Emily Ramshaw Editor

Emily Ramshaw is the editor of The Texas Tribune. Under her leadership, the Tribune has won three national Edward R. Murrow Awards, IRE's Gannett Award for Innovation in Watchdog Journalism and a general excellence award from the Online News Association. Before coming aboard as one of the Tribune’s original reporters, Ramshaw spent six years at The Dallas Morning News, where she broke national stories about sexual abuse inside Texas’ youth lock-ups, reported from inside a West Texas polygamist compound, uncovered “fight clubs” inside state institutions for the disabled and investigated a series of deadly transplants where patients received rabies-tainted organs. The Texas APME named Ramshaw its 2008 Star Reporter of the Year.

Recent Contributions

Former Foster Kids Struggle to Get Records

Young adults who age out of Texas foster care often request their records to reconnect with estranged siblings, to track down biological families or to understand what they endured. But child welfare advocates complain the state routinely denies these requests, saying the records can't be found or will take months or even years to compile — assuming they respond at all. State officials admit they have a large backlog but insist they've beefed up staff and are putting new policies in place to address it.

Deuell Asks AG: Can State Ban Abortion Affiliates?

State Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, wants Planned Parenthood's clinics out of the state’s Women’s Health Program, which provides family planning services — but not abortions — to impoverished Medicaid patients. He says a 2005 law should exclude them already. But for years, the state’s Health and Human Services Commission has allowed those clinics to participate, for fear that barring them might be unconstitutional. Deuell has asked Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to clear up the matter, hoping it will free up the agency to push Planned Parenthood out.

Under Pressure, Insurer Agrees to Fully Cover Vaccine

Most of Texas' health insurance companies have fully covered the costs of the infant vaccine Prevnar 13, which prevents deadly cases of bacterial pneumonia and meningitis. The exception has been Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, which has forced physicians to make up the difference or turn babies away. But no more: On Monday, the same day The Texas Tribune asked about the reimbursement gap, BCBS reversed course. It will now cover all costs associated with the vaccine.

Some Medicaid Doctors Rely Heavily On Potent Drugs

A Houston psychiatrist who uses clinically controversial brain scans to diagnose everything from anxiety to marital discord. A Plano music therapist who believes his Peruvian pan flute tunes cure mental illness. And a Beaumont child psychologist reprimanded for continuing to prescribe to a proven drug abuser. These physicians have written more prescriptions for potent antipsychotic drugs to the state’s neediest patients than any other doctors in Texas.

Criminal Records Don't Prohibit Child Care Work

Criminal records don't always exclude job applicants from working with the most vulnerable foster care children, according to a Texas Tribune/Houston Chronicle investigation. At Daystar Residential Inc., where workers forced developmentally disabled girls to fight each other, dozens made it through the state's background check process in the last three years despite records of arrests.

FBI Investigating Possible DSHS Hacker

The FBI is investigating whether a hacker broke into the state’s confidential cancer database, possibly accessing personal information and medical records. Health and Human Services Commissioner Tom Suehs says state health officials notified his office in early May that a hacker was holding the Texas Cancer Registry hostage and demanding a ransom. Suehs says preliminary investigation results from the FBI indicate the threat may be a hoax but that if private records were compromised, health officials will quickly notify the people listed in the registry. 

State Halts Daystar Admissions, Reports New Abuse

Texas officials have halted the placement of foster care children at Daystar and have assigned the Houston-area residential treatment center a state monitor following revelations of a staff-instigated “fight club” incident two years ago and a new incident that has come to light this past week: a possible sexual assault of a girl living at the facility.

Out of State Kids May Suffer in Texas Care Facilities

Richard DeMaar in his Fairbanks, Alaska home.
Richard DeMaar in his Fairbanks, Alaska home.

Alaska officials sent 16-year-old Richard DeMaar 4,000 miles away from his parents to a psychiatric facility in San Antonio because his home state wasn’t equipped to handle his severe depression. Within six weeks, he had tied a makeshift noose around his neck, strangling himself to death. He's one of roughly 900 out-of-state kids sent to residential treatment centers in Texas in the last five years, part of a national compact that allows states that don't have adequate psychiatric services to send kids to states that do. But the practice has come under fire from children’s health advocates, who say it takes kids away from their families and their communities — two things they need to make a full-fledged recovery.

Staff Forced Disabled Girls to Fight in Youth Home

The Dystar Residential Inc. campus, in Manvel, photographed on Friday, June 4, 2010.
The Dystar Residential Inc. campus, in Manvel, photographed on Friday, June 4, 2010.

Workers at a center for distressed children in Manvel provoked seven developmentally disabled girls into a fight of biting and bruising, while they laughed, cheered and promised the winners after-school snacks. The fight was one of more than 250 incidents of abuse and mistreatment in residential treatment centers over the last two years, based on a Houston Chronicle/Texas Tribune review of Department of Family and Protective Services records.

Few Texas Inmates Get Released on Medical Parole

An inmate sleeps in his cubicle in the geriatric unit of the Estelle Prison in Huntsville.
An inmate sleeps in his cubicle in the geriatric unit of the Estelle Prison in Huntsville.

Texas’ “geriatric” inmates (55 and older) make up just 7.3 percent of Texas’ 160,000-offender prison population, but they account for nearly a third of the system’s hospital costs. Prison doctors routinely offer up the oldest and sickest of them for medical parole, a way to get those who are too incapacitated to be a public threat and have just months to live out of medical beds that Texas’ quickly aging prison population needs. They’ve recommended parole for 4,000 such inmates within the last decade. But the state parole board has only agreed in a quarter of these cases, leaving the others to die in prison — and on the state’s dime.

Texas Tribune Interviews Dr. Kenneth Cooper

Dr. Kenneth Cooper
Dr. Kenneth Cooper

The world-renowned Dallas doctor who essentially invented jogging as exercise talks with the Tribune about health care reform, the crisis of obesity in Texas, and what lawmakers must do to shore up the physical-education legislation they passed last session.

Nurse Practitioners Want Less Doctor Oversight

Family nurse practitioner Jean Gisler at her office in Victoria, Texas.
Family nurse practitioner Jean Gisler at her office in Victoria, Texas.

In Texas, nurse practitioners’ livelihoods are tied to physicians: By law, they can’t treat patients without a doctor’s permission. That means if they want to open their own practice, they must petition, and pay, a doctor to grant them “prescriptive authority” — to essentially keep an eye on their work and, in some cases, to be held liable for it. Doctors say this is as it should be. Nurse practitioners and their allies say doctors don't want the competition and charge them enough to run them out of business. “It borders on an immoral situation,” says state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center.