Texas Department of Health:
An Inventory of Commissioner of Health Correspondence at the Texas State Archives, 1976-1980, 1982-1987, 1994-2003
Until it was abolished in 2004 and absorbed into the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Department of Health was the latest successor in a line of health-related state agencies: the Texas Quarantine Department (1879-1903), the Texas Department of Public Health and Vital Statistics (1903-1909), the Texas State Department of Health (1909-1975), and the Texas Department of Health Resources (1975-1977). The department became the State of Texas' primary agency for public health planning, services, and regulation.
The Texas Department of Health consisted of the Commissioner of Health, the administrative staff, and the chest hospitals at San Antonio and Harlingen. The Commissioner of Health was appointed every two years by the Texas Board of Health to be the administrative head of the Texas Department of Health and was required to be licensed to practice medicine in Texas. The commissioner was given overall management duties and powers of the Department of Health and was assisted in oversight functions by deputy commissioners, assistant deputy commissioners, and associate commissioners. By 1999, the Commissioner of Health headed an Executive Deputy Commissioner and four deputy commissioners. The deputy commissioners led Community Health and Prevention with six subsidiary bureaus; Health Care Financing with nine subsidiary bureaus; Public Health Sciences and Quality with ten subsidiary bureaus; and Administration which provided support services, legal services, and management and administrative services. Additionally, the Department was associated with the Texas Medical Disclosure Panel, the Texas Radiation Advisory Board, the Council of Sex Offender Treatment, the Toxic Substances Coordinating Committee, and the Health Professions Council.
During the course of the 20th century, the responsibilities of the Department continued to evolve from its original concern to isolate and prevent epidemic diseases such as cholera, smallpox, and typhoid fever. In 1903, the 28th Legislature, in Senate Substitute Bill 168, assigned to the Department the task of maintaining birth and death records and changed its name to the Texas Department of Public Health and Vital Statistics to reflect its new role. Six years later, in 1909, the name was changed again to the Texas State Department of Health, as growing concern over the safety and purity of food and water supplies resulted in new legislation at both the federal and state levels. The enforcement responsibilities were given to the public health agencies. During the Depression, new federal laws encouraged the states to provide limited kinds of medical and dental care for the poor. In 1946 the U.S. Hospital Survey and Construction Act began providing matching federal funds for hospital construction and renovation under the Hill-Burton program in coordination with state health agencies. Late in the century the Texas Department of Health developed a variety of disease-prevention programs. In 1975 (House Bill 2164, 64th Legislature, Regular Session), the Texas Health Planning and Development Act added the responsibility of overall planning of all health facilities and services in the state, and the State Department of Health became the Texas Department of Health Resources, governed by the Board of Health Resources. Their names were changed to the Texas Board of Health and the Texas Department of Health in 1977.
From 1991, the Department of Health acted under the budgetary oversight of the Health and Human Services Commission, which acted as an umbrella organization to integrate the strategic planning and budget request processes for the state's major health and human services agencies. By 2002, the agency had over 5500 employees and an annual budget in excess of $6 billion (including federal funds).
House Bill 2292 (78th Texas Legislature, Regular Session, 2003) merged twelve state health and human services agencies into five, officially abolishing the Texas Department of Health (effective September 1, 2004) and creating the new Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). DSHS took over all of the "powers, duties, functions, programs, and activities" of the Department of Health. (In addition it assumed the duties of the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, the Texas Health Care Information Council, and the mental health and state hospital operations formerly under the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation.) The governing body is the DSHS Council, composed of nine members of the public appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the state senate. These nine members, representing all geographic areas of the state and reflecting the ethnic diversity of the state, "must have demonstrated an interest in and knowledge of problems and available services related to public health, mental health, or substance abuse." They serve staggered six-year terms.
(Sources include: Guide to Texas State Agencies, 11th edition (2001); the DSHS website, http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/, accessed October 2006; and the enabling legislation (1903, 1909, 1975, 1977, 2003).)
The Texas Department of Health was the State of Texas' primary agency for public health planning, services, and regulation until it was abolished in 2004 and absorbed into the Texas Department of State Health Services. The Department of Health consisted of the Commissioner of Health, the administrative staff, and the chest hospitals at San Antonio and Harlingen. Correspondence of the Office of the Commissioner of Health was written in the course of its overall management of the Department of Health and dates 1976-1980, 1982-1987, 1994-2003. In addition to correspondence, other types of records include Texas Department of Health memos and reports.
Most of the records from the tenures of Commissioners Fratis L. Duff, M.D. and Raymond T. Moore, M.D. (a deputy commissioner who replaced Dr. Duff when he retired in December 1978) consist of copies of the correspondence of Robert D. Moreton, the Chairman of the Board of Health. These copies of the chairman's correspondence were apparently sent to the commissioners as their file copy. Correspondence is also present from the tenures of Robert Bernstein, M.D (1980-1991); David R. Smith, M.D. (1993-1998); William R. Archer III, M.D. (1998-2000); Eduardo J. Sanchez, M.D. (2001-2004; then commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services until October 2006); and Charles Bell, M.D., deputy executive commissioner who served as acting commissioner from November 2000-October 2001.
Correspondents include the Chairman of the Board of Health, Robert D. Moreton; other Board members; Department of Health officials; state and federal agencies; legislators and congressmen; doctors and other members of medical professions; nursing home administrators; health organizations; corporations and businesses; and private citizens. Texas state agencies represented in the correspondence include the Office of the Governor, Water Commission, Air Control Board, Department of Agriculture, State Auditor, and Health and Human Services Coordinating Council.
A broad array of subjects are covered in the correspondence including Department of Health administration, proposed state and federal legislation, federal environmental and health regulations, Medicare payments to the state, and response to complaints or requests for help in the investigation of health matters. Specific health topics discussed in the correspondence include the Texas state health plan, vision screening guidelines for school children, childhood cancer treatments, drug resistant tuberculosis and treatment at the state chest hospitals, inspections of nursing homes, oil and hazardous substances spill contingency plans, unauthorized dumps as health hazards, low-level radioactive waste regulation, and many other health and safety issues.
To prepare this inventory, the described materials were cursorily reviewed to delineate series, to confirm the accuracy of contents lists, to provide an estimate of dates covered, and to determine record types.
Restrictions on Access
Restrictions on Use
Most records created by Texas state agencies are not copyrighted and may be freely used in any way. State records also include materials received by, not created by, state agencies. Copyright remains with the creator. The researcher is responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).
(Identify the item), Texas Department of Health Commissioner of Health correspondence. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession numbers: 1990/190, 2004/187, 2005/108, 2006/205
These records were transferred to the Texas State Archives by the Texas Department of Health on July 30, 1990 and on August 6, 2004; and by the Texas Department of State Health Services on February 14, 2005 and February 10, 2006.
Paul Beck, January 1991
Rebecca Romanchuk, October 2006
Detailed Description of the Records