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On Our Minds is the name of KERA's mental health news initiative. The station began focusing on the issue in 2013, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Coverage is funded in part by the Donna Wilhelm Family Fund and Cigna.

Searching For Better Health Services In Texas Prisons

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For years, sheriffs and disability rights groups have complained about the lack of treatment for the growing number of mentally ill inmates in Texas. Now, state legislators are considering a bill that would allow private companies to offer mental health services to inmates.

Propose Changes For Mental Health Care In Texas Prisons

Brandi Grissom of The Texas Tribune reports that the House Bill, and its Senate counterpart proposed by has Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) sets out guidelines for a program that would allow private mental health providers to work in select jails and help inmates return to a stable mental health state so they could stand trial. 

Proposed Changes For General Health Care In Texas Prisons

The focus on mental health in Texas prisons comes as other lawmakers are looking into expanding options for general health care for inmates. Right now, two medical schools provide health care for Texas prisoners (The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center) but no private, for-profit vendors. As Mike Ward of the American Statesman reports, Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire (D-Houston) is proposing that the number of medical schools allowed to participate in the management of the prison health care system expand -- from two to eight. That doesn't mean the new schools would begin serving inmates, but Ward reports some prison health officials worry Whitmire's proposal could result in private companies moving in to offer health care in state prisons for the first time. 

Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.