Health and Human Services

State Audit: 'Operational Defects' Led to 21CT Deal

Apr 2, 2015
Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: A scathing state audit of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission's $20 million deal for fraud tracking software has revealed "operational defects" within the agency's procurement process. 

According to the report, which was released on Thursday, no one took ownership of the deal or ever questioned why it should not be competitively awarded. 

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT News

A state senator says Texas has "gaping holes" in the laws on contracting. To change that, a panel of lawmakers is reviewing a bill from State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, that would overhaul how billions of dollars in state funding are awarded.

Under the bill, the more money involved in a state agency contract, the more competitive bids required before signing a deal. Agencies would have to post their contracts online and develop a contract management database, for instance.

Liang Shi/KUT News

This was supposed to be a fairly quiet week at the Legislature.

For the seventh session in a row, Muslim groups from across the state came to Austin for their regular lobby day, just like the lobby day for doctors, or bikers, or any special interest group. Only this time they were met by about 25 protesters, who yelled and held signs with anti-Islamic slogans and briefly took hold of the mic during speeches.

Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, joined the fray by instructing her staff to ask any Muslims who came into her office if they would “renounce Islamic terrorist groups and announce allegiance to America and our laws.” The council on American-Islamic relations has already sent a letter to House Speaker Joe Straus to see if those instructions violate House ethics rules.

The legislature also broached another currently controversial topic: the Texas Health & Human Services Commission (HHSC).

The Senate has voted to confirm Sylvia Mathews Burwell to the post of secretary of health and human services, where she will replace Kathleen Sebelius, who presided over the troubled rollout of the website.

In a 78-17 vote, Burwell, who served most recently as White House budget director, was approved Thursday.

In a statement released by the White House press office, President Obama said he applauded the confirmation of Burwell.

Jon Shapley for KUT News

The mostly uninhabited neighborhood of Onion Creek in southeast Austin has experienced some growth. But it’s growth the few neighbors who are back do not welcome.

Mold and mildew is growing in many of the homes that were left uninhabited after last year’s floods, which could create health problems for those living in Onion Creek.

Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services says sexually transmitted diseases are costing Travis County residents lots of money.

The department says more than 62,000 new cases of STDs were diagnosed in Travis County in 2011 alone. That’s estimated to cost over $83 million in lifetime medical costs.

Healthy People, Healthy Places Austin

This month marks the one-year anniversary of a project between the City of Austin and the UT's School of Public Health to reduce the gap in public health between ethnic groups in Austin.

Reducing the high school dropout rate in Texas by 50 percent could save the state $547 million in Medicaid spending annually, according to a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education

The study finds raising education-attainment levels could reduce health-related costs – specifically surrounding obesity, tobacco and alcohol use and heart disease. 

"An educated citizen is a healthy, productive and happier citizen," Bob Wise, president of Alliance for Excellent Education, said in a statement released Wednesday.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Negotiations with the federal government to expand Medicaid in Texas are at a standstill, according to the head of the state’s health agency, because he’s waiting on the Legislature to give him direction.

“If I were to go up and say, ‘Oh what if we try this or try that,’ only to come back and find that that very day the Legislature had passed legislation saying, ‘You may not talk about that,’” Health and Human Services Commissioner Kyle Janek said at a TribLive event held by our political reporting partner the Texas Tribune, “it would be a waste of my time to start negotiating pieces.”

courtesy Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services

The city-county health department is trying to find a man to let him know he may have been exposed to rabies.

The man delivered an unhealthy bat to Austin Vet Care on North Lamar Sunday afternoon.

If that’s you or someone you know, you’re asked to contact the health department’s disease surveillance program at 972-5555.


Fewer than 1 in 5 Austinites identifies as a smoker, according to the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department. And those who smoke are finding it harder to do so -- Austin bars, restaurants and parks ban smoking. Major employers like UT and Samsung prohibit smoking on their campuses.

Now there’s a push to ban smoking at bar and restaurant patios as well.

Trinn Suwannapha, via

Saturday is World AIDS Day. Here in Austin, the Department of Health and Human Services in holding a day long AIDS conference. This year’s focus is on how HIV is affecting young people in Travis County, among whom HIV infection is increasing.

Worldwide, deaths from AIDS are down since 2005. Rates of HIV infection are also falling. But HIV is on the rise among young people, including those in Travis County.

“In the last four or five years, we’ve seen a very sharp increase in the number of cases of HIV infection in among youth,” said Joe Barnes with Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services. “We define that as between 13 and 24.”

Photos: Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Background Image:

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has appointed a new head of the Department of Family and Protective Services.

The previous commissioner resigned last week as an Abilene office of the department is under criminal investigation.

Abilene Police say employees at the Child Protective Services office were not cooperative in the investigation into a toddler’s death in August. Police believe some employees may have tampered with evidence.