November 12, 2013
From the devastating typhoon in the Philippines last Friday to the Halloween floods right here in our own backyard, so many people are suffering.
You can donate to the Red Cross simply by going to www.redcross.org. You can find more specific information about what’s going on in Central Texas at www.redcross.org/tx/austin. Or you can just text REDCROSS to 90999 to contribute $10 to the group.
Locally, other groups are still working hard to help those who lost so much to the floods. You can give to the United Way by calling 512-472-6267, going to www.uwatx.org/flood or texting UWATX to 85944.
You probably remember (or, at least, I hope you remember) that Travis County passed Proposition 1 in 2012 as a mechanism to implement the 10 Goals in 10 Years I laid out in 2011 to transform healthcare in this community. Those goals included the construction of a medical school at UT and a teaching hospital, as well as the creation of uniquely Austin health clinics and a much stronger psychiatric care system.
As you’ll see, the good news is that we’re on track to achieve almost all of our goals.
The better news is that, in most cases, we’re ahead of schedule.
1. Create a Medical School: UT expects to break ground in the next few months and welcome its first class of UT Dell Medical School students in 2016.
2. Create a Teaching Hospital: The Seton Healthcare Family is spending about $245 million of its own money and raising about $50 million more to build this state-of-the-art hospital that will shore up the safety net for our poor and uninsured neighbors. Look for it in 2017.
3. Create Uniquely Austin Clinics: Central Health and Seton have created what’s called the Community Care Collaborative. Those two and other partners – such as Austin Travis County Integral Care (what we used to call MHMR) – will invest in efforts to improve health and help people avoid emergency rooms by using clinics and other preventative settings. Every dollar raised locally will attract a $1.40 federal match, creating a roughly $120 million-a-year pool of money – most of it from the feds – to address the root causes of health problems.
4. Improve Behavioral/Mental Health: At least 10 percent of Community Care Collaborative money will be focused exclusively on psychiatric care. More will go toward programs that will help address this crisis. And the new teaching hospital will include around 14 medical-psychiatric beds for hospital patients who need one. Right now, we have none.
5. Support a New Research Institute and Labs: The Seton-UT Southwestern Clinical Research Institute is up and running at UMC-Brackenridge; the planned Dell Medical School research building is expected to cover more than 200,000 square feet; and the corner of downtown that the med school will anchor is already being discussed as an “innovation cluster” to help treatments develop into products.
6. Launch a Commercialization Incubator: During the first half of next year – around the time we’re breaking ground on the med school – we should have a report with recommendations for financing a commercialization incubator. This is a critical goal: the greatest discoveries in the world won’t make much difference if they don’t find their way into people’s hands.
7. Become a Center for Cancer Care: A number of healthcare partners put out a report this year finding that significant, high-quality cancer treatment is available in Central Texas. But not everyone can access this life-saving care – especially the poor – and too many feel they have to leave the region for the care they need. Our next step is to identify ways to fill gaps that the report identified.
8. Improve Infrastructure & Create a Sense of Place: Mayor Leffingwell has formed a downtown stakeholders group to look, in part, at how to take advantage of this growth. And Waller Creek redevelopment is moving forward; the creek will be a “defining feature” for the area around the med school. We’re creating a sense of place that’s a place of healing.
9. Bolster the Medical Examiner’s Office: It’s likely that the coroner’s office will not be located in the immediate vicinity of the med school. But the Medical Examiner is still stretching to meet the demands on it, and I’m optimistic that we’ll ultimately address this issue as part of this process.
10. Solve the Funding Puzzle: To some degree, this goal is accomplished. Prop 1 was the last puzzle piece for funding the medical school – Travis County voters will provide $35 million a year to support it. UT Austin and the UT System have identified funding and strategies to cover the rest. Seton solved the funding puzzle for the teaching hospital. The Community Care Collaborative helps solve it for our clinics and neighborhoods.
All of these things are coming together. They each make all of it work.
But our work isn’t over. This transformation has brought us two ongoing tasks: to keep our people healthy, and to keep our economy healthy.
I don’t know that we’ll ever do anything like Proposition 1 again. That was a generational, transformational referendum – I’ve never seen anything like it, here or anywhere else.
But there will be new opportunities to help our friends and neighbors live longer, healthier, fuller lives. There will be new challenges for our economy and our competitiveness.
We live in a special place. We proved it by embracing the 10 Goals in 2011, passing Prop 1 in 2012, and accomplishing so much over the past year.
I have no doubt – none at all – that we’re ready for what’s next.