Soap Box

Stopping the cycle of loss, suicide
05/16/2019

To the editor,

My heart is heavy after the suicides by Parkland teens, just one year after the school shooting that killed 17 of their classmates. I am sure I am not alone. Unfortunately, no community is untouched by the loss of young lives.

We know that bereaved teens are at a three times higher risk for suicide, and this proves true clinically in my office each week. We also know that this risk is much larger for those who have lost loved ones to death by suicide; I am unable to find any research on suicide risk after mass homicide.

As a therapist who specializes in grief, loss and trauma, I am intimately aware of the nuances of suicidal ideation during the grief process. Most of my bereaved clients flirt with the possibility of ending their own lives at some time. My job is to provide a safe place and trusted relationship to process the frightening aspects of both grief and trauma in addition to sadness, anger, denial and other more frequently talked about “grief emotions.”

Yet this ideation reaches far beyond bereaved teens. Today’s young people call themselves the “massacre generation,” “mass shooting generation” and “Columbine generation,” and they feel directly under threat either from others or themselves.

The brave and thoughtful young people who do seek therapy seem to bear the weight of a generation who lives with the very real fear that their lives may be in danger or cut short. For some, this sense of imminent threat and global grief creates a response in activism, but for many, particularly those without strong support systems, it creates a sense of nihilism. As Dr. Hannah Schell states in her article for Vocation Matters (2019), “When the future looks bleak and your options seem severely curtailed, the view that nothing really matters can take hold. Why bother planning for a future that may not come?”

This sense of hopelessness magnifies during times of grief and often manifests in increased substance use, self-harm and suicidal ideation. Isolating forms of entertainment become appealing, such as obsessive gaming or binge-watching. It also thwarts long-range planning, such as thinking of college, graduate school or a long-term career or relationship.

So here in Southwest Colorado and the Four Corners, what can be done to help alleviate the suffering of these young people? More importantly, what is being done?

After a dramatic rise in youth and teen deaths by suicide in both La Plata and Montezuma counties, the Grief Center of Southwest Colorado has been expanding its services. These include crisis response interventions after the death of students or school staff, grief groups at participating schools, and grief, trauma and resiliency sessions for teachers and school counselors. After the school shootings in Aztec in December 2017, The Grief Center provided immediate support and aftercare through local youth service organizations including the Boys and Girls Clubs in both Aztec and Farmington.

As valuable as the immediate interventions are, these services are generally requested for the first few days or weeks after a traumatic loss; we have a short but important climb in recognizing as a community that the needs of the bereaved go far beyond this timeline. Often the reality of the loss and the impending hopelessness do not make themselves apparent until the survivor has been suffering with his or her loss for a year or two.

Of note, The Grief Center of Southwest Colorado is part of the ongoing effort to lower the occurrence of deaths to both suicide and substance use in our communities, speaking broadly to the fact that post-vention bereavement counseling is also prevention.

Sadly, these completed suicides by the two bereaved Parkland teens are not really a surprise. We owe it to this generation, which I would like to see dubbed the “resilient generation,” to offer deeper and longer support after loss.

To make a donation to support our efforts, go to griefcenterswco.org. To schedule a talk or support for your organization, as well as to make an appointment with a bereavement specialist, please call 970-764-7142.

– Judy Austin, LPC, director, The Grief Center of Southwest Colorado

Chipping at Trump's gilded facade
05/16/2019

To the editor,

Dennis Pierce’s bit of petty ridicule aimed at your excellent political cartoonist Shan Wells (5/2/19) reflects a sad reality I’ve noticed amongst Trump lovers. All their talking points are built upon fabricating ridicule and dismissal by reframing their self-made enemies into straw men for easy burning. But, it provides me with an opportunity to explain the Trump Thing from this liberal’s perspective.

My pal believes liberals are just over the top with their “hatred” for Trump. Don’t suppose he’d ever let himself imagine that it’s what Trump stands for that’s our problem? Not that there isn’t plenty about the person himself to turn the stomach of any freedom-loving rationalist.

Let’s consider the pre-election decades. First we saw a shameless, lying self-promoting narcissist. A man-child whose self-esteem was so rotten he needed a gold-plated apartment and toilet to salve his ego. But it wasn’t enough. He needs everyone to know about it.

He was all Me First and he couldn’t care less about anything but his self-interest. Trump’s promises and contracts were made to be broken, he ran businesses into the ground, and he turned bankruptcy into a braggadocious filled profit driver. He never showed showing scruples or empathy toward the honest workers he was robbing out of their fair pay – all the while obsessing over getting his face into the papers.

Then the election years. Trump builds his political base upon hatred and an obvious lie – one that’s about as dirty, underhanded, racist and ruthlessly malicious as it gets – denying President Obama’s citizenship, though the physical proof of Obama’s birth in Hawaii is overwhelming to all who’ve investigated. Add to that he knows little to nothing about our government, except that he despises it.

Then listening to Trump talk, it’s nothing but rambling lines of nonsense. Telling his audience what they want to hear, regardless of the actual reality surrounding the issues. Turns out he lies incessantly, even about stuff he doesn’t need to lie about. But Trumpsters love him and that he’s a lie factory matters not a wit. Why? They like what they hear? Me First, then fear and hatred toward all others. Is that it?

Look at the way he pretends to be Christian, why isn’t  that phoniness recognizable by the faithful? Why don’t they care? Me thinks because ethics, morality, honesty actually doesn’t mean squat to them! Dreams of personal prosperity, that’s the key to their Evangelical faith! Now, Trump’s Me First has them cheering on the transformation of Our America into Their Theocracy.

Then the money and the Russians. Turns out Trump lost a billion dollars during the rah rah ’80s and ’90s, when everyone else with money was making more of it. Still his line of credit seems endless. Where does that come from? Especially after he became persona non-gratis at all the New York banks? Yeah, we know, it came from DeutscheBank. The same DeutscheBank that got busted for that huge Russian money-laundering scheme. Look it up.

From all Trump says and does, it’s obvious he despises American principles of pluralism, democracy, fair play, three branch balance of power, honesty and constructive debate. Me First seems as far as his vision goes.

A budding totalitarian who makes mortal enemies out of anyone who disagrees with him. He is absolutely self-certain but educationally and historically about as stupid as they come. A text book example of Dunning-Kruger if there ever was. It’s all about facade.

Well OK, that’s going too far, there is substance to Trump – his predatory skills and passion for no-holds barred dirty fighting. Is that why the Christian right worships Trump? Oh and that little matter of trusting and believing in Russia’s Putin more than the USA’s national security apparatus? Doesn’t bother them in the least? Why? There’s more, but do you care?

– Peter Miesler, Durango

Save Shan, vote for Trump
05/02/2019

To the editor,

I’m deeply concerned that if President Trump is not re-elected next year, Shan Wells will no longer be employed by the Telegraph. With 80 percent to 90 percent of his editorial cartoons expressing his hatred for Trump, there will no longer be a purpose for his cartoons if a progressive is elected. Save Shan’s job by voting for Trump next year!

– Dennis Pierce, Durango

A healthier outlook for Colorado
05/02/2019

To the editor,

The multi-faceted issue of health care in Colorado is questioned frequently as I tour District 59, repeated often in the calls and letters I receive. I am the first to admit it is not my specialty, but here are some bipartisan bills wending their way through the Legislature now:

• HB19-001 requires hospitals to report their annual spending under a transparency law, including payrolls, inpatient, outpatient and emergency visits and capital expenditures. The results will show why those insured by private carriers are paying more when public funds to help cover uncompensated hospital care have grown. The Governor has signed this bill.

• HB19-1168 will help lower insurance premiums on the Western Slope; which pays some of the highest premiums in the nation. It puts people who use their insurance frequently into a separate category so their high costs do not raise the average of lower-need patients. This bill has passed through the House and is now in the Senate.

• SB19-004 authorizes health care cooperatives to incorporate consumer protections and collective rate negotiations. Consolidating consumer purchasing power adds competition, which will reduce costs. It is an innovative way to provide health insurance and is already working in several parts of the country. School districts, local government entities and other groups could join the cooperative. SB19-004 has passed through the Senate, and is now starting in the House.

• HB19-1176 creates a task force to analyze health care financing in the state. The task force will assess three models and evaluate each approach: the current health care system; a publicly and privately funded multi-payer universal health care system; and a publicly financed, privately delivered universal health care system. Legislators can make decisions about what will work best. The bill is almost through the House, then will head to the Senate.

• HB19-1004 addresses the lack of insurance competition in Colorado, which makes health care unaffordable for many. The bill asks for a state option that builds on existing state infrastructure. Costs could be more closely contained, and funding opportunities could be maximized. The bill has passed through the House, and is now in the Senate.

• SB19-079 lets practitioners to only prescribe opioid medication electronically, with a few specific exceptions. With opioid abuse rampant, especially in rural Colorado, this prevents prescriptions from getting into the wrong hands. The Governor has signed the bill.

• HB19-1287 increases access to treatment for opioid & other drug addiction problems by establishing a web-based tracking system. It will provide information on treatment at behavioral health facilities, medical detox centers & programs for medication-assisted treatments. This will help patients, caregivers and medical professionals find immediate help. The bill also increases the capacity for treatment in rural and underserved areas. This bill is still in the House.

• HB19-1216 will reduce the price of insulin in Colorado. The cost of insulin rose by 45 percent between 2014- 17, and by more than 700 percent over the last 20 years. The actual insulin has not changed significantly since 1996. People are rationing or not taking their dosages, putting their lives in danger. The Attorney General will be instructed to investigate. The bill should be out of the House soon, then move to the Senate.

• HB19-1131 requires drug manufacturers to provide, in writing, the wholesale cost of a prescription drug to a prescriber, as well as give the names and wholesale costs of at least three generic drugs, if they exist. This will help prescribers see the transparency of prescription costs, which can be shared with the consumer. This has passed the House and Senate.

• HB19-1241 provides scholarships to students who commit to practicing medicine in rural areas. This bill is in the House Appropriations Committee.

• The Joint Budget Committee set aside a $13.9 million

increase for services for people with intellectual developmental disabilities. It also gave $46.2 million for a 1 percent rate increase for community providers; $1 million to expand the Colorado Family Planning Program; $5 million for additional inpatient psychiatric treatment at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo; and $15.6 million for staff retention at the Veterans Community Living Center and Youth Services Facility.

Several mental health bills are also moving through the House and Senate, including funding for youth suicide prevention and behavioral & mental health services in schools.

For more information on the bills’ status, visit http://leg.colorado.gov.

– Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango

Medicare for All is not radical idea
05/02/2019

To the editor,

Can you really keep your health insurance?

A frequent message in the media is that people don’t want to give up their employer-sponsored health insurance. Is this industry spin or a reality?

Let’s look at the facts. Based on an analysis from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 66 million people lose their job each year through quitting, firing, lay-offs or life circumstances. That is almost half of the population (44 percent of workers).

When they lose their jobs, they often lose their health insurance.

On top of that, this study from the University of Michigan finds that changing insurance each year is common in the United States.

In other words, people “lose” their health insurance commonly. Some end up uninsured. Others scramble to find a job that offers benefits or a plan they can afford. For people with ongoing health conditions, this can be very disruptive to their care.

Would people be willing to “give up” their health insurance for national improved Medicare for All, knowing they would have it for the rest of their lives? The Fox News Town Hall recently provides insight into that answer.

There was a resoundingly positive response from Republicans, Democrats, independents and conservatives. Medicare for All is not a radical idea. Thirty other industrialized countries have been using some form of this for over 60 years. The U.S. is radical in that we have 30 million Americans without any health insurance and 41 million who have insurance but can’t afford their deductibles.

– Cyndi Ortman, Durango