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Wednesday, March 12, 2014: Mental illness, Riverview chief, mining

Adult learners

Matthew Stone’s Feb. 28 article that discussed graduation rates in the University of Maine System raised thoughtful issues. The graph indicated that UMaine graduated the most students in the system, and the University of Maine at Augusta graduated the least. Now for the rest of the story.

The data used in Stone’s article come from IPEDS, a national database that counts only first-time, full-time students. Generally, this describes traditional-aged students (ages 18-22) who, on average, take three years for an associate’s and six years for a bachelor’s degree.

For UMA, this means that only 311 of our approximately 5,000 students statewide (6 percent) have been included in this data. So what about the other 94 percent who are not counted?

UMA’s students are overwhelmingly adult, part-time, working and raising children, while pursuing degrees. The average age is 32; many enter with earned college credits. Thirty-eight percent are part-time, take under 12 credit hours per semester and struggle financially. Few graduate in the same amount of time as traditional-aged students; in fact, some take a decade, enrolling in one or two courses per semester.

None of our nontraditional students — working people in their 30s who are also parents — are counted in the IPEDS data.

Yes, universities need to work harder to improve retention and graduation rates. However, it would be unfortunate if BDN readers were left with the impression that these worthy students quit or fail. We need a more realistic way to measure our success and champion the heroic efforts of adult learners.

Gillian Jordan

Dean, UMA Bangor

University of Maine at Augusta


Treat mental illness

Preventative care for mental illness is out of date and out of step with today’s world. The woman who jumped from the bridge this time was a teacher, who probably feared being stigmatized for seeking help with a mental health issue. The brain is not always in balance for everyone. Some need help.

Even if loved ones know there is a problem, the law prevents them from insisting someone seek the help they need. That law should be updated. I believe the laws were written to prevent people with mental illness from being forced into institutions. Now there are all kinds of mental health agencies, but we don’t always have the power to use them.

Until we as a society realize how much money could be saved by approaching mental illness with an openness to change, we will continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on reactions instead of proactive actions for management of the various kinds of mental illness.

We have come far in the care of mental illness — with new medications, new therapies and a better understanding of the brain. Instead, we spend our money on punishment for bad choices. Men’s prisons, women’s prisons, group homes, lawyers, institutions, doctors for the prisons, medical staff. Post-traumatic stress disorder is always important to address. Homeless shelters and self-medication with drugs and alcohol are often a result of neglect of a very vulnerable part of society. We need to make change happen.

Maureen Freeman

Bar Harbor

Salute career

I am submitting this letter in reaction to the March 6 BDN article on the firing of Superintendent Mary Louise (“M.L.”) McEwen by Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew. As Sen. Anne Haskell stated, this act is the latest in an unusually high number of the current administration’s dismissals of senior leadership in state departments. Through knowing McEwen just a little, to me the action is clearly one representing internal dissension and a scapegoating of a leader of character and loyalty.

McEwen has been an intelligent and articulate leader of institutions, departments and people. It’s my understanding that she’s been responsible for the administration of both state psychiatric hospitals for the past several years, and she was given that level of responsibility out of respect for her knowledge and skills.

Recently, it has been clear to people who know her that the messaging coming from her boss and the administration flies in the face of her values and standards. I would imagine that she must have been chafing to say something or take corrective action, but what she has been presenting has been consistent with how she’s always been: She has maintained a level-headed presentation and projected a sense of quiet ability.

McEwen never needed or sought the spotlight. Her focus was on the job at hand. And I am certain she performed quiet acts of kindness that went generally unnoticed, as with her having been a “silent partner” along with two nurses she knows who for decades have regularly fed people staying in this homeless shelter.

We need to thank people like McEwen, not make their termination front page news. I am sure that the general management problems in DHHS were not caused by her decisions, and the real story should be one saluting her long career of public service.

Dennis Marble

Executive Director

Bangor Area Homeless Shelter



The way life should be

I am afraid the proposed new mining rules for Maine will end “The Way Life Should Be” for Maine’s citizens and visitors.

I’ve been reading how dangerous this practice of metallic mining is to the environment, and after reading the new rules, it makes me wonder if the Department of Environmental Protection is being influenced by corporate lobbyists and not by the overwhelming opposition of Maine residents. In the past, I have trusted the Maine DEP to protect our environment against this type of dangerous industrial practice, but under this administration, it seems to have lost its way.

Maine’s natural resources are a treasure, and we should use them to attract businesses that will respect nature and our clean environment.

Talk to your neighbors and friends and ask anyone you meet to call their legislators and tell them to just say “no to mining in Maine. Reject LD 1772.”

I want Maine to continue to be the way life should be.

Maggie Warren




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