2011-12-30 / Letters

Target war, not poor

To the editor:

I spent most of Dec. 14 in Augusta listening to public testimony on Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal for cutting Health and Human Services funding. The speakers made some very strong points:

The projected “savings” are illusory, considering the costs that would be shifted to local hospitals and emergency medical care and local law enforcement services.

One anecdote says it all: A midnight call came to the Crisis Center in Brunswick from a mentally ill man who was in the bathroom of an empty building trying to keep himself warm with a propane torch. This is a situation that could easily have escalated to involve EMTs, the hospital emergency room, possibly the fire department and the police — or perhaps just the morgue.

The caseworker on call was able to single-handedly defuse the situation and transfer the individual to a safe location. If such dedicated health care professionals as these lose their jobs under the governor’s cost-cutting proposals, they may have to seek employment in some other line of work, and we could lose their services forever.

They will be hard to replace. Group homes that will be closed under these cost-cutting provisions will force the relocation of hundreds of elderly, disabled and mentally ill residents into facilities that will certainly be more expensive, if they exist at all. These group homes will be hard to replace, too.

One speaker observed that balancing the budget on the backs of the poorest among us in order to pay off a debt that was incurred to pay for foreign wars amounts to making war on our own people.

The Maine health care budget is linked to federal funding through a two- to- one federal match for dollars spent on Maine care, based on performance standards. The governor’s proposal would forfeit those federal matching dollars.

There are better ways to balance the books.

Please phone or write to Sen. Olympia Snowe and Sen. Susan Collins and ask them to break ranks with their party and vote to end the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans — so that we in Maine are not forced to abandon the poorest.

Betty King


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