Wednesday, May 06, 2009

House committee testimony overwhelmingly in favor of local control over disease prevention

The House Public Health Committee received testimony yesterday from several members of the clergy, the Texas Medical Association, a Senior Fellow for Religion and Public Policy, the Texas Department of State Health Services (resource witness), law enforcement, health providers and others - overwhelmingly in favor of giving local authorities the option to allow syringe exchange disease prevention programs. In addition, the Committee received letters and words of support from elected officials and organizations that could not attend the hearing including a Police Chief, Sheriffs, Constables, County Commissioners, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas and Scott & White hospital. We will post the letters and witness lists as they become available.

The hearing is available online for your viewing pleasure. It took place in three segments: morning can be seen here (forward to 1:00:45); lunch can be seen here; and the night time can be viewed here.

In addition, Grits for Breakfast covered the issue masterfully before and after the hearing. In the first piece, Grits provides links to all prior coverage which gives a rich history of the issue, and correctly points out:
"A majority of Public Health Committee members already voted for needle exchange once. The House had a vote in 2007 on an amendment by Rep. McLendon to allow a needle exchange pilot in Bexar County that tells us a lot about the bill's likely reception on committee. Here's how the committee members voted on that 2007 amendment:
Ayes: Naishtat; Coleman; Gonzales; Hopson; McReynolds, King, S;

Nays: Laubenberg, Truitt

Absent: Kolkhorst; Davis, J;

Present not voting: Zerwas"
In the second piece published after the morning hearing, Grits observed:
"Rep. Susan King, who chaired the subcommittee, was an especially knowledgeable and enthusiastic proponent for the legislation; I hope she'll repeat the performance when it comes up on the House floor because she did a great job arguing the merits of the program.

"Reacting to urging from the chair and committee member Dr. John Zerwas, King said the subcommittee added a strong counseling component to the bill, requiring syringe exchange programs to be "one stop shopping" information centers for helping drug addicts access treatment and medical services.

"The witnesses began with ministers from St. Mark's in San Antonio and another minister from Austin who gave a faith-based argument for the program. A minister from St. Mark's said Christ ate and sat with sinners, not to condone them but to redeem them. The Austin minister said healing was a central activity of Jesus' own ministry - 72% of Jesus' miraculous activity relates to healing those with physical or mental illness, he said."
Things are happening quickly now. Please stay tuned for more information about this life-saving legislation as it becomes available.

No comments: