SAN ANTONIO — A council consideration request to connect people to affordable insulin options took another step towards becoming a reality.
The request, co-authored by councilmembers Jalen McKee-Rodriguez and Dr. Adriana Rocha Garcia passed through the Community Health, Environment and Culture Committee on Thursday.
During Thursday’s presentation, Metro Health Director Claude Jacob showed diabetes hospitalization rates and covid fatality rates are highest in zip codes on the near west side and east side.
That’s where this pilot program could help people access treatment for diabetes and learn more about the disease.
“Diabetes is the second leading cause of death in the county,” Jalen McKee-Rodriguez told KENS 5.
During his comments Thursday, Councilman McKee-Rodriguez highlighted the need for a program like this, and that insulin is a life-saving medication.
“We hear of those who die because they cannot afford insulin and they have to make a choice of being housed or healthy,” McKee-Rodriguez said.
The request asks for $1.6 million to create two teams which would include patient navigators to help people find affordable insulin options through insurance or Affordable Care Act discounts.
It would also pay for a public health nurse and dietitian to educate people how to best manage diabetes through lifestyle changes.
“It’s not just providing that fund but addressing the root causes of the issue and meeting people where they’re at, and it’s going to be a game changer,” Councilman McKee-Rodriguez says two hubs would be located in his district and District 4 on the west side, which are estimated to serve 2,000 total residents. The program would start here but would cost more money to expand city-wide.
$100,000 would offer one-time emergency assistance for insulin.
“No one should have to travel to a different country to get it at a more affordable rate and a lot of my residents do that,” Dr. Rocha Garcia stated.
Councilwoman Phyllis Viagran has concerns about the cost of the plan and the social barriers her residents have to making those changes.
“Before we spend this amount of money on this plan I’d really like to get a full understanding that they understand the culture and community we’re going into, because, ‘hey you should cook at home or do this,’ it’s not going to work for some,” Councilwoman Viagran stated.
The program will go to the city council’s B session where the full council has time to ask questions.
Councilman McKee-Rodriguez says depending on the timing, the program could be implemented mid-way through the 2023 budget year or in next year’s budget.