To The Daily Sun,
An effective democracy demands action from ordinary citizens. We have the power to facilitate change, especially at the local and state level, if we care enough to make our voices heard.
Once again, our New Hampshire state Legislature is proposing more drastic, deep cuts to the Health and Human Services budget for some of New Hampshire's most vulnerable children, youth, and families. The current proposed budget cuts will be in addition to all of the devastating cuts that the legislature already implemented in 2011 for health and human services. The current proposed budget cuts for 2015 include:
1. Funding for emergency shelters: Proposal to cut half ($4 million) out of the current $8 million annual budget to provide shelter to the over 4,000 New Hampshire families that become temporarily homeless each year. We already have a crisis with a lack of space in New Hampshire homeless shelters — this proposed budget cut would double our current problem.
2. Proposal to cut $52 million from developmental disability services from the current budget of $293 million.
3. Allow Medicaid expansion to sunset as of Dec, 31, 2016, for New Hampshire residents, leaving approximately 39,000 New Hampshire citizens living in poverty without affordable health-care coverage. Since the federal government covers almost the entire cost of Medicaid expansion with our federal tax dollars, the state Legislature voting to end Medicaid expansion for New Hampshire means denying us a benefit that we will still continue to pay for.
4. Eliminate Medicaid optional services. This budget cut will eliminate many health benefits for people living in poverty, including psychiatric services for youths on Medicaid under 21 years of age.
5. Cut $6 million from the current $9.5 million New Hampshire budget for drug and alcohol treatment and prevention. This proposed cut comes at a time when Laconia struggles with a severe heroin problem.
If you want to help stop these harmful budget cuts, please contact your representatives in the state Legislature before it is too late.
As we enter another road construction season, I always feel saddened by how much money we as a state and nation spend to fix many roads that seemed to be perfectly fine even before we spend millions of dollars annually to repair them. While fixing crumbling bridges is essential for public safety, so many New Hampshire road construction projects have nothing to do with fixing bridges. Although road construction projects use public money to create more jobs, increasing public health and human services programs would also create more jobs. We should reallocate some of the money from non-essential road repairs to fund the above-mentioned public health and human services fully. Is it more important to smooth a drivable road or to save a human life?
Although the United States has only 5 percent of the world's population, we warehouse 25 percent of all people behind jail and prison bars in the world. The United States now has the highest incarceration rate and the highest percentage of its population behind bars of any nation in the world. The more we cut prevention, intervention, and support services for children, youth, and families today, the more people will likely end up in prison later. We need to increase essential funding for health and human services, not decrease it!
Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder of the Children's Defense Fund, writes, "Investing in children is not a national luxury or a national choice. It's a national necessity.... The issue is not are we going to pay -- it's are we going to pay now, up front, or are we going to pay a whole lot more later on."