County Judge Ben Zeller said $500 was being cut from county health department funding for a local Pride event this Saturday, calling it a “drag show” unsuitable for families.
“The health department and its programs will only be there for education,” Zeller said Monday afternoon. “Victoria County is not an event sponsor, nor a donor or promoter of this event.”
The annual Pride event is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Saturday at downtown De Leon Plaza.
The county health department’s special mental health unit, Be Well Victoria, was one of many organizations donating funds to the event, with the coalition voting on June 23 to provide $500. The coalition-approved $500 sponsorship came to the attention of the Victoria County Court of Commissioners after the fact, Zeller said.
“In my view, promoting drag shows at De Leon Plaza is not an appropriate county government function,” Zeller said.
He said he spoke to Victoria County Health Department Director David Gonzales and took steps to ensure that no public funds were used for this purpose. A private donor will refund the money after Victoria Pride was asked not to use the Be Well Victoria logo on its promotions. As flyers for the event were already out in the public, the Be Well Victoria logo will be on t-shirts and banners at the event.
“The Department of Health will be there in its capacity as a public health provider and educational resource on HIV,” Zeller said. “No public funds will be used.”
Be Well Victoria, an initiative hosted by the county health department, is planning a meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Christ’s Kitchen 611 E. Warren Ave. Members of Victoria Pride plan to attend.
Zeller said Monday that he clarified to the health department that he would only provide HIV and AIDS information at the event.
Gozales said he would have a number of staff at the event, not only to distribute information, but also to inform attendees of services available in Victoria County.
“We will be bringing a range of HARP programs,” Gonzales said. “We will ask them questions about their needs and we will have a kiosk there.
HARP of Victoria is the HIV/AIDS resource program, which provides support to people living with HIV in the Victoria area. These include medical services, support services and case management services. The department serves Victoria, DeWitt, Jackson, Calhoun, Goliad, Lavaca, and Gonzales counties.
The goals are to reduce new HIV infections and improve access to care.
“We will provide information and resources,” Gonzales said. “We will have nurses there who can talk to people.”
In July 2018, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health in Austin awarded Victoria County a three-year grant to establish Be Well Victoria, a nonprofit coalition working under the Department of Health. His goal is to improve Victoria’s well-being. Hogg’s grant, which was awarded to Victoria and four other rural counties, asks the community to examine what root factors can contribute to poor mental health. In particular, Be Well Victoria focuses on engaging marginalized communities in the conversation.
Be Well Victoria’s vision statement says, “Victoria is a safe and inclusive community where EVERYONE – especially the historically excluded – feels valued and has the opportunity to lead healthy and prosperous lives.
The coalition strives to improve the spiritual, mental and physical well-being of every individual, regardless of economic status or race.
Following the Uvalde shooting, where a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers, the issue of mental health resources was raised. Uvalde’s marksman Salvador Ramos did not have a diagnosed mental health issue. But government officials are pushing additional funding for mental health care as an alternative to discussing gun control at the state level.
The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and mental health organization for youth in the LGBTQ community. Research from the organization’s 2022 National Survey of LGBTQ Youth Mental Health highlights a consistent trend: lesbian, gay, bi, and transgender teens are at increased risk of suicide. According to the Trevor Project, about half of LGBTQ teens ages 13 to 17 have seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, and 18% have actually attempted suicide. That’s twice the rate of suicide attempts among all American teenagers, which is 9%.
A lifelong journalist, George loves ’60s musclecars and guns.