In a first for Central Health, an Austin resident donated $25,000 for the benefit of the county health care district’s nonprofit health plan, Sendero Health Plans.

“I know that there will be a number of people that will benefit from this donation,” board member Charles Bell said at a convening of Central Health’s budget and finance committee Jan. 16.

Anne Child, widow of Gary Lee Child, facilitated the donation on the behalf of his estate.

“Gary Lee Child, a long-time resident of Austin and former IBM employee, was a devoted
volunteer and a Hays County Master Naturalist,” a memo to the budget and finance committee stated. “It was his wish that people enjoy and learn about nature through his efforts at Wild Basin Preserve, Charro Ranch Park, Jacob’s Well, Barton Creek Preserve, and Eckert James River Bat Cave.”

Gary Lee Child, a former member of Sendero, requested the donation be used specifically for Sendero Health Plans' operations.

“Thank you for the opportunity to help others lead a healthy life,” Anne Child wrote in the memo.

Sendero Health Plans made headlines in September when a vote by Central Health’s board of managers to dismantle the financially burdened program was met with community backlash. The board voted to reverse the decision under the condition a new strategy to salvage its finances would be implemented from fall 2018 through summer 2019, at which point the health plan will be evaluated by the board again for its long-term feasibility.

“We fought very hard for Sendero to remain alive, and this shows exactly what it means in reality to individual families that struggle with death, dying, and disease in our communities in a very real way,” board member Cynthia Valdez said at the Jan. 16 meeting.

A December 2018 report showed early signs of improvement for the health plan’s finances.

The budget and finance committee voted to recommend the board of managers accept the donation Jan. 16, and managers approved the donation Jan. 30.

On Feb. 26, Travis County Commissioners Court, which is responsible for approving Central Health’s budget, will hear an update from Sendero’s leadership about the health plan’s progress. The same information will also be presented to Central Health’s budget and finance committee Feb. 27.