The City of Frisco Needs a Community Health Board

~ Sadaf Haq, March 31, 2020

Today, I call upon Frisco City Council and Mayor Jeff Cheney to begin the process of creating a new board, one of the several that is made of appointed members who are Frisco residents, and which serve our community in many ways. Boards like Planning & Zoning Commission, Parks & Recreation Board, Urban Forestry Board, and Social Services and Housing Board all provide policy and programming guidance to the city at different times.  [please see end note about City response]

I’m proud to chair the Social Services and Housing Board for Frisco, and our group certainly oversees some issues that are adjacent to community health. Still, we do not have a citizen commission devoted to anticipating and solving for matters of public health… and considering the current crisis created by the global COVID-19 pandemic, with 40+ Frisco residents infected just in the month of March, it’s time.

Other local governments in our area have a citizen health advisory panel, including all of the school districts that serve Frisco. So there is definitely precedent for our community—to contribute meaningfully to the health and safety decisions being made by our government leaders.

The more we learn about the COVID-19 pandemic, the more we understand that every jurisdiction's response is driven by "what did we know, when did we know it, did we understand the gravity and potential for harm".  These are questions best answered by medical professionals.

Frisco leaders have been rocked in the last weeks, with the sudden and unprecedented onset of novel coronavirus infections across the U.S., creating a bona fide health crisis. Our City Council has had to scramble—for information, emergency response tactics, policy guidance, and more. This challenge has been compounded by the fact that Frisco straddles the line between Denton & Collin Counties.

 

Just imagine if City Council already had a team of credentialed medical professionals at the ready when the virus started to spread, a vetted group of experts able to offer resources, analysis, guidance, direction and support.

It is the perfect time for the city to ask staff to look into what would be needed to add this board to our roster of commissions, in time for the 2020 appointment cycle. Frisco City Council has the power to organize and form any board it deems necessary, granted by the City Charter, Section 3.07 (8). By drafting and passing an ordinance to organize this new board before June 2020, Council would create the opportunity for eligible, interested residents to apply for positions in July 2020, when the annual appointment application process opens for all city boards and commissions.

With my background in public and community health, I look at our community's response these last few weeks and I can't help but ask -- where are the health professionals? How can we ensure the medical community is at the table to keep Frisco and its residents healthy and safe?

I recommend the following structure for this new Community Health board:
  • A panel of nine voting members, with additional ex officio members in an advisory role

  • Two-year terms, with the initial nine appointees drawing straws* at their first meeting to determine staggered expiration dates.

  • A five-member credentialing sub-committee, to be established in 2020-2021 after the board is seated.

    • Credentialing committees are common in the healthcare world. Prospective appointees would provide their education and CV, along with any medical credentials, for review by the Credentials Sub-Committee, who could then make a slate of recommendations to City Council as to nominees who have the legitimate background and experience to be useful.

    • Utilizing the standard operating practice of credentialing will ensure that this board remains one with expertise and professional integrity, and will prevent politics from insinuating itself between the board and efficacy.

  • Dedicated seats on the board which correspond to specific industry sectors, such as we currently use with the Visit Frisco (CVB) Board. My initial recommendations for these positions are as follows, although I'm sure a feasibility group would provide additional and better insight:

    • Large Facility (100+ beds)

    • Small Facility (<100 beds)

    • Sports Health

    • Internal Medicine

    • Family Practice

    • At-Risk Communities

    • Community Wellness

    • Two (2) At-Large Seats

    • Updated, April 2, 2020: Several have suggested that a position focused on Mental Health would be important, and I agree! Our community's psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and counselors should absolutely be part of the conversation! Behavioral Health** is crucial to the wellness of a community and should be a dedicated seat. This would still leave room for one seat at-large.

  • For the ex officio positions, I feel it would be important to have stakeholders from our police and fire departments, county courts, school districts, the Frisco Chamber of Commerce, our large sports and recreation partners, non-profit/social services sector, and our 65+ resident community (this would be a great place for a retired physician or other retired community health executive).

  • This board would ideally meet four times a year for general meetings, unless needed more often for special circumstances. I envision that this Community Health board would have working sub-committees which would meet publicly throughout the year ad hoc. I envision occasional joint meetings with Parks & Recreation, Social Services & Housing, and of course with City Council.

Again, these details are just my initial recommendations--but with so much healthcare expertise and knowledge right here, it seems like we are not making good use of our local talents if we don't put our medical community to work in this way for the people of Frisco.

Respectfully submitted,

About the Author Sadaf Haq obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and a Master of Public Health degree from the University at Albany, which led her to internships in behavioral and public health with the State Department of Health. During this time, Haq contributed to children’s physical education plans, strategies to increase parks and trails, and efforts to improve adolescent mental health; she then went on to work for Humana Inc. and the Health Services Research Center of the University of Miami. Haq has also been published twice in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Following a move with her family to Frisco, Haq co-founded a medical practice with her husband, Dr. Adeel Haq. In 2017, Haq was unanimously appointed by Frisco City Council to the Social Services and Housing Board, which she now chairs. She is a member of the Texas Healthcare Advisory Council, and was appointed to the Texas Health Resources Community Health Council.  Learn more here.

Update 4-6-2020 "I'm pleased to share that I did get a reply from my email to Mayor and Council, and they are taking a look at the plan. I hope we hear more about it soon, and encourage supporters of this idea to sign up for updates; I'll keep you posted!" ~SH

* The five members to draw the short straw would take Places 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9, and will be up for re-appointment in 2021, and in odd-numbered years thereafter. The four members to draw long straws will take Places 2, 4, 6 and 8 and will serve until 2022. It may seem odd but this is the same technique used after the Census by the Texas Senate to determine which Senators will stagger their election years!

** This is a good explainer on behavioral health and mental health -- two terms with similar meanings but slight difference from a healthcare perspective.

Pol. Adv. Paid for by Sadaf Haq for Frisco City Council.  Jamie Heit, Treasurer.