Valley state senator appointed to health task force

Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. was appointed to the Task Force of Border Health Officials, according to a news release issued Tuesday.

The task force was created earlier this year by Senate Bill 1680 to advise the Commissioner of the Department of State Health Services on policy priorities that address health issues for the border region and raise public awareness of those issues.

SB 1680 was authored by Lucio and is set to expire Sept. 1, 2029.

“I am honored to be joining the local health experts from our border counties in this extraordinary endeavor as we address pressing health impediments that plague the most vulnerable and susceptible populations in the state,” Lucio stated in the release. “This is a golden opportunity for our border communities to be able to inform our leaders in Austin of the public health problems and health impediments that we see on a daily basis.”

The task force arose, according to the release, from Zika outbreaks in Cameron County that were first reported last year. It must be composed of health department directors from each county in the region and each municipality in the region that has a sister-city in Mexico, two state legislators who will be non-voting members, and additional members appointed by the commissioner.

The task force will allow the local health officials, who are treating the illnesses first hand, to communicate with health officials in DSHS.

They will also advise on standardization of data in the area, to ensure its compatible with data collected on the Mexican side of the border; public health infrastructure, establishment of health programs; and collaboration and cooperation with Mexican counterparts, according to the bill which took effect Sept. 1.

A report of recommendations for short-term and long-term border plans must be submitted by the task force by Nov. 1 of each even-numbered year.