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center for civic & public policy improvement
Weekly Brief, April 20, 2021
Focus: Healthcare

Racism is a Public Health Crisis:
Texas Needs an Office of Health Equity to Address Racial Health Disparities 

In 2010, Texas lawmakers created the Office of Minority Health Statistics and Engagement (originally the Center For Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities), in recognition that health was determined less by individuals than by inequitable systems and social policies, that result in poverty, under-resourced communities, toxic environments, and poor health.  “Your zip code matters more than your genetic code.”

An initial project conducted by the Office was to improve the racial disproportionality and disparities in the Texas Child Welfare system. Nationally, and in Texas, Black children are more likely to be removed from their parents than white children, less likely to reunite with their families and end up growing up in foster care. For example, Black children represent 23% of children in foster care although they only represent 14% of the general U.S population. In 2009 in Texas, when the Office began its work, Black children made up 12% of the state’s child population but represented 27% of children removed from their homes and 35% of children in foster care waiting for adoption. 

However, in 2017, Texas lawmakers defunded the Office of Minority Health Statistics and Engagement. Projects to address improving foster care removal rates of Black children and the health outcomes of children, like Judge Aurora Martinez Jones’s Child Welfare Race Equity Collaborative, were disrupted when the office was shut down. The issues remain: for example in 2018 in Travis County, Black children were 8 times more likely to be removed by CPS than white children. 

In 2021, a sustainable, well-funded office dedicated to improving racial health disparities is even more desperately needed as the pandemic continues to ravage communities of color across the state. COVID-19 deaths among Black people are twice as high as deaths among white people, Black women are dying of COVID-19 at higher rates than white men, and 34.5% of U.S COVID-19 deaths are among Latinx people.

A March 2021 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation explored how adults are faring one year into the pandemic based on certain social determinants of health. It highlights the disproportionate burden on people of color. For example: 

  • Over 75% of Black and Hispanic adults reported difficulty paying household expenditures compared to 53% of white adults. 

  • 20% of Black adults and 18% of Hispanic adults reported food insufficiency in the household compared to 8% of white adults.  

In Texas, a new study funded by the Episcopal Health Foundation found that there would be 5,000 fewer COVID-19 deaths if Black and Hispanic residents had the same mortality rates as white residents. Every Texan also released the Kids Count 2021: Health Equity for Every Child study which found, amongst many other social determinants of health-connected data in Texas, that more than one in three Black families and one in four Hispanic families experienced hunger in the past year.  

Hopeful News 

Since 2020, local governments and organizations like the American Public Health Association, the American Medical Association, and others across the country are adopting resolutions to declare racism as a public health crisis. In support of these initiatives, Sen. Warren, Rep. Pressley, and Rep. Lee have introduced federal legislation, the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act, to “develop race-conscious public health approaches to reverse the existing disparities that have plagued our nation for too long.” The Act would create a National Center for Anti-Racism and a Law Enforcement Violence Prevention Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC Director has since unveiled a new agency initiative to address racism in health. 

In Texas, CCPPI founder Rep. Garnet Coleman (joint-authored by Rep. Toni Rose, Rep. Jarvis Johnson, and Rep. Donna Howard) filed HB 4139 to reinstate the Center For Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities (as noted above, also known as Office of Minority Health Statistics and Engagement) and rename it the Office For Health Equity. HB 4139 is currently awaiting the next step in the House Public Health Committee after hearing testimonies on April 7th, 2021.  

And, in a shout-out to a newer collaboration between the Department of Family Protective Services and child welfare advocates across the state, the newly-formed the Texas Working at the Intersection of Safe Families, Texas WAIS  is working to address racial disparities and engage families and communities to re-create a child welfare system that is equitable and just.

Call to Action:

   Click here to call & email your representative and members of the House Public Health Committee (script provided).

 Click here for social media graphics and sample tweets to encourage advocacy around the restoration of the Office For Health Equity. 

Healthcare Legislative Updates

Medicaid 1115 Waivers Rescinded April 16, 2021

On April 16, 2021, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) rescinded the Trump administration’s approval of the 10-year extension of the Texas Medicaid 1115 Waiver program. The Biden administration stated that the waiver approval did not go through the “full federal rulemaking process.” The 1115 Waiver program under the Trump administration imposed work and reporting requirements and eligibility, enrollment, and benefit restrictions, changes that undermine the Medicaid program’s mission of expanding and promoting healthcare access. Click here to learn more. 

CCPPI is a proud partner in the #SickofItTX Coalition where we work alongside other health advocacy partners to fight for healthcare justice and the expansion of Medicaid coverage in our state. More than 5 million Texans live without access to health care, a majority of them are people living in poverty and minoritized by race. 

Our next step: Medicaid expansion in Texas. Expanding Medicaid in TX could benefit 1 million residents in the Houston area and millions more across our state. Our partners at Children’s Defense Fund Texas’s statement on the recission of the 1115 Waiver states “The Governor, the Legislature and stakeholders across the state should look at this as an opportunity to get an even better deal for Texas and Texans; one that pulls down more federal dollars and helps more vulnerable Texans. Now would be a good time to have a real conversation about Medicaid expansion in the current legislative session.”      


Coverage Expansion for TX Moms moves forward during Black Maternal Health Week

HB 133 by Rep. Toni Rose passed in the House and is moving on to a vote in the Texas Senate. The bill provides mothers with Medicaid coverage for 12 months postpartum. Currently, Texas is one of the only states that does not provide low-income women with anything beyond the required 60 days of coverage. This lack of care puts millions of Texan women in danger each year. Expanding coverage will help to reduce high maternal and infant mortality rates for Black women and babies.  

Healthy Families, Healthy Texas

On April 7, 2021, Speaker of the Texas House Dade Phelan announced the Healthy Families, Healthy Texas bipartisan legislative package which includes many important bills (including support for HB 4139 to create the Health Equity Office). Unfortunately, Speaker Phelan’s legislative package does not include any bill that would focus on Medicaid expansion or any sort of bipartisan solution to the uninsured crisis in Texas. 


The Live Well Texas Bills 

For the first time in nearly a decade, there is a bill with significant bipartisan support that expands health care coverage to some uninsured Texans. The Live Well Texas bills (SB 117 by Senator Nathan Johnson and HB 3871 by Representative Julie Johnson) take a different approach than traditional Medicaid expansion bills, using a “waiver” to expand coverage to low-income adults and pull billions in federal funding to Texas every year. Some elements of the bill need improvement, but it is critical for getting coverage expansion this session.

Call to Action:

    Click here to write to your state leaders (script provided) and urge them to support the Live Well Texas Bills HB 3871 and SB 117.

   Click here for talking points on HB 133 to urge your reps in the Texas Senate to pass this important bill to support Moms. 

 Click here to tell Texas leaders it's time to expand Medicaid! 

Vaccine Updates 

As of March 29, 2021, everyone 16 and up is eligible to receive a COVID vaccine in Texas. Click here to register in Harris County. 

Racial disparities rooted in our country’s racist history of government-sanctioned segregation and discrimination have produced a racist healthcare system that influences who is and who isn’t receiving COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. Listen to NPR’s interview with pediatrician Dr. Rhea Boyd on Black Americans’ lack of access to vaccines. She discusses the campaign she began The Conversation: Between Us, About Us which is by Black health care workers for Black people.  

In Harris County, a study by Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia’s office found that of the 20 Harris County zip codes with vaccination rates of at least 31%, 18 have predominantly white residents. The zip codes with the highest rates of vaccination (some around 50%) included residents in Bellaire, West University, and Memorial. The racial disparities connect to economic realities: white people are more likely to be insured and vaccines were initially distributed to healthcare systems that contacted their insured patients first; lack of a vehicle to get to a mass drive-through vaccine site or technology to make a vaccine appointment; and work schedules, scheduling time off and childcare for essential workers, disproportionately Black women and women of color.   

CCPPI is glad to join the organizations working with Houston in Action in their efforts to continue and expand the community-based efforts to make vaccine distribution equitable and increase access for people of color, low-income communities, and women. 

Affordable Housing Progress...

St. Charles Place Apartments Now Preleasing 

The St. Charles Place Apartments is located at 3131 St. Charles Street at Elgin. They consist of 20 residential units including 2 studios, 2 one bedroom units designed for individuals who are mobility impaired, and 16 one bedroom units. 
Rents range from $600 to $975. Proof of income is required as there are maximum income restrictions for all households.
For more information please contact Stress Free Property Solutions at

Completion of the One Emancipation Center (Affordable Housing Operations Center) has an anticipated completion of April 2021. It is located at 3131 Emancipation Ave., Houston, TX 77004.
This five-story building will house CCPPI and other agencies dedicated to affordable housing development, advocacy, and economic growth of the community. Those interested in lease information, renderings, and marketing materials, please contact our commercial realtor partners Ed Ryland, ARVO or Chip Horne, Cushman & Wakefield. 

Check out our Social Media pages below for updates on CCPPI’s work, local advocacy efforts, and news stories on the topics of housing, healthcare, education, and criminal justice and safety. 

The Center for Civic and Public Policy Improvement is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing policies that promote human, civic, social, and economic justice, and to taking the necessary action to affect progress in all areas of civic improvement throughout the culturally diverse communities
in the Southern United States.

Copyright © 2021 CCPPI, All rights reserved.

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