When I was appointed police chief of Woodway, it became not only my job but also my privilege to build public safety for Texas families. As a former president of the Texas Police Chiefs Association, I learn and share best practices with chiefs all around the state about how to make our communities safer.
Law enforcement leaders know cutting crime requires good old-fashioned policing and a strong, committed police force. But achieving the results our communities deserve also requires an unexpected approach — like advocating for policies that we know will keep kids and families safe and give them the support they need. That’s why I call on Congress to work together and swiftly reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, more commonly known as CHIP.
I know what you’re thinking: How does funding children’s health insurance stop people from committing crime? The answer lies in the programs and services that CHIP funds and those programs’ impact on public safety.
More than 1 million of Texas’ roughly 7 million children rely on CHIP for health insurance. Nationwide this program insures 8.4 million children — one of every 10 American kids. Kids who qualify for CHIP come from families who earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid but cannot afford to buy private insurance on their own.
But the power of CHIP is not just in the number of kids it covers — both in Texas and across the country. This program is important because it provides vital services that help kids become healthy, productive citizens who choose to contribute to their communities instead of choosing crime.
For instance, CHIP provides mental and behavioral health supports that curb drug abuse. It helps youth who are involved with drugs get clean. These programs are more critical than ever, as drug-overdose rates have doubled nationwide in recent years.
CHIP also funds alternative therapies to detention for juvenile offenders in many states. These therapies reduce the likelihood that kids who commit crimes will reoffend. A study of one such program, Functional Family Therapy, showed the program cut re-arrests in half. Another program, Multisystemic Therapy, cut violent felony arrests by nearly 75 percent.
CHIP also helps kids with Serious Emotional Disturbances (SEDs), which are severe mental or behavioral disorders that persist over a long period of time. Youth with SEDs often need access to CHIP-funded services such as case management, therapy and crisis intervention. These services make a huge difference for both children and for police, as research shows youth with SEDs are roughly 13 times more likely to be arrested than youth who do not have a disorder. Moreover, one study found that almost half of kids with SEDs had contact with the juvenile justice system.
As a cop and as a parent, I never want to see a kid detained. If we get kids the mental health and substance abuse treatments they need, we help put them on a path that can keep them away from ever seeing the inside of a detention center.
CHIP provides these treatments. Yet the program is in trouble.
CHIP expired at the end of September. Without reauthorization, kids in our state and across the United States won’t have access to the tools they need to stay on track and stay out of crime. States such as Arizona, Mississippi and North Carolina have already said that, without those critical federal dollars, many children could soon lose their coverage. If Texas is unable to fund CHIP in our state, it will be a big problem for me and my police force — and for the safety of Texas families.
While President Trump has authorized extending CHIP funding in Texas through February, the broader crisis remains. That’s why Congress must reauthorize CHIP before it’s too late. This common-sense policy has historically garnered support from both sides of the aisle. Sens. John Cornyn, Ted Cruz and the remainder of Congress, including Congressman Bill Flores, who represents my community, should now come together to ensure bipartisan reauthorization without delay.
Our kids, our communities and our public safety depend on it.