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The funds were not for any new programs, but rather $356 million for operating funds, $33 million for construction and $40 million for community MHMR centers. Legislators lopped $31 million off operating funds, $15 million off construction and $12 million off the community centers. That’s how it goes, session after session. Last year former State Sen. Mike McKool of Dallas complained in a letter to the Observer: “It just so happens that any time there is any cutting to be done it always is in the mental health-mental retardation area.” During the 1971 legislative session, the conference committee cut approximately 60 percent of the funds for new facilities. Then, during the special session in 1972, the Senate cut $17 million from a very tight MHMR budget. McKool filibustered to save the 17 mil, but to no avail. To make matters even worse, Texas is losing at least $14 million a year in federal MHMR funds because it doesn’t meet federal Medicare-Medicaid standards. Fourteen million dollars is enough to run the Austin State School for almost two years. Various federal budget squeezes deprived Texas of other funds this year. The City of Austin, for example, had to cancel a football program for mentally retarded and emotionally disturbed boys, the Special Olympics for retarded children and the Big Buddy program, which matched young people in the city with retarded boys ‘and girls. And local MHMR centers had to trim all personnel by 15 percent. Still, Texas’ programs for the retarded have improved in the past few years. Back in 1967 State Rep. Glenn Vickery of Houston made an impromptu visit to the Austin State School and was appalled by what he found \(Obs., May 26, 1968, “Sights That Will Stay with Me the Rest of little three-year-old girl alternately pulling her hair and hitting her head with her hands; no one was around helping her,” Vickery told the Observer. He said Oak Hill “smelled like a zoo. The odor of human excrement was nauseating. . . . My first encounter here was a blind boy of about nine, feces covering his back and legs, stumbling along, bumping into walls and other children, helpless and forgotten.” The representative said he saw residents locked in cells inside buildings; many women residents were overweight because of the high carbohydrate diet; and orthopedic equipment, such as braces, was in short supply. When Vickery visited the hospital six years ago there were 2,500 residents as compared to 1,750 today. Attendants were paid $213 a month starting salary in 1967. Today they begin at $397 and that will be raised by $200 a month next year. More of the attendants today have college degrees and more of them seem to take a personal interest in their charges. But it’s still a pathetic state of affairs when the needs of the mentally retarded must primarily be met by underpaid, untrained, overworked attendants. RIGHT NOW there is more momentum for reform of MHMR institutions than perhaps at any other time in the state’s negligent history. The House of Representatives is studying the situation and so is a special, citizen’s panel authorized by Dr. Wade. Atty. Gen. John Hill and the Texas Association for Retarded Children have called for a special session on youth problems. And TexPIRG wants the governor to call a special conference on child care and juvenile justice. If the Legislature doesn’t take considerable action next session, Texas can expect representatives of the retarded and the mentally ill to take their plight to court in action reminiscent of the recent case involving the Texas Youth Council \(Obs., Wade himself is endorsing the idea of designating a single “umbrella” agency to evaluate all child-related problems and then refer the child to an appropriate sub-agency for, treatment. He points out that at preserit there are 22 state agencies providing some type of services for children in Texas. Wade also wants to take the authority of licensing and regulating health care institutions from state agencies that offer health services. Most all of the expert witnesses who appeared at the House Human Resources Committee hearings agreed with Wade’s suggestions. Rep. Carlos Truan of Corpus Christi, who chaired the House hearing, sent a letter to Gov. Dolph Briscoe and the administrators of various state agencies recommending a number of immediate actions. Truan said: The Committee on Services to Children and Youth already has the statutory authority to bring about a much greater degree of coordination among child care agencies, so Truan asked the agency-heads to get together no. later than Oct. 15 to start getting coordinated. The Committee on Services to Children and Youth or a volunteer group should set up a “crisis hot line” to take calls and complaints from institutionalized children. He called for “immediate action” to provide better quality medical rehabilitative services and greater privacy and comfort to children in state institutions. Truan recommended an in-house reexamination of the use of drugs at all institutions and an “immediate and objective” investigation of the drug policies by “outside medical authorities.” He recommended that each state agency take immediate steps to get parents more involved with the activities at the child care facilities. Momentum for reform, yes, but don’t get overly hopeful. The governor says he won’t call a special session and he has yet to respond to Truan’s plea for “the bold and dynamic leadership needed to bring Texas to the top rank of the states in child care.” Truan’s hearings came to an abrupt halt after three days of testimony because he couldn’t get a quorum. K.N. October 19, 1973 5