Health Wise: Dr. Janet Hurley's Wish List for Health Care in East Texas

Published on Friday, 10 February 2017 13:45 - Written by BY JANET HURLEY

As I look at the social needs for my patients in this community, I offer my "health care wish list" for community leaders, entrepreneurs and benefactors to make a meaningful impact on health care in East Texas in 2017.

First, our communities badly need low-income housing for disabled and senior adults ages 55 and older. Many of these patients end up socially isolated in a home they have lived in for years and do not have the financial means to afford the high-end senior housing generally available in our community.

I cannot stress enough the negative health outcomes I see from social isolation, and conversely the potential benefits of enabling isolated seniors to move into an affordable senior community with social events and neighborly interaction. It is my wish that a real estate entrepreneur will hear this plea and begin creating such communities in our area.

Second, our community has a general lack of access for Medicaid-accepting mental health counselors. I listened with sadness as a desperate single dad told me about how he called a list of Medicaid mental health providers to try to get care for his children, but he was turned away time after time because they had met their "Medicaid quota" for the year.

I heard another tell me of how her child was put on an "emergency waiting list" for counseling after an ER visit for a suicide attempt, and is still waiting weeks later. Many legislators have expressed concern about the repeat pattern of dependency on entitlements from parent to child, but access is limited to the treatment that will teach coping strategies and life skills to children to prevent that very thing. It is my wish that our legislators will open doors for improved mental health access for our community.

Lastly, our community would benefit greatly from more public transportation options. Tyler Transit does a good job serving the needs within the heart of Tyler, and the Go Bus helps individuals in rural areas. Yet I find there are still many underserved pockets of geography within our region, leading to social isolation and limited access to basic resources such as grocery stores and doctor visits.

The erosion of independence is the saddest part. It is my wish that an entrepreneur or benefactor will look at the feasibility of providing public transportation options at least two days per week to underserved areas in our region.

These wishes are mine alone, spoken from the heart of a doctor who loves her patients and cares for our community. I also speak as a family medicine leader who has worked for 19 years with a medical specialty organization based in Austin. While Austin politics do affect our income streams for health care services, we cannot expect Austin to solve most of our local problems.

I pray we have the courage to act in 2017 to make beneficial changes in our community.

---

Dr. Janet Hurley is operational chief for primary care of the southern region for Christus Trinity Clinic, practices family medicine at the Herrington-Ornelas HealthPark in Tyler and is president-elect for the Texas Academy of Family Physicians.