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Mental Health Cuts a Tragedy
Governor Snyder’s upbeat message on the 2015 budget left out an important fact: in a time of a state surplus, $180 million in general funds is being removed from community mental health programs. The reason for this is simple. Optimism about coverage under Healthy Michigan (Medicaid expansion) has led the administration to assume that mental health clients currently being served with general fund dollars will be eligible for expanded Medicaid. But it is not at all clear this is true, and without thoughtful implementation of this new benefit, many Michigan residents could be left without coverage.
Enrollment in the Healthy Michigan program will take months to “ramp up” to the estimated 400,000 persons projected as eligible, and it’s starting late. Money must be available to support services provided to these people until their Medicaid is effective. Second, some uninsured people still will not qualify for Medicaid, even with revised eligibility criteria. Changes made to the federal program by the state may make the program less attractive or simply impossible to qualify for. Third, the estimates of resources still needed by CMH programs after the implementation of Healthy Michigan were too low.
Public mental health agencies were enthusiastic supporters of Healthy Michigan, and lobbied hard for its passage.
It is a necessary program for poor Michigan residents. But it is not right to claim state savings by reducing support for community mental health programs, especially until it is clear what enrollment will be. At North Country Community Mental Health, one out of every two persons who applies for services does not have Medicaid. Some are served, but many are turned away. Many more would remain unserved with the proposed 65% reduction in state funding, and that would indeed be a tragedy.
Alexis Kaczynski • Director, North Country Community Mental Health
Minimum Wage Hike Deserves Second Thought
Should the minimum wage be raised? There are good reasons for conservatives who worry about budget deficits to support an increase.
Let’s do the math: The current minimum wage in Michigan is $7.40 per hour. This comes to $15,392 for a full-time worker (40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year). Most minimum-wage workers are not teenagers but adults, many with families. Because $15,392 is clearly not enough to support a family, many minimum-wage workers turn to taxpayer-funded programs, including SNAP (what used to be called food stamps), Medicaid, subsidized child care, and/or subsidized housing.
A minimum wage of $10.10 an hour comes to $21,008 annually for a full-time worker. Still dicey for a family, but two such wages would allow workers to get by with far less of the taxpayer-funded assistance programs that conservatives oppose.
Finally, of course, there is also a moral aspect to this question. No one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, nor should we be willing to continue subsidizing businesses that cannot or will not pay their employees a living wage.
Alice Littlefield • Omena
Lots to Lose, Little to Gain in Land Swap
When rumors started that St. Mary’s Cement wanted to make a new entrance to Fisherman’s Island State Park and close Bells Bay Road, it seemed too outrageous to be taken seriously. But St. Mary’s has lobbied government for two years and has proposed a “land swap” to obtain 190 acres of Fisherman’s Island State Park and the county road.
What would the public lose?
• Bells Bay Road to Lake Michigan, the last bridge through St. Mary’s quarries to our state park.
• Access to the overlook of Lake Michigan and free parking at the end of Bells Bay Road.
• The most popular year round trails and 190 acres of beautiful forest.
• Access to Fisherman’s Island State Park from the new Lake to Lake Charlevoix Multi-use Trail. A $285 thousand grant will complete the trail To Bells Bay Road this summer.
• Six of our favorite campgrounds.
• The woodland buffer that protects the camps from the quarry operation.
• Access to the magnificent shale outcroppings that reach far into Lake Michigan.
• Our favorite place, a place of generations of memories.
And what would we gain?
• A 35 acre, 3,000 foot section of McGeach Creek that has intermittent flow and a berm where mining has occurred.
• A 185 acre, inland, timbered, mostly scrub shrub parcel.
• St. Mary’s has offered to build a new Ranger Station and to help create new campground spots and roads.
St. Mary’s has provided jobs, help in the community, and donated the old Medusa Spur for the Lake to Lake Charlevoix Trail. But their request to take Bells Bay Road and 190 acres of state park woodlands is ill advised. We cannot sell, swap or give away state land without compelling need or benefit. We hope St. Mary’s will withdraw its request.
JoAnne Beemon • Charlevoix MI