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Wednesday, September 18, 2013: Direct care, 9/11 and sequestration

Seldom recognized

There are hundreds of workers whom we know little about and seldom recognize. Across America they are called direct support professionals, or DSPs. They provide direct support to those with disabilities who live in their own homes, group homes or go to day programs, volunteer or receive supported employment.

DSPs receive low wages and few benefits. They are primarily paid through Medicaid-funded programs. Many live in the home with the people for days at a time. They do everything from administering medication to providing personal care and, in the end, are often the individuals who have their arms around people with disabilities at the end of their lives.

The U.S. Senate designated last week as National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week.

The primary sponsor of this resolution was Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. She has been a sponsor of this Senate resolution over the last several years and truly recognizes the work of this dedicated workforce. She has been recognized by the American Network for Community Options and Resources for her outstanding support of DSPs.

More than 35 U.S. governors have also officially created proclamations in their states honoring DSPs this week. Unfortunately, Maine’s governor was not willing to make a proclamation.

I want to thank and honor the incredible direct support professionals who support people with disabilities at OHI and in similar organizations throughout Maine and the United States.

Bonnie-Jean Brooks

President & CEO of OHI


Editorial reflection

Wednesday, the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was a solemn day for Americans. Therefore I was shocked to see that the official editorial opinion of the Bangor Daily News that day was spent on yet another attack of Gov. Paul LePage.

Even considering the tenor of newspaper editorials since LePage’s election in 2011, I felt that this was a new low.

What really left me stunned, however, was seeing a column from Dana Milbank of the Washington Post reprinted in this paper the next day — a column attacking national Republicans for criticizing President Barack Obama on 9/11. Did the BDN not launch the same kind of partisan attack that day?

I can’t speak for others in Washington, but here in Maine, the House Republican Office abstained from sending out press releases or posting to its official Facebook or Twitter pages on Sept. 11. During last year’s election cycle, most politicians suspended their campaigns for the day.

Over the course of our nation’s history, there have been several events that brought us all together as Americans and helped us to set aside our partisan differences. Pearl Harbor, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and the Challenger explosion all stand as examples. Sept. 11 can remain one of those days for this generation and the next.

This paper can either encourage reflection and unity on the anniversary of those terrible attacks or fan partisan flames that are trivial in comparison. I hope it chooses the former.

Alexander R. Willette

Assistant Republican leader of Maine House, R-Mapleton


Sequestration cuts

The recent BDN editorial, “Save Head Start,” is correct that this program provides essential support for parents to promote healthy educational and social development for children. I am disappointed that this program — along with so many others in areas such as education, national defense, transportation and biomedical research — are being reduced under the mindless, meat-ax cuts known as “sequestration.” This approach certainly fails to set priorities and treats essential and nonessential programs alike.

The BDN points out that the bipartisan legislation that I authored earlier this year prevented the layoffs of 47,000 Federal Aviation Administration employees, including 15,000 air traffic controllers. Yet, the editorial doesn’t fully recognize how devastating these layoffs would have been to our nation’s, and our state’s, economy. Not only would these layoffs have caused thousands of flight delays and cancellations every day, they would have struck a devastating blow to Maine’s tourism and hospitality industries — a critical component of our state’s economy and the source of thousands of jobs.

All federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, which administers the Head Start program, should have the flexibility to meet budget reductions by transferring existing funds to help pay for vital programs — such as that Congress provided to the Department of Transportation.

That is why, along with Senator Mark Udall, D-Colo., I have introduced legislation that would empower the executive branch to work with Congress to propose the best way to administer what are otherwise automatic, arbitrary budget cuts.

We must work together to strategically reduce our unsustainable debt without resorting to across-the-board cuts that don’t discriminate between vital programs and those that should be eliminated or reduced.

Susan Collins

U.S. senator, R-Maine,

Washington, D.C.

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