Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014: Homeless shelter funding, Head Start, mental crisis responsibility

Posted Feb. 05, 2014, at 12:12 p.m.

Homeless shelters

An Act to Support Homeless Shelters is a Maine state bill currently being considered. The first section of the bill asks that funding for homeless youth stay in a geographic region without facing reallocation. Department of Health and Human Services currently calculates funding by considering the number of individuals in a program, as well as other factors. If a shelter closes, funding is reallocated to other areas that have shelters still operating.

Regardless of whether a program closes, the need for the homeless in the area remains. The closure of a shelter means the homeless in the area have a more difficult time locating resources that will ensure their safety and sometimes survival. Reallocation of that funding only furthers this problem.

The second part of the bill asks for an additional $750,000 in state funds to cover a recent decrease in federal funding.

Both aspects of this bill are necessary provisions for our ever-increasing ranks of homeless in Maine, especially our vulnerable homeless youth population. Research has repeatedly shown that homeless youth are at a significantly increased risk for not completing high school, mental health issues, substance abuse problems, unemployment, sexually transmitted diseases, health issues and recurrent homelessness.

If we do not take a preventive approach now in providing this funding for Maine’s homeless, we will be forced to have a more expensive reactionary approach in the near future. Let us pass this bill and give our next generation of homeless youth hope for a safe, stable and possibly happy future.

Michelle Hansen

Rockland

Support of LD 1682

The Head Start program prepares low-income children for success in several facets in life. I am writing in support of LD 1682, An Act To Preserve Head Start and Child Care Services. This bill proposes allocation of $2 million to Head Start programs for 2014-15, which only replaces the cuts made in 2012-13.

This preventive program serves children up to age 5 to receive developmental services to include education, health and nutritional care. Additionally, the passage of this bill would open the door to federal assistance from the Child Care and Development Fund to assist low-income families with the cost of child care, an important aspect for parents to be able to continue working.

According to House Rep. Aaron Frey, D-Bangor, sponsor of the bill, research shows that, “Head Start improves school readiness, increases educational achievement, improves child health, reduces the chance a child will turn to crime and improves parenting skills and practices.” It is imperative we take a proactive approach through the prevention efforts that Head Start programming offers.

Our vulnerable families in our communities need our support to put our money where it matters the most, the future of our children. As a social worker in Waldo County, I see firsthand the benefits of Head Start helping children grow socially, physically, mentally and emotionally. Please contact your local legislator and ask how you can help support this bill.

Gwen Ackley

Swanville

HR 3717 is well grounded

I want to thank Rep. Michael Michaud for co-sponsoring HR 3717, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act which, if it becomes law, will go a long way to solving our national mental illness crisis. I urge Rep. Chellie Pingree to join this long overdue bipartisan initiative, to side with the families of the seriously ill and co-sponsor this bill.

It will be too late for our son, Chris, who suffered from schizophrenia for 20 years before taking his own life in 2012. Yet there are tens of thousands of others like Chris who are sick, untreated and either in jail or homeless.

Because their illness has stolen their understanding that they are sick, they refuse medications, avoid treatment and are suspicious of their families’ efforts to get them care. Current law works against them and their families, limiting treatment options even when they are demonstrably dangerous to themselves.

HR 3717 redirects federal funds for mental illness programs to insure the money spent is effective. It expands outpatient treatment. It brings families as caregivers into the treatment programs. HR 3717 increases the availability of psychiatric care to rural areas where medical access is limited.

Mental Illness has been on the public mind recently as a result of senseless tragedies, yet it has been a quiet killer for a number of years. HR 3717 is well-grounded, compassionate and broad ranging. It needs to become the law of the land.

Chip Angell

Brooklin

 

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