Dozier's failings demand solution | Dec. 27, editorial
Early intervention can save kids
As executive director of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association, I applaud the focus on the need to continue reforming Florida's juvenile justice system.
But it is much more than just one facility, or just one program. It is time to apply what we have learned here in Florida and nationally. How many more commissions and task forces do we need? The solution depends on long-term political will and a dedication of resources most appropriately placed and held accountable.
Our kids need intervention early and often. It takes entire communities to solve the issues around juvenile delinquency. We need to seize those opportunities to intervene when we can and do so way before kids show up at the door of the juvenile justice system. The Times article perfectly illustrates that our track record with the status quo is not working.
Those of us who are practitioners and advocates know what drives kids into the system. It is educational failure, mental illness, substance abuse, sexual abuse, family disintegration and a host of other challenges.
And when we fail, we fail big, because we see those failures play out in the adult system, where kids often end up. The snapshot of the 1988 Dozier class illustrates what happens when we don't do a good enough job. We lost the majority of those kids; we must learn from these failures.
As the state budget continues to swing downward, I recommend that we put this question to Florida taxpayers: Do you want to pay now … or pay much more later? Tell your elected officials that you want to head off the high costs of building prisons by saving kids early.
Closing one facility may bring satisfaction to those who think the system's failure rests on certain institutions. But that is too narrow a view and a shortsighted one. The system's failure rests on a culture of punishment rather than prevention, intervention and rehabilitation.
Cathy Craig-Myers, executive director, Florida Juvenile Justice Association, Tallahassee
The struggle to save Cpl. Roberts | Dec. 22
Strive to overcome the stigma of mental illness
I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to the families of Mike Roberts and Humberto Delgado. Their story has raised an often ignored but important health issue: the stigma of mental illness.
I have witnessed this as an RN in the mental health field and through personal associations. This stigma creates a fear-based aversion to those needing help. Patients often say, "If I don't get admitted to treatment or take my medications then I won't be labeled as crazy."
Exacerbating the problem, families often say they have difficulty discussing a family member's mental illness. Though strides have been made in the mental health fields (and kudos to those dedicated to this work, e.g. police officers and mental health workers) we as individuals need to be informed to create change — change that promotes a culture that does not stigmatize and exclude those affected. This would require an understanding of someone's mental challenges (and perhaps their journey into darkness) so that we embrace those affected as legitimate citizens and provide the necessary treatment.
Information is readily available at libraries, talks on the subject and the Internet. To begin, check out: www.FountainHouse.org and www.Bring Changetomind.org.
Witnessing the tragedies that ensue, we cannot afford our ignorance.
Eugenia Parish, Tampa
Numbers don't add up | Dec. 28, letter
The system will adjust
The letter writer brought up a puzzling point: How will the nation care for an additional 30 million American patients?
The gist of his letter seems to be that if we provide care to the uncared-for, this will squeeze out the time available for the already-cared-for. America's corps of physicians does not have time to take care of the Americans lacking care now.
Since there is more of a shortage of primary-care physicians than any other type, my response is confined to this entry point to the system.
To be brief, when there is money to pay for insurance for the previously uncovered 15 percent of Americans, doctors will find time for them. Their needs will then be fit into a rational order based on need, along with the other 80 percent who already were covered. Need, not money, will be the ordering principle. By creating a fairly even playing field, America's doctors will step up to the plate.
There are already models of care in operation. America will employ more nurse practitioners, walk-in clinics and triage personnel until the physician shortage is rectified. When "regular Joe" primary physicians can net about half as much as specialists or one-tenth as much as surgeons, instead of half that ratio, then the more kind-hearted, humanitarian of our American medical school graduates will begin entering primary care again. At the same time, the influx of dollars will attract more Third World doctors whose Third World earnings are a tenth of American earnings for the same work.
The powers that revolve around health care financing will find ways to take care of making sure needs are met when the funding makes it possible.
Owen Linder, M.D., Safety Harbor
Reality check is needed
The actions of our legislators in Washington have been reprehensible. They have acted like little children trading Pokemon cards with our health care legislation. The Republicans said "no" just like 3-year-olds do when they realize it calls attention to themselves for no positive reason. The Democrats, so anxious to pass health care legislation, submitted to anything as long as they got their 60 votes.
The entire program should have been stopped for six months. During this time, the legislators need some public education to understand the plight of the public. They need to cut their salaries at least 20 percent. Then they need to pay as much as the rest of us for health insurance and pharmaceuticals and cut their office expenses at least 30 percent. Then they would comprehend the real world of financial planning. Their attitudes would be more in line with the needs of the people, not the corporate world.
Audrey Kopelman, St. Pete Beach
A great start | Dec. 29, letter
A polarized nation
The letter writer is "relieved" that the Senate passed its health care bill on Christmas Eve day and feels it must be a good thing because the Republicans and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposed it.
This is a sad commentary on polarization and hatred, when some are so glad that their side "won," and their opponent was beaten down, even though they really have no idea what it is that has been approved in the 2,000-page bill, which will not take effect for four years. Their mind is made up and they don't want to be confused by the facts.
It is scary that anyone trusts so much in the gang in Washington, which is so out of touch with the voters that they will hand over our health care and that of future generations to the hands of bureaucrats, on the premise that they "must have gotten it right" because it was opposed by the other party.
They overlook the fact that these politicians have bought off their own party's legislators to get them to go along with the bad legislation. I would bet that the writer has not read the bill and that he does not have a clue as to the many "surprises" that are in it for all Americans.
Voters need to do their own research and vote for candidates in 2010 who will listen to the people.
S.L. Hutton, Belleair
Nelson sells out | Dec. 29, letter
Whenever I read a comment that includes, "America has the best health care system in the world," I know that person has drunk too much of the conservative Kool-Aid that has so polluted our democracy with ignorance and misguided irrational national chauvinism.
By no standard of measurement other than profits can our health care system be called great. We have too many people who have no insurance, and money, not need, dictates medical care people get.
How can we have a working democracy without an adequately informed voting public, and how can we have an informed public when the newspapers print such ignorant platitudes?
Michael Otto, Oldsmar