Columns 2017

We are failing the mentally ill

An article appeared in the ADN a few weeks ago reporting on the findings of a jury that Alaska’s Department of Corrections was at fault for the suicide of a mentally ill inmate. In and of itself, that’s a tragedy. But a simple sentence found in the middle of the article may actually be describing an equally appalling tragedy. That sentence reads, “The Department of Corrections is the largest mental health provider in the state.”

I know how we got here. Way back when the mentally ill were warehoused in huge facilities, the powers that be decided to close those Continue reading →

Columns 2017

Republicans are two faced liars when it comes to being fiscal conservatives

You’d think funding a program providing medical care to low-income children would be a no-brainer. Apparently not true in today’s poisonous political climate. In today’s political climate, even immunizations for poor children become a football to be booted and kicked around until it’s flatter than the balls used in Deflategate. Not to worry though. The rich and their riches are safe.

Our government is supposed to be by the people, of the people and for the people. Yet it seems as if more and more we are defining “people” as corporations and individuals with millions of dollars in their checking Continue reading →

Columns 2017

That for which I am grateful

My tires were at Johnson’s Tires when they unexpectedly closed down. Despite extensive searching, they were never found. So I guess that old saying of mine still is true – if it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all. But rather than letting this get me down, I’ve decided to look for that proverbial pony in the pile of manure. And I’ve found many.

I have to start off with Northrim Bank and their staff who probably never took Tires 101 when they were in Bank College. They tried so hard to help and were always so Continue reading →

Columns 2017

Tribal governments to take over children’s social services cases – good or bad?

Governor Walker recently decided to recognize the right of tribal governments to handle tribal children’s abuse and neglect cases. When I read this, part of me wanted to cheer. And part of me didn’t.

I spent a good part of my life involved in social services. I know the system as a social worker, a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) with the court system and as a court visitor investigating cases involving vulnerable adults. I lived in an Inupiat community for 28 years while doing this work.

I understand the feeling that outside social service agencies are way too fast to Continue reading →

Columns 2017

Would we have the strength

Sometimes we spend an inordinate amount of time in America gazing at our navels without really paying attention to the rest of the world. It’s not that we don’t have our own tragedies = Las Vegas will remain with us for a long, long time. But we sometimes don’t do much more than take a passing glance at the horrors happening in other parts of the world.

In many ways that makes sense. What touches us directly is always going to have more of an impact than something that touches people far away with strange names, strange customs and strange Continue reading →

Columns 2017

Seven years of bitching and they still didn’t think about coming up with a good replacement

So we are once again caught up in a health care debate that will probably end as badly as every attempt by Republicans to repeal Obamacare. And I once again have to wonder how Republicans could have spent the past seven years attempting to repeal it without ever thinking of what comes next. How could they spend seven years screaming like stuck pigs over this health care law and forget to come up with a decent replacement plan?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is not perfect; far from it. Premiums can be so high that families opt to pay the Continue reading →

Columns 2017

Learn the lesson from the Vietnam War generation

As a member of the sixties hippie generation, I am also a child of the Vietnam War. I don’t know if there are enough words to express what an overwhelming presence and force that war was to my generation. It encompassed us like a tsunami. When it ended, it felt as though the whole world shuddered in an attempt to find the new normal. I think we all regret that the new normal turned out to be the seventies.

I started the sixties as a good little Catholic schoolgirl. It wasn’t until I got to college in the mid sixties Continue reading →

Columns 2017

Perception is sometimes everything

A story in Sunday’s paper described a lawsuit filed by the Southcentral Foundation against the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) over compensation paid some board members and its chairman. The amounts seem extremely high given they are within a system that is chronically stretched to its financial limits in trying to provide health care to Natives throughout the state. The compensation for the chairman in particular looks questionable given that the gentleman apparently is working two full time jobs at once. Both jobs are very demanding and that leads to some legitimate questions about how anyone can claim to Continue reading →

Columns 2017

Not all heroes are really heroes

Columbus Plaza was a block away from my childhood home in Atlantic City, New Jersey. In it was a large statue of Columbus. Given that I grew up in an Italian-American immigrant community, finding the statue so nearby is not really a stretch. He was an Italian hero; the man who discovered America. He stood on the only patch of green for miles around my neighborhood. In fact, his statue stood in the nearest I could get to nature back then – an approximately two block square of grass with pigeons, a few trees and the statue of Columbus. Along Continue reading →

Columns 2017

Alaska Native Health care

Here’s the quote from Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price that I never thought I’d hear from a Fed. “They (Alaska Natives) know best how to care for their people, and we need to facilitate that.” For someone who came to Alaska as an employee of the Indian Health Service (IHS) in 1972, that statement is mind blowing.

When I arrived in Alaska to serve as a nurse in the IHS Barrow hospital, the entire attitude of the organization was paternalistic in the extreme. It’s not that the people working for IHS were bad people or had some prejudice Continue reading →