Steve’s News Blast for March 2015

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Last Blast I spoke hopefully about good things that will be occurring in the near future.  Thank you to those who responded positively and those who inquired about the Emergency Respite Care project we will be launching soon.  That being said, in this Blast I am a bit sad and somber.  One of the heroes of the National Families movement, in fact, one of the founders of the Federation, Virginia (Ginny) Wood has passed on.  She is recognized as the first parent leader to begin a family run organization.  Her memory is honored throughout the country by all federation and family run organization members.  Click the following link to read a blog written by my colleague in MA, Lisa Lambert, regarding the current state of family organizations.      http://ppal.net/2015/01/blog-posts/4803

 But even beyond the passing of Ginny, I am further saddened by the realization that the current legislative session will soon be ended.  Not because I hate to see a session end, but because of the incredibly important public business that may not be addressed for another year.  And I mean significant public business that impacts the lives of thousands of Idaho families and individuals.  And these are families and individuals who have placed their trust in their elected officials to do the right thing for them and address this business.

On that list of disregarded business is Medicaid expansion or redesign.  This has been left hanging for multiple sessions at a cost of millions of dollars to the state and even the lives of hundreds of Idahoans who, as a result of inaction, were unable to obtain health care coverage.  Simply offering a hearing on the current proposed version called the Healthy Idaho Plan would be a step forward, and provide an opportunity for Idahoans to present their cases, their cases of personal stories of family members who died as a direct result of no health care coverage, and about themselves falling through the coverage gap.

Medicaid Expansion is, and has been a priority for the Federation and continues to be one.  Expansion of Medicaid would give a tremendous lift to all Idahoans and particularly benefit the mental health community.  So it makes perfect sense for advocates to be advocating for legislative action. But advocates advocating is one thing, and legislators hearing directly from their constituents is another. If you believe as I do, that this is public business that demands attention, and is the responsible route for legislators to take, then contact your representatives and senators, write, call, e-mail or tweet the Speaker and Pro Tem, and ask them to take action. You can find contact information at the following link: http://legislature.idaho.gov/about/contactbycommittee.cfm 

And then, among many others, there is the state minimum wage, a wage that is the dominant wage for thousands of Idahoans and is clearly not adequate to support a family, or fair.  People with disabilities are too often among the hardest working and earning the lowest wage. The state of Washington’s minimum wage of $9.47 applies to all workers, although 14- and 15-year-olds may be paid 85% of the minimum ($8.05).  Sure, Idaho isn’t Washington, but come on, $7.25 can’t be increased?  At least to what 14-15 year olds are earning next door?  I am no economist but it makes sense that more cash in the pockets of so many Idahoans means more spending and that is good for families and the economy.  In both cases at least scheduling and holding hearings would at least be indicative of a legislature that is willing to listen.  Hopefully I am wrong about a session ending with major public business sitting on the table, and legislators are doing all they can to do what is right, and all of the business of the state will be addressed.

I would much rather be talking about the upcoming CMH Awareness Week events, the statewide poster contest, the resource fair at Kids Fun Fest, and even our Easter Bunny Connection, but fortunately for me, these and many other items will be found elsewhere in this NewsBlast.  So it goes……………..     

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