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Florida must submit grant plan now for Suncoast Parkway work

Submit grant plan for road work now

It was shocking news for citizens of Citrus and Hernando counties to hear that work on the remaining 27-mile stretch of the Suncoast Parkway in Citrus has been suspended by the state. The official reason was the economic difficulty of the state. It seems Florida has not even submitted a fund application to the federal government for construction of the parkway.

Since February, President Obama and Congress appropriated $787 billion for economic stimulus. Over the next 18 months, the government is expected to spend nearly $30 billion for the nation's highway infrastructure and also for creating jobs.

The national jobless rate is the highest in 26 years, and the jobless rate in Citrus and Hernando counties is far worse at 11.4 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively. Unemployed workers in both counties are mostly people who lost jobs through no performance fault of their own. What is more, getting a decent job in the two counties is difficult.

To get federal funds for $140 million for final design work and acquisition for the parkway, Raymond Ashe, director of government affairs for Turnpike Enterprise, must submit a grant proposal to the U.S. government as soon as possible because 49 other states are eager to get some of the $30 billion.

Ashe's success in getting federal funds will be largely dependent on strong support and well-organized cooperation from Gov. Charlie Crist, state legislative leaders and members of the U.S. Senate and Congress from Florida.

Paul S. Kim, Hernando

Law officers learn about mentally ill

In 1988 in Memphis, the Police Department and the National Alliance on Mental Illness joined together with community mental health consumers, professionals and family members to establish an education program for officers who are responding to the community with mental health issues. The University of Tennessee and the University of Memphis assisted.

This unique and creative alliance was established for the purpose of developing a more intelligent, understandable and safe approach to mental health crisis events. The CIT model is instrumental in offering specially trained officers to respond to crisis calls from families caring for the mentally ill.

The outcome is that the arrests of the mentally ill are reduced, and use of force is decreased. Underserved consumers and families are identified by officers and provided with direction to care. Patient violence and use of restraints in the emergency has decreased. Officers are trained and educated in verbal de-escalation techniques. Officer injuries during crisis events have declined. Officer recognition and appreciation by the community has increased. And, there has been a cost savings to the community as people are directed to care and education instead of jail. This program is now replicated across the country in our law enforcement communities.

The first week of March, the Pasco and Hernando sheriff's offices together offered this CIT program to officers in both counties. There were nine officers from Hernando, seven from the Pasco Sheriff's Office, three Dade City police officers and two from the city of New Port Richey Police Department who participated in and graduated from this unique program.

On the second day of the program, my family spoke to the students, telling our journey with our daughter and her mental illness since age 13, spanning occurrences in several states, hospitalizations, running away, drug abuse and the tremendous toll to us all as she refused to accept her illness over many years. It was the first time we all spoke together, my daughter, my husband and myself. It was the first time she heard of our pain as we watched our beautiful, brilliant daughter spiral into illness. It was an emotional experience for us, and one of great and continued healing for us all.

As teachers of the Family to Family course for NAMI, my husband and I were able to tell the officers of the understanding that education can bring to families as they try to become supportive members of the team that moves a loved one to acceptance of their illness and then wellness. Our daughter spoke of how grateful she is that her family finally knew the truth about her disease and we were going to work with her in our own alliance to help her achieve wellness.

Later in the week our officers visited several mental health facilities here in Hernando County and came to the Beautiful Mind Center run by our local affiliate of NAMI. There the officers met a number of consumers with a variety of diagnosed mental illnesses, and heard their wishes for an officer if dealing with them to first realize that they were ill, but had dignity, and to be treated with dignity. These were persons the officers might meet in church, the local grocery store, on the street, and perhaps some day in a crisis. To have face-to-face interaction was a wonder for all. Both our consumers and our officers were moved. The 40-hour course concluded that Friday with graduation.

On May 16, the NAMI affiliate at our annual free seminar on mental illness will recognize these officers and present them with their official CIT pins to wear on their uniforms. The focus for this seminar will be "From Discovery to Recovery," with several speakers presenting on this topic.

Call NAMI at (352) 684-0004 for information on the program or support group activities, and (352) 544-0352 for information on family to family education. On Saturday, May 16, at Grace Lutheran Church on U.S. 19 just north of State Road 50, we will pin our newest CIT officers.

Judy Thompson, Vice President, National Association on Mental Illness/NAMI Hernando

Theater critic does a great job

Having lived here for 30 years, we have attended local community theater, professional theater in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, and theater at the Show Palace. In our book, Barbara Fredricksen has always been more than generous in her critiques.

We were members of a part-equity company/community theater in Ohio and I was involved as actor/director and my husband designed and built sets. It's the duty of a theater critic to do just that: criticize. We've seen some plays to which she was almost too kind. However, she's not here to squelch their efforts, but to encourage and enlighten. She's has always done a terrific job in my book, and little New Port Richey is lucky to have her expertise.

Lilyan Dayton, New Port Richey

Financial burden crushes families

When will those in public office and in large corporate America ever do the math to help the economy and the American people?

Here is an example of why the American people cannot get anywhere. We'll use a $100,000 house and the monthly household expenses: 30-year mortgage at 5 percent interest, $416.60; taxes and insurance, $208; car payment, $300; car insurance, $350; electricity, $300; water and sewer, $100; health insurance, $450. The total each month is $2,124.60.

Now, in order for a family to afford this, the income would have to be $20 per hour for a 40-hour work week. We must also deduct income taxes and Social Security.

After all the deductions and monthly obligations, that leaves just $435 monthly for food, medicines, household supplies, gasoline and all other necessary items.

Dale Bennington, Spring Hill

Mary Swan will be sorely missed

Logan Neill's epilogue for our dear friend Mary Swan was well done.

For the past two years, Mary was accompanied on stage at most of her local engagements by my husband, Angelo Rifino. Although unknown to many, Mary and her late husband, Bim Brown, were very kind to Angelo, giving him the opportunity and encouragement to get started singing locally. After Bim's passing, Angelo began assisting Mary, at first only singing a few songs here and there. It then led to Angelo accompanying Mary on her many local engagements at clubhouses and halls like the Knights of Columbus and the Brookridge New Year's Eve celebration where Mary, her daughter, Marti Carroll, and my husband entertained. Mary and Angelo also shared the stage at Timber Pines, Summertree and High Point, just to name a few.

Mary was a blessing to our family and our hearts are broken over her passing. She had such an impact on us, not only my husband, but she also started our youngest child on her journey in musical theater. She was a lovely lady who lit up the stage with her smile, spirit and song. She will be with us always and as my husband continues singing locally, he has vowed that Mary Swan will always open his show and her songs will always play through his speakers.

Terri Rifino, Spring Hill

>>your voice counts

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Florida must submit grant plan now for Suncoast Parkway work 03/22/09 [Last modified: Sunday, March 22, 2009 6:08pm]
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