Commissioners approve deal for veterans healthcare advocate


Taylor County Commissioners have approved a memorandum of understanding with the Texas Veterans Commission that will add a health care advocate to the local veterans services office.

The measure also includes provisions for a claims representative / advisor.

“We already have a member of the Texas Veterans Commission in our office,” said Brian Massey, director of the office. “But I was approached and asked if we could use a health care advocate in this county, which we don’t currently have. And of course I said yes.

Such an advocate assists veterans with tasks such as resolving medical billing issues or assisting with appointments, Massey said.

“They are defending the veteran on the health care side, which is not usually our wheelhouse,” he said. “Usually we do compensation and non-health care. … (This position) would be a great asset.

The only cost to the local office will be an additional phone line extension, he said.

Following: Veterans Day parade raises patriotism in sunny Abilene on Saturday

Following: Tales of service; veterans participate in the County of Scurry oral history project

Only an asset

Responding to questions from Commissioner Brad Birchum, Massey said the position would not create any inconvenience in terms of the need for additional office space and would only be “an asset”.

The TVC has already hired someone for the legal position, but needs a place to conduct such cases.

“I can direct all health questions to someone who can answer them, instead of going straight back to the health care clinic that more than likely caused a problem,” Massey said.

The county, under the deal, is to share an office staff member, but again, that would not require any new hires or create additional costs, Massey said.

“Anyone who is available would help,” he said.

Agreements with inmates

Commissioners also approved a revised inmate overflow housing agreement with Runnels County for Taylor County prisoners, and an agreement with Knox County to house their prisoners here.

There are no Taylor County prisoners currently housed in Runnels County, Taylor County Sheriff Ricky Bishop said.

The costs for housing inmates will drop to $ 50 per inmate per day, from $ 45 previously.

On the flip side, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office has been “at a stalemate for some time” when it comes to staffing, Bishop said, and may soon need to house prisoners elsewhere to meet staff ratios. staff required.

“We are the closest facility,” Bishop said.

No more than 10 male inmates at a time would be housed locally, if necessary, he said. Taylor County would charge Knox County $ 48 per inmate per day.

The department has a housing agreement with Callahan County and has in the past held prisoners for Coleman and Tom Green counties, Bishop said.

The Taylor County Jail does not hold federal inmates because of its own housing needs, Bishop said.

The sheriff’s office plans to review the rates it charges for housing other’s prisoners, with changes in place by October 2022, the start of the new fiscal year, he said.

Other business

The commissioners also:

â–º Approved changes and updates to the Taylor County Policies and Procedures Manual, including Mental Health Leave policies for law enforcement personnel.

This includes the sheriff’s office, said Cathy Taff, county human resources manager.

But it also includes police officers, deputy police officers, investigators and those in the district attorney’s office, she said.

Additional staff, such as clerks, could be covered at the discretion of each department.

If an affected person witnesses a traumatic event that affects them negatively, they could be entitled to up to 40 hours of paid mental health leave, Taff said, with possible extensions depending on professional support. mental health accredited.

The leave is subject to the approval of the supervisor.

County Judge Downing Bolls said he was surprised it had taken “so long to put something like this in place”, but expressed concern that the change “was a bill approved by the legislature. of State “.

He said he was concerned he might not specifically mention staff such as call takers, often the first to interact with a traumatic event.

Costs were also a concern, and perhaps somewhat nebulous until a traumatic event that could require such a leave to occur, the commissioners said.

Bolls also said he knew there would be officers who wouldn’t use the time off option, due to the stigma still attached to seeking mental help.

“As a guy who hears mental health cases in this county, I can tell you that we have to get over this,” Bolls said.

â–º Approval of an interlocal agreement with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service for a program to reduce feral pigs.

The county receives $ 5,250 for the program, with a grant period running from October to the end of August 2022.

The funds are used for the monthly maintenance of four traps the county has set up, said Tamra Lewis, the court’s administrative assistant.

Recently, a camera had to be replaced, she said, at a cost of around $ 300, while the cost of the corn used has also increased.

Brian Bethel covers city and county government and general news for Abilene Reporter-News. If you value local news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to


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