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DHR Health, Hidalgo County among most generous financial supporters for Hope Family Health Center, which provides free medical care for uninsured and indigent area residents - Hope Family Health Center - Titans of the Texas Legislature

FEATURED, FROM LEFT: Jesse Ozuna, Vice President, Public Affairs, Texas Regional Bank; Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortéz; Hidalgo County Precinct 2 Commissioner Eduardo “Eddie” Cantú; Roberto Haddad, Vice President and Counsel for Government Affairs and Policy, DHR Health; and Jamison Merrick, Assistant Director, Office of Organizational & Strategic Excellence, City of Pharr. This image was taken on Tuesday, January 11, 2022, at the Hope Family Health Center, which is located at 2332 Jordan Road in McAllen.

Photograph Courtesy HOPE FAMILY HEALTH CENTER

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DHR Health, Hidalgo County among most generous financial supporters for Hope Family Health Center, which provides free medical care for uninsured and indigent area residents

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
[email protected]

Hidalgo County Commissioners Court has awarded $1 million – to be spread out at $250,000 annually – to Community Hope Projects, Inc., better known as Hope Family Health Center, which provides free medical, counseling, and case management services to more than 1,800 uninsured individuals annually in the Rio Grande Valley.

In doing so, the county government has joined DHR Health as one of the most generous financial supporters for Hope Family Health Center, a McAllen-based nonprofit organization which is run by local volunteer physicians and staff, all who provide their time and services without charge.

During the past 15 years, DHR Health has sponsored its annual “Fishing for Hope Tournament”, held at South Padre Island, which is one of the largest nonprofit tournaments on the Texas coast.

During that period, its “Fishing for Hope Tournament” has raised more than $1.2 million for Hope Family Health Center.

As part of the fishing competition, the “Fishing for Hope Tournament” feature live music, a dinner, a legendary stars auction and much more.

DHR Health leaders say as the community grows, so do medical and health care needs.

The Hidalgo County Commissioners Court, during its Tuesday, December 14, 2022 regular meeting, approved the $1 million contribution to Hope Family Health Center, which is located at 2332 Jordan Road in McAllen.

According to its website, Hope Family Health Center is a 501(c) non-profit organization dedicated to providing quality integrated medical and counseling services including preventative care and education to medically indigent individuals and families living in the Rio Grande Valley.

Hope Family Health Center asks its patients for a $5-$15 donation but no patient is ever turned away for inability to pay. They do not charge for their services and rely on the generosity of the community, fundraisers, and grants to sustain their services.

Those services feature:

• Primary Medical Care
• Laboratory Services
• Integrated /Team Based Care
• Mental Health Counseling
• Psychotherapy
• Peer Support & Warmline
• Nutritional Support
• Wellness Classes

To become a patient of HOPE, please call 956-994-3319 or come to its clinic at 2332 Jordan Road in McAllen.

Anchored in southwest Edinburg on a 130-acre site, with a growing presence in neighboring McAllen, Rio Grande City, Mission, and Brownsville, DHR Health offers some of the most comprehensive medical care on the U.S. southern border, with more than 1,400 nurses and other health professionals, plus an additional 600+ physicians providing care in 70+ specialties and sub-specialties.

DHR Health is the flagship teaching hospital for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine and encompasses a general acute hospital with the only dedicated women’s hospital south of San Antonio, a rehabilitation hospital, a behavioral hospital, more than 70 clinics Valley-wide, advanced cancer services, the only transplant program in the Rio Grande Valley – and as of September 8, 2021, the only 24/7 Level One Trauma Center south of San Antonio.

On Tuesday, November 16, 2021, Driscoll Health System, in partnership with DHR Health, held a groundbreaking ceremony for Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley, located at 2820 W. Michaelangelo Drive in Edinburg, which is being built on the site of the DHR Health campus, next to DHR Health’s The Women’s Hospital at Renaissance.

The new, independently operated, eight-level pediatric hospital will further the mission of Driscoll Children’s Hospital founder Clara Driscoll to provide medical care to all the children of South Texas. The building is expected to be completed in Spring 2023.

The facility represents a combined investment of more than $105 million. Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley will operate with more than 500 employees, creating significant economic impact and new job opportunities for clinical, ancillary and support staff in the Valley.

Rodolfo Gómez, with the Hidalgo County Budget & Management Department, provided key background on the $1 million contribution in his memorandum to the county commissioners court.

His memorandum, along with additional background information, follow:

Agenda Item
Briefing Commissioners Court
December 14, 2021

AI Number: 83773
Project Name: Assistance to Hope Clinic
Project Number: ARPA-21-110-032
Project Department Name: Budget & Management Funding
Source: American Rescue Plan Act Relief Funds 1-1290-441-06-115-225-1-XXX
Prepared by: Rodolfo Gomez Department: Budget & Management

Background Information

On May 10, 2021, the U.S. the Department of the Treasury announced the launch of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, established by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, to provide $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments.

The bill allows governments to provide funding to nonprofit clinics to serve Hidalgo County’s vulnerable communities.

Impoverished and vulnerable populations in Hidalgo County are experiencing evident health disparities due to the ongoing public health emergency.

The Hidalgo County American Rescue Plan Act Primary Medical Care and Behavioral Health Program will execute strategies to slow the spread of COVID-19 by supporting nonprofit clinics that serve the most vulnerable communities. For instance, vulnerable Hidalgo County residents have relied on clinics, such as the HOPE Clinic, for high quality healthcare services.

Compliance

The Memorandum of Understanding has been made in compliance with the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Interim Final Rules issued by the U.S. Treasury, which allows the use of American Rescue Plan Act funds for the purpose of supporting the public health response by aiding nonprofit entities that have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Administration

Approval of the item is consistent with Hidalgo County’s intended purpose of mitigating the spread of COVID-19. The goal is to provide efficient and effective delivery of services in light of changes in technology, the public’s expectations, the area’s population and economy. Hidalgo County is taking the lead in responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency for our community as a whole.

Agenda Caption

ARPA – American Rescue Plan Act (1290):

1. Assistance to Hope Clinic – Project Number: ARPA-21-110-032.

C. Discussion, consideration, and approval of the Memorandum of Understanding between Community HOPE Projects, Inc. and the County of Hidalgo to provide funding to Community HOPE Projects, Inc. for additional expenses incurred to address the needs of Hidalgo County residents affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency, with authority for the County Judge, as authorized official, to sign the Memorandum of Understanding.

Recommendations

The Department of Budget & Management recommends approval of the use of ARPA Relief Funds for the purpose of supporting the public health response to COVID-19 address the negative effects caused by COVID-19 by aiding nonprofit entities that have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the last two years, the COVID-19 public health emergency has dramatically impacted regions of low socioeconomic status. Currently, 26.9% of Hidalgo County’s population lives below the poverty line, and the pandemic’s impact on the county’s public health is evident. The pandemic has challenged non-profit clinics’ ability to accommodate pandemic-related needs. More specifically, mental health and substance abuse disorders were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Non-profit clinics’ provide services to the underserved Hidalgo County community. Services are also provided to the vulnerable population, such as individuals who are uninsured. In Texas, 29% of adults under 65 years of age are uninsured, which is approximately 4.9 million of residents. Whereas, in Hidalgo County in 2019, there were 33.2% of individuals without health insurance. By investing in non-profit clinics, individuals without health insurance would be able to receive high-quality primary care services.

The long-term health impacts of COVID-19 will continue to require a dedicated public health response, including a response to the negative effects that the pandemic has exacerbated in terms of mental health. Additionally, the COVID-19 public health emergency has shown the need to address behavioral health disparities within the community, including substance abuse and domestic violence.

Lastly, there is a lack of outreach to medically disadvantaged communities that are bearing the brunt end of the pandemic’s effects. The lack of essential resources has made it incredibly difficult to mitigate COVID-19 without further investment in local health care.

Additionally, the high infection rate is associated with underlying health conditions, such as hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and diabetes, that are prevalent in low-income communities. Programs that address underlying health issues can help directly mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The Hidalgo County American Rescue Plan Act Primary Medical Care and Behavioral Health Program mission is to undertake COVID-19 mitigation efforts by providing funding to non-profit clinics to serve the most vulnerable community of Hidalgo County. The non-profit clinics will provide services, including but not limited to primary medical care, laboratory services, mental health counseling, psychotherapy, nutritional support, wellness classes, and COVID-19 vaccination.

Through this program, the non-profit organizations will be able to continue to provide vital primary care services to the disadvantaged communities, and address the health disparities that the pandemic has made more evident.

Response to COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

The COVID-19 pandemic has put an acute strain on the health of the Hidalgo County population. In response, the Hidalgo County American Rescue Plan Act Primary Medical Care and Behavioral Health Program will address the need for accessible public health services, focusing on the most vulnerable population.

This funding will also cover expenses for additional actions and programs necessary to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency.

Hope is a free health clinic founded in 1996 by Sister Marion Strohmeyer, David Saavedra, LCSW, Ann W. Cass and the Rev. Gerald Frank with commitment to providing integrated medical and counseling services to the uninsured and indigent living in the Rio Grande Valley.

Hope celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2021 and serves as an integral part of our community’s safety-net, providing vital primary care services to the most vulnerable members of our community.

Despite the challenges brought forth by the COVID- 19 pandemic, including a significant decrease in funding, Hope has been able to continue its service by conducting more than 7,800 medical and counseling appointments during 2020 and more than 8,000 patient appointments in 2021.

Organizers expect demand for Hope’s services to continue to rise. Hope does not accept insurance or charge for the services it provides. The operation is dependent on the generosity of our community and through fundraisers and grants like this substantial grant provided by Hidalgo County leadership.

The funding provided by Hidalgo County will make it possible for Hope to sustain its current level of services for the foreseeable future, expand access to healthcare services for the most vulnerable, and avoid service reductions that had been forecast for the latter half of 2022.

MOST TEXAS WOMEN WHOSE PREGNANCIES WERE COVERED BY PUBLIC INSURANCE SUFFERED LACK OF COVERAGE DURING THE YEAR AFTER DELIVERY, FINDS NEW STUDY

Almost 90% of Texas women whose pregnancies were covered by public insurance were uninsured at some point in the first year after delivery, according to a new study from researchers at The University of Texas at Austin.

The findings were release on Monday, April 25, 2022.

This phenomenon of “insurance churn” can leave women with limited access to care at a time when they need it.

In the new study, which was selected as the Editor’s Choice for the March/April issue of Women’s Health Issues, authors followed 1,498 postpartum Texans with pregnancies covered by public insurance.

The researchers, who are affiliated with the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP), found that many women lost insurance coverage and encountered difficulties in obtaining care for a range of health conditions.

“Discussions around postpartum healthcare must focus on the big picture,” said Lauren Thaxton, Assistant Professor of Women’s Health at Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin and researcher with TxPEP.

“Stable insurance coverage throughout a person’s life — including the crucial periods before, during, and in the year after delivery — can increase general health and wellness and allow any issues to be addressed by a provider before they become critical.”

The researchers used data from the Texas Postpartum Contraception Study, which recruited women who gave birth with coverage from Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) at one of eight participating Texas hospitals between 2014 and 2016.

They examined responses to surveys administered three, six, and 12 months after childbirth.

They found that 77% of participants were uninsured at three months postpartum, and most had not acquired coverage by the end of the year.

Participants’ responses to open-ended survey questions indicated a variety of health concerns in the postpartum period and barriers to care, the authors reported.

Conditions described by uninsured women included gallstones, unexplained vomiting and headaches, and symptoms of anxiety and depression.

“If an end result of insurance churn is that women with lower incomes living with chronic conditions only have access to treatment when pregnant, postpartum women may experience severe (and preventable) complications,” wrote lead author Elizabeth Ela and her co-authors.

“This study makes an important contribution by not only documenting postpartum insurance loss, but reporting on the kinds of health needs that such insurance loss can make it harder to address,” said Amita Vyas, Editor-in-Chief of Women’s Health Issues and associate professor of prevention and community health at Milken Institute SPH.

Women’s Health Issues is the official journal of the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health, which is based in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University.

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Carlos Sánchez and Laura Dixon contributed to this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).

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