January 8, 2020
I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. But, when it looks like I might be actually making one work, well, I’ll take it. So, my official position is that my New Year’s resolution started about two months ago because I’d put on somewhere between just a little too much weight and quite a bit too much weight during the 2019 legislative session.
I had a good excuse, though. We had a really busy session reforming school finance, restoring government transparency, and passing some of the “most significant state sex assault legislation in the country“.
Plus I was writing a book. Yep, in the middle of all the nuttiness of a legislative session, I was trying to put two decades worth of thoughts about Austin into prose.
That all just made it a tad hard to exercise. It did make it easy to eat and drink like a fool, however.
The good news is I’m getting the weight off of me. The better news is the book, Austin Unlimited, is out now. I’m glad I had a chance to do something like this and write about people and a town I care so much about. It was a neat experience.
Preserving the past, preparing for the future
Another top legislative priority for me was continuing the Austin State Hospital Brain Health System Redesign. I believe this investment in the Austin State Hospital and our community’s brain health continuum of care will absolutely make a difference in the lives of our neighbors experiencing mental illness.
Our goal is to provide 21st Century Brain Health at the new hospital and other facilities. We want to create a better future at the same time we recognize the historical significance of this site. So, we’ve made some very deliberate efforts to address history, including making sure the ASH Brain Health Redesign Steering Committee had historical preservation representation from the beginning. Additionally, the Health and Human Services Commission and Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin are working closely with the Texas Historical Commission to ensure compliance with the Texas Antiquities Act. They’ve also retained a consultant with experience in the preservation of African American history in Texas to help lead the ASH Historic Preservation Initiative. Historic ASH records are being digitized. Archaeological investigations are underway. Bldg 540, at one time a segregated dormitory for male African American patients, has been identified as a potential resource center and museum of artifacts, oral histories, patient and staff journals, photographs, and other means of preserving history. These and other aspects of the Initiative are under development.
Over the next few weeks, there will be two open houses regarding the ASH replacement hospital to provide information to the public and will include tours of the building site. Officials will discuss the scope of the project, the archaeological work involved, the hospital’s history and relevance of this work to improve brain health for Texans.
I believe that we can both honor and preserve our state’s history while ensuring Texans have access to the most advanced treatments in the best settings for recovery. Our friends, families and neighbors deserve no less.