I don’t think enough gets said about the benefits and need for our own Healthcare District. Too often the negative rhetoric and false information finds it place in our local reporting.

The truth is the benefits and need far outweigh and outnumber the cons. This is a once in a lifetime investment our community can make together. We need a healthcare district. Our families and community deserve a healthcare district.

For me, as Mayor of Edinburg, I understand that sometimes it takes an investment to reap bigger rewards. In our city, we do it on a regular basis. When we are looking to attract a major company to headquarter in Edinburg, we often have to use economic incentives to help the company choose our city. This may come in the form of tax abatements, in which the company may be absolved from paying city property taxes, or they pay reduced property taxes, for a certain period of time. This is a small investment on the part of the city for the economic benefits that are reaped as a result of the company locating in Edinburg – usually in the form of job creation for our city residents. We put the common good before the monetary compensation, because we realize we, as a community, will be rewarded plentifully.

I see the healthcare district very similarly.

Did you ever want to be a doctor when you were young? Chances are, many who desired this professional career gave up early because of lack of opportunity. Anyone who practices medicine here in the Rio Grande Valley knows the sacrifices they made to be where they are – they had to attend school for many years outside of their home, outside of the Valley. We are fortunate to have the health care providers that we currently have, but we don’t have enough to meet our growing needs. A healthcare district will provide those opportunities for our area residents to achieve their dreams of attaining a medical career.

Do you know someone who suffers from a health condition or illness whose specialist lives in San Antonio, or Houston, or Dallas, or in other states? I always see fundraisers and groups raising money to benefit someone’s medical expenses – usually to pay for travel and lodging because their care requires them to leave the Valley. Imagine how much easier their lives would be if they could see their specialist here, without having to travel out of town and spend thousands of dollars each year just to receive specialty care once or twice a year. A healthcare district would attract those specialists to our area. More access to doctors, specialists, and trauma care locally means less waiting, less traveling, and better care for you.

Do you have a family member or friend who suffers from depression, substance abuse, or any other mental illness? Did you know that there are not enough health care providers in the Rio Grande Valley to serve those who need access to mental health care? By law, a healthcare district would use funds toward behavioral and mental health services, thereby increasing access to treatment for mental illness.

Do you know someone who lost their job and subsequently, their health insurance? They may not know that there are low-cost community clinics that they can visit when they, or their children, become ill. A healthcare district would expand services provided at community health clinics to serve more people.

If you look closer and more carefully at the proposal for a healthcare district, you will certainly find a meaningful reason to support it.

Furthermore, presently, because our area does not have a healthcare district, we are leaving $20 million in matching federal funds on the table. We are already paying for the federal funds with our taxes to the federal government, and we are letting our investment go to other parts of the state, and other parts of the country, because we don’t have a healthcare district. Imagine what it would look like if an additional $20 million in federal funds were sent BACK down to us here – a healthcare district would provide that for us.

In addition, the cost to operate a medical school is approximately $50 million annually. UTRGV is funded for only $30 Million, and when it was being created, local communities pledged their support to make up the difference. We have not seen full compliance with the pledged amount by several local entities, which means, we are already starting off with a lack of funding. A healthcare district would provide a dedicated revenue stream for our medical school, so it wouldn’t be dependent on the whim of a local community to decide to fund it or not.

Lastly, it is important to know that there are taxpayer protections in place to protect our elderly on fixed retirement incomes from being affected by this tax.  Those over 65 years of age, disabled veterans, and spouses of disabled veterans will have the same property exemptions they currently receive today, and they too will be able to benefit from the services the healthcare district will provide.

I support a healthcare district, because I know that it will forever change Hidalgo County, for the better. It is my hope that you will find a reason to support it too.