To The Daily Sun,
State Rep. Ray Howard (District 8, Alton, Barnstead and Gilmanton) has a legislative record that makes me question both his values and his judgment. In my view, his votes have been inconsistent with the values of our district.
Ray Howard's response to the drug crisis has been consistently irresponsible and short-sighted. In 2015, he was one of only three Belknap County representatives who voted against the cost-free task force to study the problem. After that effort passed with strong bipartisan support, three substantive bills were passed — again with bipartisan support — to address prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and enforcement issues related to the drug crisis. Rep. Howard voted against all three. On a different issue, he voted against a bill requiring high schools to provide a civics course and a competency test on the subject.
Representative Howard showed the same irresponsibility and short-sightedness closer to home, in his votes on the county budget, as he exhibited in Concord. Most of us want to keep seniors in their homes longer, both for their own happiness and to avoid the much higher cost of paying for their care in nursing homes. Mr. Howard, however, voted to slash the appropriation to the Community Action Program (CAP), which provides Meals on Wheels, medical transportation for seniors, and senior companionship by one-third of the recommended level. A similar lack of judgment was shown by Rep. Howard when he voted to totally defund Genesis Counseling Group, which provides mental health counseling.
Some of these votes by Mr. Howard may have been based on a view that no government dollars should be spent for anything, at either the state level or the county level, although that argument does not apply to the drug task force or to the civics course. As for attempts to address and reduce the drug crisis, to provide assistance to needy seniors, and to provide mental health services to the people of Belknap County, one could argue their merit based on compassion alone.
Even a person lacking any compassion, however, should be able to understand that dealing with these problems now saves the taxpayers money in the long run. If the costs of increased law enforcement, incarceration, hospital and other health treatment, together with reduced economic productivity are considered, then it becomes clear that we need to do something about the drug crisis. The same applies to mental health issues. About three-quarters of our jail population suffers from substance abuse problems, mental health problems, or both. Wouldn't it make sense to support providers such as Genesis, to treat mental health issues prior to involvement of the criminal justice system?
As for elder care, it should be noted that in-home care costs about one-third of nursing home care. Supporting programs provided by CAP would allow many seniors to remain in their homes longer and delay entry into nursing homes.
Belknap County taxpayers currently pay (and are required to pay) the 50 percent non-federal Medicaid share of the cost of providing either home care or nursing home care for needy seniors. It is clearly to the benefit of taxpayers to assist seniors in remaining in their homes as long as feasible.
Looking at Rep. Howard's record from a viewpoint of compassion, he comes up empty. Looking at the same record from a concern about cost, he receives a failing grade.
We need a representative who will use common sense in decision making. That representative is Jean Henry, and I urge you to join me in voting for her, in voting for the change we need.
- Category: Letters
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