Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Mayoral candidate John Velasquez

Candidates for elected city offices were all asked the same questions by the Bexar County Medical Society and have submitted answers to those questions as shown below. 
This information is provided as a service from the Bexar County Medical Society, but is not an endorsement.
BCMS does not make endorsements of any candidates for office nor of elected officials. 

John Velasquez
Mayoral candidate 
2017 Mayoral/City Council Candidates
Health Care Questions

1.   Despite affecting everyone in this community, "community health and wellness" has not been a big priority at City Hall. "Community health and wellness" had one third of the ranking that "streets" received in community input via SpeakUPSanAntonio. Yet it impacts our well being, workforce, economic development and the prosperity of San Antonio.
What health-related areas do you think deserve increased attention, priority, and local resources, and, if elected, how would you elevate the discussion of these health issues at City Hall and lead effective action to improve health and healthcare in our community?

San Antonio needs a comprehensive mental health plan, owned and operated by the city.  Federal and state funds for mental health are unreliable and seriously underfunded.  COSA must take care of its own citizens without relying on external funds.  Mental health impacts physical health and the well-being of the family and neighborhoods.  Mental health is related to crime.  Persons who are impacted by poverty/low wages and substance-issues can be impulsive and desperate, thus leading to criminal behavior.  Bullying impacts children’s mental health in serious ways, e.g. “David’s Bill”, and families need a way to respond.  Bullying impacts the LGBTQ+ community mental health.  Domestic violence against women impacts children and mothers’ mental health.  Kidnapped victims of sex trafficking have mental health problems.  Veterans who have PTSD and do not want to seek treatment at the Veterans’ Administration need a place to receive mental health treatment, especially given that veterans are committing suicide on a daily basis.  Families experiencing financial hardship need counseling to develop strategies to cope.  I am a clinical psychologist and I have seen and treated all these situations, so I know that mental health treatment can have a positive impact on all.  I am proposing reallocation of funds across all budgets, and if necessary, increase in sales tax to fund 100 new mental health clinics which would be open 24/7 on a walk-in basis.  Since ALL citizens of San Antonio would pay into this system, ALL citizens can access these clinics regardless of ability to pay and regardless of insurance.  Just as everyone has a place to go for urgent care of a broken arm, everyone should have a place to go for a broken heart and broken mind.  These clinics would be staff by LPC, MSW, psychiatrists, and psychologists.  Safety would be maintained by SAPD staffing.  These 100 clinics would be accessible by foot and bus routes.  Physicians and psychiatrists know the role of mental health on medical health.  The connection between the two is conclusive.  This is my number ONE priority.  I will press this issue on a daily matter, openly, during City Council meetings and during planning sessions.  I will not let other pressing matters divert my attention from mental health.

2.  Bexar County is the primary source of funding for indigent health care in our area through the Bexar County Hospital District and University Health System. How would you, if elected, promote cooperative efforts to increase services and access to care for the citizens of San Antonio?

I implemented a federal grant (2002-2005) that has been sustained at Presa Community Center, which partnered the City, the federal government, and UIW to increase capacity to serve the Southside through innovative strategies involving college students.  I have developed a model for indigent mental health care.  This model is fully funded through United Way and serves ANYONE who walks through the doors at Presa.  I have treated clients from a behavioral health model and their overall health has improved.  These methods improve health behaviors and health-seeking behaviors, such as making appointments and following through on physician directives and prescriptions.  In this period of time I have served thousands of clients.  Through a handful of behavioral health sessions, clients have improved health by seeking appropriate health care.  I would also lobby the state legislature to release Medicare and Medicaid dollars to serve indigent care through the 100 new mental health care clinics, which would serve San Antonio citizens on a walk-in basis.  This would serve indigent care.

  3.  The disparity of health care between our poorest and wealthiest zip codes/districts is quite striking (Bexar County Health Collaborative 2016 report). How would you, if elected, reduce health disparities and improve health outcomes for our lower income communities/citizens?

 A comprehensive review of the location of mental health resources would determine where the gaps are located.  The first, and perhaps the bulk of mental health clinics I propose to be constructed would target these areas first, and if necessary, only focus on these areas of disparity.  These areas will probably include the zip codes where economic empowerment are necessary.  

4.  San Antonio has a high incidence of obesity and diabetes mellitus and has been ranked as high as second in the nation for obesity in recent years. Past city efforts attempting to improve these rates, such as trying to reduce the prevalence of sugary drinks in our community, have been met with controversy. What ideas do you have to reduce the incidence of these chronic health issues?

Ban the availability of soda in the public schools.  Work with HEB and other grocers to limit/eliminate marketing and advertising of sodas.  Ban the use of plastic bottles, which would limit the availability of sodas.  Encourage other cities within and near COSA to do the same. 

5.  According to the CDC, child abuse and neglect are serious problems that can have lasting harmful effects on its victims. The goal in preventing child abuse and neglect is clear — to stop this violence from happening in the first place. What local policies, resources and efforts will you support to promote safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children and families?

Ban the use of spanking in the City of San Antonio.  Make it a crime to touch inappropriately or hit a child, similar to the laws governing conduct between adults.  Require violators to seek mental health, rather than imprisonment or fines.  Provide mental health care for child victims of abuse through the system of mental health clinics I would construct.  Improve the minimum wage to a “living wage”, thus parents would not have to work so many hours and be away from the home.  My estimate is that $15/hour is probably not enough.  Based on the vast inequity between the haves and the have nots, I would negotiate with the “haves” to receive less of the benefits of taxation and income to insure that more money is available to more people.