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Steven Campbell, Breckenridge Village

Texas is blessed by strong leaders and an effective, compassionate state government. Breckenridge Village of Tyler witnessed this firsthand during the recently concluded 86th session of the Texas Legislature, where Tyler-area lawmakers Matt Schaefer and Bryan Hughes sponsored and passed important legislation helping BVT and the vulnerable population we serve.

Breckenridge Village of Tyler is a residential community for adults with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities, such as Downs syndrome or autism. Our programs and activities are designed to help residents develop the skills they need to achieve their God-given potential.

We enjoy strong support from the Tyler community, which in recent years has raised more than $3 million to expand BVT, allowing us to build three new cottages for up to 18 residents. The expansion allows us to serve more families and reduce our interest list.

However, our expansion did have a significant and expensive roadblock. Years ago, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission stopped issuing new licenses for intermediate care facilities like ours. In order to open a new facility, existing licenses would be sold and transferred, but no new licenses were being issued. As the demand for intermediate care facilities grew along with the population of Texas, a private market developed with brokers who identify and sell intermediate care facility bed licenses on behalf of facilities who no longer need them, no longer operate them or whose license had been suspended by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

The cost of these intermediate care facility bed contracts on the private market can exceed $40,000 per bed. For a nonprofit like BVT, paying more than $700,000 for additional state licenses is a shockingly high cost and would take needed funds away from serving our community.

That’s where Rep. Schaefer and Sen. Hughes stepped in with House Bill 3117, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law in recent days. H.B. 3117 provides authority and encouragement to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to periodically review the statewide intermediate care facility bed capacity and develop a process to reallocate beds held in suspension by the state. H.B. 3117 directs the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to assess and reallocate intermidate care facility beds to high-quality facilities in communities where these licensed beds are wanted and needed, such as here in Tyler.

House Bill 3117 gives hope to Texas families of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities by allowing Health and Human Services to reallocate unused intermediate care facility beds — all at no additional cost to the state of Texas.

BVT extends our deepest thanks to Rep. Schaefer, Sen. Hughes, Gov. Abbott and the 173 Texas lawmakers who supported H.B. 3117. We appreciate the willingness of Texas Health and Human Services leadership to work with us and the lawmakers to make these important changes.

These days, it’s easy to get cynical about government. It’s easy to lose hope in our institutions and communities.

We are blessed to live and work in Tyler and in Texas, the greatest state in the country. Texas, and leaders like Matt Schaefer, Bryan Hughes and Greg Abbott, demonstrate that government can be limited, effective and compassionate. We applaud their work to change state law to improve the status and care of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities and to inspire the best from our communities and neighbors.

Steven Campbell is executive director of Breckenridge Village of Tyler.

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