Central Health can boast of significant strides
Travis County voters rallied in 2004 behind a simple but effective message — “Save Money. Save Lives.” — and approved the creation of a special district focused on health care. Now called Central Health, the organization officially began its work in August 2004 focusing its funds and strategies on ways to deliver on that promise.
Today, as we look back on its first five fiscal years, Central Health has helped Travis County make significant strides toward becoming a model healthy community, the vision that the Central Health board of managers adopted during its inaugural term.
These efforts have helped more people get the care they need, when and where they need it, which saves money and saves lives. Central Health’s accomplishments have improved the quality of life of thousands in Travis County and have helped our community maintain its economic competitiveness. This is shown by the service expansions that Central Health has been able to achieve while having the lowest tax rate of all urban hospital districts. Central Health’s success also demonstrates sound management and wise stewardship of public dollars.
Central Health, formerly known as the Travis County Healthcare District, recently released a few of the milestones of its first five fiscal years, highlighted below, and set the stage for more progress to come.
Enhanced emergency care. After more than $6.2 million in investments from Central Health and substantial additional investments from its partner, Seton Family of Hospitals, University Medical Center Brackenridge earned Level 1 Trauma Center status. This means that Brackenridge is providing the widest range of emergency care services possible to the people of Central Texas.
More people covered. More than 14,300 people in our community had access to the care they need in 2009, as enrollment in the Central Health Medical Assistance Program expanded by nearly 80 percent from 2005. Central Health also has supported other solutions to connect people to care. One example is TexHealth Central Texas, a nonprofit corporation that offers low-cost health benefits programs to small businesses that otherwise can’t afford coverage for their employees.
More providers and better access. Central Health has expanded the network of primary, specialty and urgent care providers. These new providers, together with additional locations and expanded hours, have helped more people access the care they need when they need it. Total primary care visits in the Central Health network have increased by 25 percent since 2005.
Expanded mental health care. Our community faced a crisis in 2004, as people in need of emergency mental health services were turned away from the overcrowded Austin State Hospital. Central Health led a collaborative effort that created more inpatient beds, intensive outpatient care, crisis respite care, mobile crisis outreach and expanded emergency services.
As part of that collaborative, Central Health invests more than $5 million per year, resulting in critical inpatient mental health services for more than 1,100 individuals.
Simpler, easier enrollment. Central Health has streamlined screening services so people can get care quickly and easily. These services include “virtual enrollment,” financial screening at provider locations, re-enrollment by mail, and a new customer service call center that streamlines application appointment scheduling. This call center launched last year and processed nearly 30,000 calls in its first six months.
These achievements set the stage for continued advances and better responses to the challenges we face — as individuals, as a community and region and as a nation — to provide accessible health care. Our ability to meet these challenges will depend greatly on sound management of the health care system’s resources and of the taxes we all pay.
The organization has launched a community planning initiative, Central Health Connection, to engage Central Texans in talking, imagining and acting to create a model healthy community. The support of residents, businesses, health care professionals and community leaders, working together, helped create Central Health and made these successes possible.
As national health reform rolls out, our continued support of Central Health as a local resource to address unmet health care needs will make future successes just as possible. Please join in the healthy conversation at