Rep. Carol Shea-Porter sounds alarm on public assistance programs

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter stopped in the city last week in the course of touring the 1st Congressional District to gauge the reaction of social service agencies to the prospect of further reductions in public assistance programs, particularly the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program known as LIHEAP.

Meeting with a small group at the offices of the Community Action Program Belknap-Merrimack Counities, Shea-Porter said that the Trump Administration, together with the Republican Congress, has "targeted programs for the poorest and most vulnerable." However, she was quick to stress that shrinking assistance for the poor would have "a widespread impact on local businesses and landlords."

Judy Scothorne, community services director at the Community Action Program, said that during the past winter the agency received 1,729 applications for the energy assistance program and disbursed $1,252,185, noting that approximately a third of all recipients. She said that since the recession federal funding for the program has been halved, from $50 million to $25 million while eligibility standard have been tightened, leaving many needy individuals, couples and families without the means to power and heat their homes.

"We try everything to make people eligible" she said, "and donations have helped us serve those who don't qualify. Basically I have to tell some to go begging."

One working woman, who lives alone, said she had to borrow at an interest rate of 10.5 percent to pay her electric bills and purchase fuel oil.

"You're not as good as you need to be as a working person," she said. "It's very frustrating. It's a hard, hard life to live."

Donna Cilley, director of general assistance in Belmont for the past 22 years, called the prospect of reduced federal funding for energy assistance, food stamps and the Temporary Cash Assistance for Needy Families program "catastrophic." She explained that "we're going to absorb what they cut on the local level. They may be cutting, but we're going to spend in higher property taxes." She said that the proliferation of low-wage jobs leave many with little incentive to work. A single mother with two children and without child support may earn $10 an hour, which she noted "is not enough to live, but enough to be ineligible for assistance. Cilley said that she is especially troubled by the widespread assumption that those who seek public assistance suffer from a "character flaw."

Shea-Porter told the group that she is "optimistic," not least because the threat to public assistance programs, together with talk of reducing or even eliminating Medicaid and Medicare, has prompted conversations among both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. "I'm optimistic," she said, "but these are tough times. We're encouraged some days more than others, but expect more battles than ever before. Keep up the resistance," she remarked in closing. "That's the word — resist."

04-24 Carol Shea-Porter

Carol Shea-Porter visited Laconia April 20 to meet with social services agencies over the prospect of reductions to public assistance programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)

Tick season getting underway

04-24 blacklegged tick

Blacklegged ticks like this one can transmit Lyme disease. (UNH Cooperative Extension photo)

Laconia Lyme disease sufferer offer advice as ticks get busy

By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — As tick season gets underway, Nancy Bourassa wants people to know an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to the dangers posed by these blood-sucking parasites.

The 69-year-old Laconia resident created Lyme411, a nonprofit organization that shares information about Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. The group holds meetings monthly.

"People need to be able to identify what ticks look like at various stages in their life cycle," said Bourassa, who was diagnosed with Lyme disease 10 years ago. "People need to learn their habitat."

It's easier to avoid ticks than to try to fight the potentially serious diseases they may carry.

"They are likely to be in damp, leafy things, anywhere where there is dampness," Bourassa said. "They dry out very easily. Clean up leaf piles and lawn thatch. Crushed rocks form a good barrier in your yard."

Surveys by the New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services have consistently found that more than 50 percent of blacklegged ticks in the state are infected with Lyme disease. If a tick is on a person longer than 24 hours, the chance of transmitting the disease increases.

In late spring and summer, the tick is in its smallest stage. These so-called nymphs are harder to see, and may stay on a person longer, increasing the risk of infection. That's why people should check themselves for ticks frequently after hiking or walking in leafy or moist areas.

A state Public Health Services bulletin shows that there were 1,416 cases of Lyme disease in New Hampshire in 2014 and 1,371 in 2015. Numbers for 2016 are not yet available.

The highest months of onset of Lyme disease are June and July, again pointing to the danger of the tick when it is in its nymph stage.

Bourassa thinks she may have first contracted Lyme disease as a 9-year-old girl while vacationing on Martha's Vineyard.

She was reinfected 10 years ago.

"I was feeling a tick on my head and it finally came off," she said. "My hairdresser found the wound. I had joint pain and extreme exhaustion. I would literally fall asleep while having a conversation with someone."

Lyme disease is often diagnosed through a bullseye rash and flu-like symptoms. Later symptoms can include joint pain and neurological problems. Diagnosis can sometimes be difficult as some symptoms are nonspecific and blood tests are indirect, measuring the body's response to infection.

Antibiotics are used to treat Lyme disease.

Abby Mathewson, of state Public Health Services, said it's hard to predict how bad this tick season will be, but she has been hearing anecdotal reports of problems.

"We're definitely hearing there are a lot of ticks out there this year," said Mathewson, the state's epidemiology program manager.

"They are out questing, looking for a blood meal. They are standing on blades of grass or other vegetation, waving their front legs and hoping for something to latch onto."

New Hampshire has been going through a re-greening phase, in which forests are growing back on land that had once been cleared. That provides a good habitat for ticks.

As the climate has warmed, ticks have been moving west and north, Mathewson said.

She recommends that people wear repellents, give pets tick medicine and put clothes in a dryer on high heat to kill ticks.

Alan Eaton, an entomologist and extension professor at the University of New Hampshire, has made the study of ticks his life work.

He does tick sampling throughout the state.

"I have a tick flag, which is a towel hitched on to a stick," he said. "You drag it through vegetation for a certain number of paces and stop and count the ticks and go to another site."

He has produced a map showing confirmed records of blacklegged ticks throughout the state, with the highest concentrations in the southwest portion of the state, but with more and more surveys showing ticks to the north. Blacklegged ticks have been recorded throughout the Lakes Region.

 

U.S. Centers for Disease Control give the following advice:

Avoiding ticks:

• Avoid wooded and brush areas with high grass and leaf litter.

• Walk in the center of trails.

• Use repellent containing DEET.

• Treat clothing with permethrin, or buy pre-treated clothing.

• Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.

• Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.

• Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs.

• Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors.

 

Removing a tick:

• Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.

• Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.

• After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

• Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.

 

Follow-up:

If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor. Be sure to tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick.

tickmap

x

04-24 Nancy Bourassa

Nancy Bourassa, 69, of Laconia, created Lyme411, a nonprofit organization that shares information about Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. The group holds meetings monthly. (Courtesy photo)

 

Break-in reported at Laconia Oil

LACONIA — Someone broke into Laconia Oil early Monday but left without taking anything, police said.

“The suspect gained access by breaking into the business through a window that leads into the main office,” police said in a news release. “The suspect had gone through many of the items within the office and garage but nothing was reported as stolen.”

Police are asking anyone who might have further information about the case to contact the department at 603-524-5252 or the Greater Laconia Crime Line at 603-524-1717.

 – Rick Green

LDS RSS Feed