindergartners not getting vaccinated for non-medical reasons.” 

According to the Houston Chronicle, on a 2018 list of the top 15 metropolitan “hotspots” of exemptions for vaccines, Texas cities occupy four spots. And the numbers in Texas continue to increase, meaning the 2018 “hotspots” are even hotter now. 

In a previous Reform Austin article we reported the impact of the 86th Legislation on vaccines. Little was passed to remedy current or potential outbreaks, despite the significant increase in vaccination exemptions “which allow for individuals to avoid vaccinations for a variety of reasons ranging from medical to conscience reasons, including religious exemptions.”

According to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, students in Harris County are now exposed to unvaccinated classmates at alarmingly higher rates due to delays in vaccinations and exemptions. 

There are children enrolled in schools now who have not met vaccine requirements and who have not registered with exemptions allowed by the state of Texas. There are requirements for entrance and acceptance starting in kindergarten. 

Students must prove with documentation that they’ve received six vaccines in total: chickenpox, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DTaP), MMR, polio, hepatitis A, hepatitis B. Along the road of the educational journey there are several updates to vaccines, some recommended and some required. 

Schools with significant numbers of students delinquent on their vaccinations have to decide how to enforce vaccinations and the accompanying paperwork, or turn away students who have neither until students bring confirmation. Though local control in school districts makes sense in a state as large as Texas, the state has a duty to protect the rising threats of once-preventable diseases.
Given public health experts’ concern for the growing numbers of Texas students enrolled in school but not held accountable for vaccination proof, in addition to rising numbers of exemptions, it remains to be seen whether an outbreak is necessary for the state legislature to take a tougher stance on vaccination requirements and limit exemptions.