Stick Stuck on His Study

The state rep still wants a 'needs assessment' from the hospital district

One item the Travis County Hospital District's Board of Managers would like to put off is the long-term needs assessment required under a rider added to the hospital district legislation. The assessment, often referred to by the Board of Managers as the "Stick amendment," was a concession to hospital district opponent Rep. Jack Stick (R-Austin).

According to the amendment, the district must contract with an independent and disinterested person or entity "to examine the necessity of increased indigent, pediatric, trauma and mental health care in the geographic area served by the district over the 5-year, 15-year and 30-year periods following the date of the district's creation." The study must also look at the region's need for health care specialists and "determine whether additional education and training programs will be required to address the issues studied under this section." (This could thus lay groundwork for a future medical school in Austin, an idea championed by Stick, among others.)

The initial budget for the hospital district contained a $300,000 line-item for the study, which was reduced to $191,000 in the final budget, with the anticipation that a partner could be found to defray some of the cost of the study. The Board of Managers would like to put off actually conducting the study for a year, but Stick says he'd rather complete it sooner than later. He says it's the best way to explain current expenditures and justify the future expansion of service.

"My concern is that we do a fantastic job of simply throwing money at a problem, and if the problem still exists, we decided that it exists because we haven't spent enough money on it," Stick said. "I think we should first identify our priorities, then identify our needs and, finally, spend money on accordance with our priorities as they relate to quantifiable needs."

The local lawmaker also is no fan of asking for partners to pay for the study. Supporters wanted a hospital district, Stick said; now it's time for them to act responsibly and pay for what they asked for. That doesn't mean Stick is opposed to new expenditures. Citing his past experience as a prosecutor, Stick said he understands how putting money into something like next-generation anti-psychotic drugs could help Travis County reduce the prison population, leading to both a cost savings and an improved quality of life. Stick says he just needs to be assured that the district is accountable for the money it has and what is being spent.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Hospital District, Jack Stick, Stick amendment, Travis Co. Hospital District, Board of Managers, needs assessment, medical school

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