From the Woods: Keep the Pressure On!

January 9, 2011

by Bev Alves

Note: I wrote this post below, before the terrible tragedy in Arizona this weekend. This horrific incident illustrates part of what I’m talking about. On TV, someone said the shooter had emotional problems. At college they dropped him and told him he needed counseling. (Like someone who is that mentally ill is capable of getting help for himself!) He needed someone to make sure that the necessary mental health services exist and then get him to go there. We have to be concerned with the welfare, pain and suffering of each other or we’ll pay a terrible price for ignoring it. Those in Arizona already have.

I live in NY’s famous or infamous CD 23. You know, the one where Sarah Palin came in, threw her support to the Conservative candidate instead of the Republican, and lo and behold, a Democrat won. This was the first time since before the Civil War that CD 23 has a Democratic Representative in the House. Because CD 23 is geographically, the largest congressional district in NY State, encompassing much of the northern part of the state, it’s difficult for Bill Owens our Representative to meet with many of his constituents. So once a month, he holds a teleconferenece call. The phone rings, and you’re told something like, “You’re now on a conference call with Rep. Owens.” (You can choose to stay on the call or hang up.) He and his staff have become adept at using modern technology.

The last call was about two weeks ago. I was able to be on the call for part of it. Owens basically said, that we need to have “shared sacrifice” in order to reduce the deficit. He also said we need to cut services (and he’s a Dem). It’s outrageous!

I called Owens’ office last Wed. I told them I was a single payer advocate and asked his aide to tell the Congressman to fight for the rights of the people. For example, Fulton County is closing Fulton Co Mental Health Services for those with serious mental illness, and privatizing it. I think we only have two psychiatrists in entire the county. (When you enter the county at some points, the welcome sign says Gateway to the Adirondacks, i.e., the wilderness.) They are also closing the Alcohol and Drug Treatment Clinic, The Visiting Nurse Service and the Fulton County  Infirmary.  (I wonder where they are planning to put those who are old or infirmed.  Are they planning to put them out in the snow to die?)  What are they thinking?  Is anybody thinking?

I asked Owens’ aide if anyone thought about how much it was going to cost the taxpayer to pay for the services that will be needed to fix all the problems that will occur when people who are mentally/emotionally ill don’t get the mental health services they so desperately need. I told him that statistics indicate that drug and alcohol abuse increase, spousal and child abuse increase, crime increases, drunk/drug driving increases. Some people could even become extremely violent. I asked him if the Congressman is aware of how much it is going to cost the taxpayer to pay for the extra police, court costs, jail space, social workers, medical costs, etc., that will be necessary to deal with the numerous problems cutting public mental health services will cost the taxpayer (not to mention the cost of pain and suffering, which I did mention). He was totally taken aback. I could tell by his voice, that these facts, these ideas, were totally foreign to his thinking. I told him to please give my message to the Congressman. I will write a follow-up letter.

Some people are not thinking about what is going to happen down the road. They are ignorant of the havoc, pain and greater economic harm they are causing.  If we had a Single Payer healthcare system,  Improved and Expanded Medicare for All, none of these cuts would be happening.  The opportunity to get necessary healthcare is an issue of equal rights.  All of us should be given an equal chance to get treatment, to heal and survive.  Equality of opportunity is the foundation of our American democracy. The “burden of sacrifice,” must be shared by all.  The burden should not just be placed on those who are unable to afford the essential care and services they so desperately need.  That’s not democracy!

Our job must be to inform our legislators.  We can use our skills, our intellect,  our enthusiasm and passion to educate both our government officials and those of their constituents that are uninformed.  We have to educate those who do not know, and even those who may not care.  The people making these irresponsible decisions must be reminded that the “other” who they are not thinking about now, could someday, in the future, be them.

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