The Texas House’s Human Services committee began its work in earnest on Tuesday with more than six hours of testimony from state agency officials and nonprofit directors. For the second legislative session, State Rep. Patrick M. Rose is at the panel’s helm as it takes a leading role in social issues, including influence over the state Health and Human Services system’s $25 billion annual budget.
By coincidence, or not, the hearing coincided with release of the sensational news that employees of a state-run home in Corpus Christi for the mentally disabled are being investigated for their roles in an alleged “fight club” between the home’s residents, appalling spectacles recorded on cell phone videos. Law enforcement officials say the footage shows nearly a dozen school employees goading male residents of the institution into bloody brawls.
Calling the allegations “disgraceful and unacceptable” in remarks carried by dozens of newspapers across the state, Rose said the allegations underscore the need for legislation he has proposed that would seek to recreate the way Texas deals with the mentally handicapped, including its state school system.
Rose’s House Bill 1317 seeks to address a U.S. Department of Justice report casting doubt on the safety of state schools by requiring annual inspections and instituting standards for investigations of abuse and neglect in the facilities. House Bill 1589 would require the Health and Human Services Commission to create a ten-year strategic plan that would ultimately close some state schools in favor of efforts to integrate the developmentally disabled into their communities. Rose’s committee begins hearings on the bills on Thursday.
“I am committed to working with my House colleagues to pass legislation as quickly as possible that provides meaningful oversight and accountability in state schools and in the community,” the Dripping Springs Democrat said. “We are over-institutionalizing today as thousands of Texans sit on wait-lists for community-based services. Only with the passage of both these bills will we fully address the Department of Justice’s concerns and be in better positions to protect and care for these Texans.”
He continued, “At this moment, we have a moral and constitutional responsibility to protect our most vulnerable citizens. … I am working with my colleagues to get emergency legislation before the full House as quickly as possible.”
— BRAD ROLLINS
CLARIFICATION: The House’s Human Services committee met on March 5 and Feb. 26. Testimony at the March 10 hearing lasted about six hours, not eight, when recesses are accounted for. The committee’s first day of testimony on proposed legislation, including Rose’s bills, is Thursday, not Wednesday. The story was revised to reflect these adjustments.Email | Print