City launches ‘SA Forward’ plan to grow Metro Health

5-year plan covers areas mental health, violence prevention, food insecurity

San Antonio – For the past two years, public health conversations in San Antonio have largely revolved around just one topic -- the pandemic.

But even as San Antonio Metropolitan Health District counted more than 530,000 cases of COVID-19 in Bexar County, the health issues that plagued the city before the pandemic weren’t going anywhere.

With cases back down to a low point, Metro Health laid its plans on Monday for growing health initiatives through September 2026 in six different areas: access to care, data and technology infrastructure, food insecurity and nutrition, mental health and community resilience, health equity and social justice, and violence prevention.

City Manager Erik Walsh says the so-called “SA Forward” plan is about making sure the city keeps making progress with public health.

“Metro Health is like the fire department after 9/11,” Walsh told reporters. “Fire departments didn’t just say, ‘Well, we’re not going to change anything’ after the attack.”

The city announced the plan Monday afternoon in front of City Hall while acknowledging the start of National Public Health Week.

The plan’s goals include expanding the use of a multidisciplinary response team for mental health calls as an alternative to 911, implementing a program to identify people with the highest risk of perpetrating or experiencing domestic violence, and expanding a program to provide healthy foods at corner stores.

The city has already taken some steps, like launching an online dashboard with health information about the community. It includes information, for example, showing that, in a cluster of census tracts on the near South Side, at least one out of five people is living with diabetes.

“The interactive platform allows residents to stay informed about health and how the burden of disease affects their neighborhoods,” said Metro Health Director Claude Jacob.

Expanding and growing programs will cost money, though, and the vast majority of Metro Health’s $81.4 million budget is already mostly from outside grants, not city dollars.

“Part of the conversation that council had during last year’s budget was making sure that we commit to enhancing that local funding part as we go forward,” Walsh said.

Walsh said he would suggest continuing to grow Metro Health’s budget as a priority when the council begins to discuss the FY 2023 budget at an Apr. 13 goal-setting session.

About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.