Group looks into several care cases
called Bell’s death a “red flag” and wants to know how the Department of State Health Services is responding to the issue.
“We need to monitor this situation, get involved in it and determine whether it is site- specific or systemic,” she said.
State Health Services spokeswoman Carrie Williams said she couldn’t comment on specific cases because of privacy laws, but stated that the agency reviews all patient deaths.
“We’re always looking for ways to improve when we find issues that might apply to one hospital or systemwide,” she said. “If a problem occurs in one hospital, we use it as a chance to review how we improve care in the rest of our hospitals.”
Disability Rights Texas, a federally funded protection and advocacy
D-Laredo group, is currently examining several other cases involving medical care at state psychiatric facilities for patients with eating disorders, including one at Austin State Hospital.
Health and Human to be used this year, while the courts continued to sort out various legal challenges to maps drawn by the Legislature.
Those challenges include efforts by a group of Travis County plaintiffs and a collection of civil rights groups who accused the Republicancontrolled Legislature of creating racially and ethnically discriminatory maps. Republicans denied the allegations, and the case is ongoing.
The Travis County plaintiffs weren’t specific in court documents about creating a Travis Countycentered district for Doggett, said Michael Li, a Democratic fundraiser and redistricting expert. “But that was the crux of their argument in the first round of redistricting, and it very well could be again,” Li said.
State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, an Austin Democrat and one of the Travis County plaintiffs, said in an interview that he would like to see a Travis County district in which Services Commissioner Dr. Kyle Janek is aware of problems at the hospitals, said agency spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman.
“The Brandy Bell case happened months before Dr. Janek became commissioner, but he’s concerned about quality-ofcare issues in our state hospitals,” she said.
Recent problems with the state-run facilities, which house more than 14,000 people per year, came to public attention in November 2011. At that time, Dr. Charles Fischer was fired from Austin State Hospital after the Department of Family and Protective Services minorities would be able to elect the candidates of their choice, like they have with Doggett.
“I’d like to see as much of Travis County as possible in one congressional district,” Rodriguez said. “I would like to see us having one unified voice in D.C.”
Rodriguez said he believes Doggett feels the same way, but in a statement Doggett said: “I remain ready for whatever Republicans throw at me next. I am really not concerned with ‘what if,’ I am working on ‘what now’ is needed to serve our families.”
(Besides Doggett, Travis County is represented by Republican U.S. Reps. Michael McCaul of Austin, Lamar Smith of San Antonio, Roger Williams of Austin and Bill Flores of Bryan.)
Rodriguez and other plaintiffs from Travis County argued that Congressional District 25, as it existed before last year’s redistricting, was a “coalition district” in which whites and minorities voted together to elect candidates.
A federal court in Washington, D.C., agreed in July for the first time that coalition districts should be protected, but Texas Attorney General confirmed that the psychiatrist had sexually abused two of his minor patients residing at the hospital.
In June, a grand jury indicted Fischer on multiple counts of sexual abuse, charging that the doctor had engaged in inappropriate touching and oral sex with five boys who were his patients. At least four of them were younger than 17 at the time.
Over the past year, the American-Statesman has published a continuing series of stories spotlighting state hospital problems including: the employment of multiple psychiatrists with a his- Greg Abbott appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The question of coalition districts is just a small piece of a larger issue currently before the high court. The justices are also considering the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires Texas and several other, mostly Southern, jurisdictions to get all election law changes approved by the federal government through a process called preclearance.
As for the maps created by Legislature, a federal court in Washington has declined to preclear them, which prompted Abbott to appeal to the Supreme Court.
And as the redistricting legal process continues, Doggett will be watching closely.
If the Supreme Court upholds Section 5 and also upholds the lower court’s decision on coalition districts, then it is possible that new maps will be drawn to include a Travis County-centered congressional district.
The federal court in San Antonio could redraw more permanent maps any time, said Steve Bickerstaff, a retired University of Texas law professor and redistricting expert. tory of sexual misconduct; the use of illicit drugs by patients; and a physician who conducted unauthorized research on patients.
The newspaper also revealed that the Department of Family and Protective Services was allowed to destroy abuse and neglect allegations against hospital staffers after five years, which hindered the agency’s ability to track accusations against employees over long periods of time. Protective Services now requires those records to be retained for 20 years. But he added that the court isn’t likely to make changes soon. The Legislature also could create new maps when lawmakers come back into session next month, but Bickerstaff said that is also unlikely because the Legislature historically doesn’t redraw courtimposed maps.
Abbott has asked the San Antonio court to put the redistricting process on hold until after the Supreme Court makes its rulings, which could be as early as next summer. The San Antonio court hasn’t yet decided what to do.
In the meantime, Doggett said he “will continue working to represent those whom I was elected to serve along I-35.”
While some Travis County residents and officials advocate for a Travis County-centered district, Manuel Medina, chair of the Bexar County Democratic Party, said South Texas would miss Doggett if he is brought back to Austin.
“He’s been a friend to the Democratic community across the state,” Medina said. “But even if he weren’t in San Antonio, we’d consider him a friend.”