Friday, April 20, 2018
Letters To The Editor

Saturday's letters: Legal services changing lives for the better

On any given day, a visit to an office of Gulfcoast Legal Services would find several people waiting to be seen by one of our advocates. People come for help — whether it's foreclosure, Social Security disability, immigration or to get protection from domestic violence. A large number of our clients are 60 and older.

Gulfcoast focuses its services on life-altering assistance. A woman has been victimized for years by domestic violence; Gulfcoast steps in and files an injunction preventing further abuse. A homeless man, a Vietnam War veteran, and has posttraumatic stress disorder and physical problems that come from living outside; GLS advocates for his disability and he is able to get monthly assistance, an apartment and no longer has to live without a home. An immigrant child has been abandoned by her parents; GLS attorneys are able to obtain lawful, permanent residence for her under state and federal law, changing her life.

Over the course of 35 years we have ridden the tides of funding and reacted to their ebbs and flows. Still, our main purpose of providing excellent legal services that changes lives remains the same.

We are moving forward in the community, making relations with new organizations and providing services that were not provided in the past such as citizenship, help to Iraq war veterans and the like.

Staff members can be found at outreach sites such as the Long Center in Clearwater, the library in Pinellas Park, at St. Petersburg Boley Safe Haven, St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen, Daystar, the Hispanic Outreach Center in Clearwater, and the Beth El Mission in Ruskin. We work together with our partners, Bay Area Legal Services, the Community Law Program and Legal Aid of Manasota, to provide a web of services to help low-income people — with clinics, centralized telephonic intake and direct representation. It's a full-press team effort to provide as much help as we can. Still, it's not enough. Less than 20 percent of people's legal needs are being met.

The true story at Gulfcoast is the struggle that low-income clients have to find justice. We are proud of our work and the work of our staff in doing their part to changes lives.

John Dubrule, interim executive director, Gulfcoast Legal Services, St. Pete Beach

Florida's next drug problem: heroin May 21, editorial

Follow Switzerland's lead

Since much heroin is by taken by injection, we also will likely see increases in hepatitis C and HIV infection. In the mid 1990s, these diseases drove the Swiss to try something radical, and it worked. The Swiss now offer treatment-on-demand. Of an estimated 22,000 to 24,000 addicts, 16,500 are in treatment, primarily with methadone maintenance at conventional clinics. The Swiss treat about 1,300 hard-core addicts with maintenance doses of heroin in 23 special clinics operating in cities and two prisons.

The Swiss are seeing lower rates of crime, death and disease. Most important, the age of hard-core addicts is climbing, indicating that fewer young people are becoming addicted. The program has been adopted by Germany, Belgium and Denmark. The Times suggests allowing EMTs to carry and administer naloxone to prevent overdose deaths, and greater treatment options for addicts instead of simply punishment and incarceration. Yes, but also look beyond the United States for solutions.

John G. Chase, Palm Harbor

Quick work needed to fix VA mess May 20, editorial

Mental health assistance

As the scandals mount at VA hospitals, citizens begin to question the services veterans get for posttraumatic stress and other disorders once they are in the system. To provide for increased treatment needs, the VA has employed additional mental health professionals from the community. In addition, the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Pinellas County, joined forces over five years ago to enhance the relationship between civilian and military communities.

NAMI support and education programs are regularly held on-site at VA facilities and in the community for veterans and their families. Attendance and participation at NAMI meetings help to hasten their adjustment back to civilian life and the community.

The value of the dynamics of a support group cannot be overstated. Worried mothers, spouses and the vets themselves can voice their thoughts to understanding and knowledgeable participants and experienced facilitators. Those coping with PTSD and other mental illnesses benefit through these interactions.

May, Mental Health Month, is drawing to a close as Memorial Day draws near. Regardless of the time or day of the month, the services needed, offered and provided to those who served us should never end.

Donald Turnbaugh, Palm Harbor

Warnings went unheeded

In 2010, I contacted President Barack Obama twice about the negative impact of the federal hiring freeze on returning war veterans requiring medical attention at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals. In both instances, I suggested that an exception to the hiring freeze be made for professional medical staff of VA hospitals. The presidential office replied with letters listing achievements of the administration, but there was no reference to the issue I was addressing: inadequate medical staff to care for our veterans returning home from war zones.

In July 2012, I submitted a letter about the medical staff shortage to my representatives and senators. I received one reply, but it did not address the problem caused by the hiring freeze.

Since submitting these letters, the situation has progressed to a crisis. Many veterans are unable to obtain specialty consults because some VA hospitals have no specialists in certain areas. Moreover, the patient load of primary care physicians in VA hospitals is so high that patients are allocated very brief time slots with their physicians.

In addition, primary care physicians are now required to fill out additional paperwork that must be completed for each patient before the end of each visit. This paperwork further compromises the length of time that the physician can devote to the already abbreviated appointment time.

Florence Antoine, Tampa

Governor is right: We should slow down May 21, Sue Carlton column

Finding a safe driving speed

The Interstate Highway System was designed for 70 mph when initiated by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1955. Surely our vehicles today offer greater safety than those of 60 years ago, which did not have seat belts, antilock disc brakes, radial speed-rated tires, air bags, rollover protection, computer stabilization, crush zones, etc., so as to allow a mere 5 mph increase and still prove safer.

"Speed" doesn't kill. As the adage states, when you jump off a 40-story building it's not the fall that kills you but the sudden stop. "Speeding," regardless of the limit, creates the danger. Surveys have proven the safest driving speed is that at which 85 percent of the traffic is moving. In fact, Michigan has a law that requires a speed limit change if the 85th percentile warrants it.

People who are incompetent or lack common sense will still be involved in accidents, and if you run off the road while texting, hit a deer, hydroplane on wet roads, or run into the back of a semi, the results won't be any different nor will you be any more alive at 70 mph than at 75 mph. The only thing the rejection provides is additional money in the coffers of those communities enforcing a speed limit most of the population does not adhere to.

By the way, governors of 16 other states share my sentiments.

Robert Stark, Land O'Lakes

Crossing guard dies on corner | May 21

Overpasses overdue

The tragic death of Douglas Carey, a crossing guard at the Gulf-to-Bay and Belcher intersection, points up the overdue need for a plan to build overpasses at high-volume intersections to protect crossing guards, children and parents as they walk to and from school.

The need for overpasses was recognized early on with the development of the Pinellas Trail, and a plan was set in place to build overpasses in strategic places with high traffic volumes. The walking bridge that runs parallel to the Courtney Campbell Causeway is another example of providing a safer means for recreation.

If Pinellas County deems it necessary to promote the safety of individuals during recreation, how much more should it be concerned with the safety of children heading to school?

Alyson Gery, Belleair

Board: Expedite wetland permits | May 21

Stop the development

Thank you for this informative article about Swiftmud. It was shocking. Has no one in this state yet learned how valuable the wetlands are? It is a proven fact that wetlands filter water and protect from flooding, but people like Swiftmud chairman Carlos Beruff apparently only see dollar signs.

Swiftmud has messed up Brooker Creek and now wants to take on other areas. We do not need more development; let's fill up existing structures first. I sincerely hope the governing board stops this nonsense before we have no natural environmental protections left.

Lisa Bright, Clearwater


Saturday’s letters: Don’t weaken rules on fisheries

Florida fisheriesDon’t weaken rules on fish stocksMembers of Congress are proposing changes to an important ocean law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, that would adversely affect coastal states including Florida.Since it...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Friday’s letters: We owe it to our children to teach them history

If we don’t understand past, future looks grim | April 19, Daniel Ruth columnThe history we owe our childrenIt’s not often I agree with Daniel Ruth, but this article was spot-on. I’m not sure when the schools started ignoring Germany’s World War ...
Published: 04/19/18

Thursday’s letters: Gun research can save lives

Gun ownershipCommon ground: Find the factsThere are many areas in the current debate about guns and gun ownership where both sides must agree to disagree. But there is one area where common ground ought to exist. That concerns the need for continuing...
Published: 04/18/18

Wednesday’s letters:

Poverty and plenty in bay area | April 7, editorialStruggling poor are not a priorityI commend your newspaper for continuing to produce real and relevant news, particularly the recent editorial pointing out that a prospering Tampa Bay should not ...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18

Hernando Letters to the Editor for April 20

Bar Association celebrates Law WeekPresident Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed May 1, 1958, as the first Law Day to mark the nation’s commitment to the rule of law. Every year on this day, we reflect on the significance of the rule of law and rededicat...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18

Tuesday’s letters: Stop cooperating with ICE

Sheriff’s ICE policy blasted | April 10Pinellas should end partnership with ICEPinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri recently participated in a community conversation on his controversial agreement with ICE to voluntarily detain immigrants in the...
Published: 04/16/18

Sunday’s letters: The future of oyster production

Shell game | April 15Future of oyster productionThanks to Laura Reiley for an excellent synopsis of the current state of oyster production in Florida. The collapse of the Apalachicola oyster fishery is merely the latest example of the demise of a...
Published: 04/14/18

Monday’s letters: Public education is foundation of the nation

Voters beware of ballot deceptionApril 13, commentarySchools’ role underminedIt was with great pain that I read (not for the first time) that we must be aware of "ballot deception." Public schools were founded to make sure that future generations of ...
Published: 04/13/18

Saturday’s letters: Health Department should butt out

Judge: Grow pot, Mr. Redner | April 12Health officials should butt outThe Times reports that the Florida Department of Health filed an appeal to the decision allowing a man who is a Stage 4 lung cancer survivor to grow pot in his backyard for his ...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Friday’s letters: Open and shut: Enforce the law

Sheriff’s ICE aid policy blasted | April 10Open and shut: Enforce the lawPeople and institutions that insist on the using the euphemism "undocumented immigrant" do nothing but affirm their lack of objectivity by using such a phrase to support an ...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/12/18