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Belknap County making prudent investment in mental health

To The Daily Sun,

Thank you to the members of the Belknap County Delegation who reconsidered the decision to eliminate funding for Genesis Behavioral Health's Adult Outpatient Program (AOP) at their work session on Feb. 16. We appreciated the time spent discussing our program and the questions asked by the representatives in an effort to understand and clarify the issues.

The economic cost of untreated mental illness is more than $100 billion each year in the United States, causing unnecessary disability, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, suicide and wasted lives (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2011). GBH is committed to reducing the economic and human cost of untreated mental illness in the region. Programs such as AOP are critical to this goal.

The patients in AOP seek short-term therapy and counseling for issues such as family and marital problems, stress, depression, bereavement, or coping with a life-changing event such as divorce, illness or job loss. The program caters to those who are not emergent or chronically or severely ill. For example, an elder who is trying to be well enough to stay out of a nursing home, or an adult who has been incarcerated and is trying to stay out of jail and be productive, or an adult who needs help and support to stay employed and keep a family together.

While some of the individuals seeking short-term services are insured, many do not have insurance or have high deductibles and co-pays, precluding their ability to seek treatment. Many are considered "working poor" and may fall through the cracks because they lack the financial resources to pay for treatment. Funding from the county makes treatment possible for this population.

Offering this service is cost-effective, as it is designed to keep people healthy in their communities by giving them access to the care they need when they need it. The AOP program ensures people with short-term mental health challenges are getting treatment quickly and effectively — allowing them to work, volunteer, contribute to society and lead healthy, productive lives.

The Belknap County Delegation is making a prudent and much-needed investment for their community by restoring funding for this program. We look forward to a continued dialogue and partnership.

The Joint Advocacy Committee of Genesis Behavioral Health & LRGHealthcare

Liz Merry, Chair

Jacqui Abikoff

Paula Clearwater

Henry Lipman

Alida Millham

Maggie Pritchard

Matt Soza

Kristen Welch

Rick Wyman

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'New Democrats' choose appeasment to win N.H. elections

To The Daily Sun,

We, the majority of Democrat voters in New Hampshire, defied our party's leaders by strongly endorsing Senator Sanders during the presidential primary election on Feb. 9. Fundamentally, Senator Sanders's presidential campaign involves re-engaging common citizens by empowering us to have a voice in our government. Have Gov. Hassan and other New Hampshire Democratic candidates hoping to win an election this fall heard our message from the recent primary results and will they now engage and embrace us in the political process?

Historian Arthur Schlesinger notes that throughout our nation's history, we have oscillated between periods of progressivism and social responsibility on the one hand and periods of individual accountability and retrenchment on the other. Although we have generally moved in a forward direction since our nation's birth toward increased social and economic justice, our progress has faced periodic setbacks.

The proverb "the darkest hour is just before the dawn" seems to have special relevance to United States history. For example, the era immediately before the Civil War and slavery's end saw some of the most repressive measures against African Americans, such as the fugitive slave law and the Dredd Scott Decision. From the depths of the Great Depression rose President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Anyone claiming that Bernie Sanders's progressive policy proposals to facilitate meaningful progress toward increased social and economic justice for our nation are too radical and unrealistic demonstrates ignorance of larger historic trends and blindness to the coming dawn that will usher in a new era of economic and social justice.

During the past 37 years, individual accountability and setbacks in issues related to social and economic justice have dominated our political discourse. After Ronald Reagan's conservative counter-revolution, former president Bill Clinton and his "New Democrat" followers such as Sen. Shaheen believed that the only strategy to win political offices in the 1990s and early 2000s was to placate conservatives and pander to the center.

Unfortunately, in an effort to appease Republicans and win elections, these "New Democrats" became almost indistinguishable from moderate Republicans. For example, President Clinton's efforts to prove that he was "tough on crime" through his $30 billion 1994 crime bill escalated the era of mass incarceration to such an extreme that our nation now incarcerates the highest percentage of its population of any nation in the world.

Our state and our nation face serious problems today. We need bold, progressive leaders committed to meaningful change. Many Granite State citizens, especially children, live in extreme poverty, cannot meet basic needs, and feel no hope for their future. Our state currently faces a serious heroin and chemical dependency epidemic.

Gov. Hassan frequently acknowledges that "we cannot arrest our way out of this crisis." Yet, both she and our current state Legislature fail to advocate for a significant investment in chemical dependency and mental health treatment resources for our state and an end to New Hampshire's five-month waiting period for inpatient chemical dependency treatment. A major cause of our state's current opioid crisis stems from the hopelessness, isolation, despair, and economic deprivation that so many Granite State citizens experience today. Although I applaud Gov. Hassan's advocacy for continuing Medicaid expansion, our times require a bolder plan, a much more significant investment in all of our state's human resources.

When I tried to contact Gov. Hassan's office in writing several months ago to make recommendations to address the state's current opioid crisis, I received no response from her staff. I followed up with a phone call to the governor's office and a staff member assured me that a member of Gov. Hassan's policy staff would respond to me, yet three months later I continue to receive no response.

In contrast, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has raised the bar for the level of engagement and responsiveness that New Hampshire constituents can expect from their elected representatives as he has made himself accessible to New Hampshire voters at countless town hall meetings. Sen. Sanders doesn't just give speeches, he takes time to interact with us and to answer our questions. We need elected officials to represent New Hampshire that take time to listen, engage in reciprocal dialogue, answer questions, and believe in the value and worth of common constituents.

As a state and as a nation, we stand upon a pivotal crossroads in history. Once again, the pendulum of U.S. history is swinging towards even greater social and economic justice. In the prophetic words of singer and song writer Bob Dylan, "Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call... The times, they are a changin'."

Dave Lynch

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