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At an event in Weslaco, state Representatives Armando ‘Mando’ Martinez, Sergio Muñoz, and R.D. 'Bobby' Guerra were honored as 'Independent Pharmacy Champions' by the Alliance of Independent Pharmacists of Texas.

WESLACO, RGV – State legislators representing the Rio Grande Valley have been picking up a number of awards in recent weeks for their work in the 84th legislative session.

State Sen. Eddie Lucio has won the ‘Hispanic Heritage Award from the Mexican American School Board Association and the ‘Legislative Leadership Award’ from the Texas Association of Regional Councils.

The Alliance of Independent Pharmacists of Texas has recognized five Valley legislators as ‘Champions of Independent Pharmacy.’ The five are state Sen. Juan Hinojosa and state Representatives R.D. ‘Bobby’ Guerra, Oscar Longoria, Armando ‘Mando’ Martinez and Sergio Muñoz.

And Hinojosa has also been honored by Texas AIM (Academic Innovation and Mentoring), a program started in the Valley and designed to address the achievement gap for at-risk students through a comprehensive and holistic process.

State Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen.
State Sen. Juan Hinojosa

The forerunner to Texas AIM started in 2009-2010 school year through a partnership between the local Valley Boys and Girls Clubs and Sylvan Rio Grande Valley. Executive Director Sylvia Valverde said the program was designed to address the disproportionate number of minority Valley students living below the poverty line. “Many of these students had the additional academic burden of having limited English proficiency,” Valverde said. “Through intensive, wrap-around mentorship and tutoring, those students showed outstanding gains in skills mastery, state test passing rates, credit recovery and academic promotion. As a result of this success, Texas AIM was created. Through Texas AIM, students across the state have access to this academic innovation and mentoring.”

Texas AIM held a reception for Sen. Hinojosa at the Pharr Boys & Girls Club last Tuesday. “As a result of Senator Hinojosa’s championing, the 84th Texas Legislature increased funding for Texas AIM, thus providing BGC students, statewide, with access to free STEM programming,” Valverde said. “Because of AIM’s success, there are now many other states interested in replicating the program.”

The Alliance of Independent Pharmacists of Texas held their awards show at Arturo’s in Weslaco.  “Independent Pharmacy Champions are leaders who are being recognized for their work in support of the issues and legislation that impacts independent pharmacists, their patients and taxpayers,” said Audra Conwell, Alliance CEO and executive director. “These lawmakers – Sen. Hinojosa, Rep. Guerra, Rep. Longoria, Rep. Martinez and Rep. Muñoz – not only understand the struggle independent pharmacists face to keep their doors open but also stand strong in defense of ensuring better health care access for Valley residents.”

In addition to the five legislators, the Alliance also honored Valley pharmacists Nario Cantu (Cantu’s Pharmacy of Edinburg, TX), Daniel D. Vela (Lee’s Pharmacy, McAllen) and Edgar Walsh (Fry’s Prescription Pharmacy, San Benito) for their “leadership and advocacy” on behalf of independent pharmacies across the state of Texas. In addition, the Alliance recognized Benjamin ‘Ben’ Fry (Fry’s Prescription Pharmacy, San Benito) for his 12 years of service on the Texas State Board of Pharmacy protecting patients and providing a voice for independent pharmacists.

Conwell said one of the top goals for the Alliance of Independent Pharmacists of Texas is to get greater transparency from Pharmacy Benefit Managers. “All Texans – as consumers, small business owners and taxpayers – should be concerned about the lack of transparency and legislative oversight of PBMs. It’s a pocketbook issue for taxpayers, patients and pharmacists, as well as a patient access and quality of care concern,” said Conwell. “We’re grateful that so many Valley lawmakers were willing to hear our concerns, speak out on our behalf and press for additional studies, greater transparency or further evaluation of state policies impacting small business pharmacies.”

Sen. Lucio won the ‘Hispanic Heritage Award’ for championing initiatives that improve opportunities and the quality of life of Hispanics in Texas, MASBA Executive Director Sam Guzman explained. He said MASBA’s mission is to make high quality education possible to all students; increase parental and community participation in public governance; improve academic achievement; and advocate equitable school finance.

“Senator Lucio has a long legacy and proven record of doing what is right for our Texas children. As the vice chair of the Senate Education Committee, he was an invaluable resource during the 84th Legislative Session to the Hispanic communities in our state as they continue to strive to provide our children the high quality of education that they deserve,” Guzman said.

Lucio said he was “deeply honored and humbled” to receive the MASBA award.  “As our Hispanic population continues to grow, our state investment in public education needs to keep up with our population growth. I firmly believe that our state must provide the necessary resources so that every child in Texas is able to reach their full education potential and pursue the career of their choice,” Lucio said.

The Texas Association of Regional Council said it was honoring Lucio “for his tireless work helping local units of government address their community development needs and most recently for authoring Senate Bill 1108 relating to the creation of regional emergency communication districts during the 84th Legislative Session.”

Wes Suiter, Angelina County Judge and TARC president, said Lucio’s bill authorized the establishment of special emergency communication districts by regional councils of government should their member governments so choose. She said this was TARC’s highest legislative priority.

“Senator Lucio and his outstanding staff worked hard to keep this bill moving and ultimately saw it signed into law on May 22, 2015,” Suiter said at the event. “Senator Lucio, the Texas Association of Regional Councils is grateful to you for the faith you have shown in us and for the support and encouragement you have provided over the years. You are a true supporter of regionalism and a worthy recipient of our Legislative Leadership Award.”

Lucio said of the award: “I am honored with TARC’s recognition. I truly value this award since our councils of government are the pulse of our local communities. That is why I am committed to continue to work to provide our councils with the necessary resources to better address the needs of our constituents.”