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Houston County News 2

HHSC grant to expand fraud prevention efforts

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Fraud GraphicAUSTIN – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) a federal grant of more than $400,000 to further the agency’s fraud prevention efforts for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

 HHSC has prevented the misuse of more than $147 million in public funds since 2017 by identifying and stopping potential fraudulent payments for SNAP, Medicaid, and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

 “We are extremely proud to be the recipients of this grant and know that it will have a positive impact on the work we do to put taxpayer dollars to good use in Texas,” said Wayne Salter, deputy executive commissioner for HHSC Access and Eligibility Services.

The grant will be used to provide ongoing support for HHSC staff to receive training, develop innovative fraud prevention training methods, and conduct an educational campaign for the public on fraud prevention. 

 The grant period is from August 2022 through August 2024.

Misuse of benefits can result in loss of benefits, fines and criminal charges. If someone suspects or knows about fraud, waste or abuse by clients or providers in health and human services programs, HHS urges people to call the HHS Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-436-6184 or visit ReportTexasFraud.com.

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Hospital board discusses tax rate for upcoming year

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Business and medicine concept. There is a stethoscope on the dollars.

By Jan White
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

CROCKETT – The hot topic of the Houston County Hospital District meeting held on August 16 wasn’t the scorching 100-degree temps – it was determining the tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year.

Prior to the impassioned discussion on tax rates, board members heard from representatives from the Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals (TORCH), which is an organization founded in 1999 for the purpose of creating a telecommunications infrastructure and network for rural hospitals in Texas.

TORCH representatives John Henderson, President and CEO, Brandon Durbin, and Brent Fuller shared information and statistics about rural hospitals. There are 158 what are termed “rural” hospitals in Texas. The state definition of rural is a county population of 60k or less.

Crockett Medical Center is a ‘critical access’ hospital, which is a valuable asset for the community and surrounding areas. Henderson remarked about the hospital, “You’ve done something very uncommon. Maybe not unprecedented, but uncommon – which is to have a rural hospital that was closed to reopen and stay open. And it would have been hard to do that without your critical access designation.” The TORCH representatives also answered questions on IGT (Indigent Care Trust) and uncompensated care costs. When President Barbara Crowson asked Henderson if they could provide the board with a list of thriving rural hospitals that they could “visit and find out what they’re doing that we’re not doing, or for options that make our hospital even better,” Henderson responded that “most rural hospitals aren’t striving, they’re struggling. They are operationally challenged.” Henderson commended Crockett on having both a critical access hospital and one that offers surgery. In his experience, he said most rural hospitals don’t.

After hearing the presentation by TORCH, the meeting moved on to the topic of the tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year.

It was evident at the hospital board meeting that members are divided on the tax issue. As soon as President Cowson announced the agenda item to discuss and take action on the intended tax rate, Carole Dawson motioned to adopt a 13% rate, which is the same as last year’s rate.

In anticipation of a dispute, Crowson reminded the board, “When we declare our intent tonight, we can always go down on the intended rate, but we cannot go up.” The board plans to have hearings so the public can express their opinions on the rate, and that is when the board will vote on the rate.

Rhonda Brown read a prepared statement supporting her recommendation to decrease the tax rate to $0.11. “The district’s budget can be easily met with an eleven-cent tax rate with a surplus for any unforeseen events that might arise. I am not in favor of asking the citizens of Houston County to pay more taxes when, in fact, eleven cents will easily meet our commitments and still allow for a rainy-day fund.”

Concerns over lowering the tax rate appear to center around negotiations with Dr. Kelly Tjelmeland and his contract renewal which will take place in January. As Crowson stated, the initial contract is five years old, so they expect some changes. One of the anticipated requests could be the repair of the hospital roof, which according to reports, has severe damage and is in dire need of repairs. Several board members have gotten loose estimates on the cost of replacing the roof. The bids ranged from upwards of $500k to over a million dollars for the replacement.

Although Dina Pipes pointed out that the roofing repairs were not on the agenda, Crowson replied that “All these comments are made because I feel that if we know the figures of a major repair like the roof, we would be more able to understand why our tenant might have a difficult time with those numbers in addition to all the equipment he’s already brought into the hospital.”

Pipes defended the reduction of taxes to eleven cents, arguing that she felt that since there will be a $200k cash carryover and $390k for maintenance and repair, that would fund $500k for roof repairs. When asked if an 11% rate would support the 2023 fiscal budget, Dick Murchison, the board’s accountant, said, “That is correct.”

Proponents for maintaining the 13% rate argue that $500k is not enough to cover roof repairs and any other unforeseen expenses that might arise. “And since rural hospitals are struggling,” voiced Dawson, “we’ve got somebody [Tjelmeland] and we need to do everything we can to keep him.”

“I hate taxes,” said Roy Langford, “and I hate to raise taxes. Sometimes it’s a necessary evil. I’m really not comfortable with thirteen cents. I’m really not comfortable with eleven cents either. So I’m gonna split the difference.” He suggested going with a twelve-cent rate. “Sometimes, you have to meet somewhere in the middle.”

After much discussion, the board voted on the motion to declare their intent to keep the tax rate at 13%. Those voting against were Rhonda Brown, Harvey Bruner, Roy Langford and Dina Pipes. Those voting for the 13% were Pam Ainsworth, Debbie Kelly, Carole Dawson, and John Stovall. The tie-breaking vote was made by Barbara Crowson, who voted yes. Looking at the calendar, Crowson suggested they set the public hearing meeting to discuss the tax rate for Tuesday, Sept. 6.

Regarding the agenda item approving the budget, Murchison stated that he had prepared a budget that reflected all three proposed tax rates - $0.11, $0.12, and $0.13, with the overage in each instance going towards the “Repairs and Maintenance” line item. By comparison, at a tax rate of eleven cents, the repair and maintenance line item expense would allow $389,696; at twelve cents, the allowed expense for repairs would be $540,967, and at the proposed thirteen cent rate, the expense to cover repairs would be $692,239.

Because the tax rate is still undecided, but the intent was declared at 13%, the board approved that specific budget. Crowson explained that after the final adopted tax rate is decided, the board can go back and accept the budget that coincides with the approved tax rate.

During the meeting, the board voted to raise Murchison’s salary, from $1,000 to $1,200 a month.

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Red Cross app offers advice for various situations

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082522 red cross offers help

With the potential for flooding across the state of Texas, the American Red Cross wants to make sure people know where they can get safety information as well as know where Red Cross Emergency shelters are located. The Red Cross emergency app gives the user instant access to safety and preparedness resources and alerts for 13 different types of emergencies in a single mobile app – free, and very easy to use.

The Red Cross app provides comprehensive information on what to do in case of hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, residential and forest fires among other emergencies. With the key word ‘American Red Cross’, users can download the emergency application for free at RedCross.org/Apps or in the virtual stores of Apple App and Google Play.

“This app gives families tips for being safe and connected in an emergency,” said Brittney Rochell, Regional Communications Director for the Texas Gulf Coast Red Cross. “Because the app covers a variety of situations, the user will know what to do in the event of an emergency or disaster, regardless of where they are or type of emergency.”

In the toolkit under the Prepare section is a feature called “I’m Safe”. The “I’m Safe” feature allows the user to connect with their loved ones and instantly see if they’re okay – even if that family member hasn’t downloaded the emergency app on their device. If the family member or friend does not have the Red Cross emergency app, they will receive a text message asking if they are safe or not.

Here are some of the many features the app includes:

• According to the user’s preferences, the application offers more than 35 alerts based on geographic location (GPS) and pre-programmed locations – usually where family and friends live.

• The user can activate or deactivate alerts according to their needs.

• By means of a map, in the application, the user can locate Red Cross shelters and obtain weather reports specific to their area.
Users can easily change the preferences of the application and receive information in English or Spanish!

• The Red Cross emergency app is also a source of information for incidents affecting large areas, such as landslides or snowstorms

• Its content puts the Red Cross expert guidance in your hands, anytime, anywhere – even without mobile connectivity.
With the touch of a button the user has access to the “make a plan” function, which allows him to elaborate, share and practice his disaster plan.

• Apps can help you prepare for disasters, it’s important to remember that downloading our apps is not a substitute for training. For information on how to register and take a First Aid, CPR and AED class, visit RedCross.org and click “Take a Class”

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Chalmers offers criminal profiling training

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082522 crimal profile training

By Jan White
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

CROCKETT – The Crockett Police Department is partnering with Spellman’s K-Hill Ranch and Mimsy’s Craft Barbecue to present author and criminal profiler Phil Chalmers in Counter Homicide Training. The program will take place at the Crockett Civic Center on Saturday, August 27, from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Training topics are set to include school shooting trends, school safety tips, dangerous youth culture, and myths about serial killers.
Chalmers will show active shooter videos and provide hundreds of crime-scene photos. The program also features live interviews with teen killers, school shooters, mass murderers, and serial killers. Chalmers also speaks on the causes, warning signs, triggers, modus operandi, and signatures of these killers.

Law enforcement officers, school administrators and staff, counselors, probation officers, social workers, and anyone interested in learning more about the mindset behind the individuals who perpetrate violent acts is encouraged to attend.

Because of the graphic nature of the topic and content, no one under the age of 18 will be admitted.

The training is free, but the Crockett Police Department requests that you RSVP by emailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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SOS encourages eligible Texans to register to vote by Oct. 11

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Vote Another GraphicAUSTIN — Texas Secretary of State John Scott encouraged all eligible Texas voters to make sure they are registered to vote by October 11th to participate in the upcoming November 8 General Election. Texas law requires eligible voters to be registered 30 days before Election Day, and since the 30th day before November 8, 2022 falls on the Sunday before Columbus Day, eligible Texas voters effectively have two extra days to register this year (Texas Election Code Sec. 13.143(e)). Secretary Scott urged Texas voters to visit the state’s official voting web site - VoteTexas.gov - for accurate and comprehensive information on voting in Texas.

“Even though we’re still two months away from the voter registration deadline, it’s never too early to make sure you’re registered, update your registration information if you need to, and prepare yourself to vote in the upcoming election,” Scott said. 

“If you’re renewing your Texas Driver License or personal ID card online, please take the extra second to check the box to register to vote if you’re eligible to do so. If you’re registering to vote for the first time, make sure your signed voter registration application is postmarked to your county voter registrar by October 11. If you simply need to update your voter registration information - such as your name, address or ID numbers - you can do so online through our portal available at Texas.gov.”

“Don’t let the deadline sneak up on you - get registered and start preparing for the upcoming election today by visiting VoteTexas.gov!”

Eligibility for Voter Registration in Texas

You are eligible to register to vote in Texas if:

• You are a United States citizen;

• You are a resident of the county where you submit the application;

• You are at least 17 years and 10 months old on the date your voter registration application is submitted, and you are 18 years of age on Election Day.

• You are not a convicted felon (you may be eligible to vote if you have completed your sentence, probation, and parole); and

• You have not been declared by a court exercising probate jurisdiction to be either totally mentally incapacitated or partially mentally incapacitated without the right to vote.

Registering to Vote for the First Time

If you are a first-time Texas voter, make sure to complete your voter registration application and make sure it is postmarked to your county’s voter registrar by Tuesday, October 11th. To obtain and complete your application, you have several different options:

• Complete an application using the SOS Online Voter Registration Application form. Simply fill in the required information, print, sign and mail the completed application directly to your county voter registrar;

• Request a printed application from the Texas Secretary of State’s office. Our office will mail a postage-paid voter registration application to the address provided; OR

Contact or visit your county election office, public library or other local government office to obtain a voter registration application.

Register to Vote When Renewing Your Driver License

If you’re not already registered to vote but have an existing Texas Driver License or Texas Personal ID Card, you can register to vote online when renewing, replacing or changing your contact information for either of these cards through the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).

Follow the steps on the DPS web portal to update your driver license information, and you will be given the option to register to vote when renewing or updating your information.

You can also register to vote while obtaining your Texas Driver License or Texas Personal ID card in person from DPS.

Update Your Voter Registration Information Online

Whether you’ve recently moved or changed your name, you can now update all your information on your voter registration record through the Texas Secretary of State’s portal on Texas.gov.

You can also use the same portal to update your voter registration file with your Texas Driver License number, Personal ID card number, or the last four digits of your Social Security number to ensure the information is on file with your county voter registrar.

For more information on registering to vote and voting in Texas, visit www.votetexas.gov or www.votetexas.gov/es for voting information in Spanish.

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