Lansing State Journal. June 15, 2017
We all must do more to curb teen suicide
Teen suicide is a problem that merits the attention of the entire community.
There were 14 suicides by people younger than 25 in Ingham and Eaton counties in 2014, according to local coroners.
That's 14 too many.
A first response to such tragedies can be to look for something - or someone - to blame. That's a natural, yet dangerous, tendency because blaming parents or teachers or friends for not recognizing a child's distress does nothing to bring that child back.
And it stands in the way of working toward solutions to prevent further deaths.
A Lansing State Journal report on June 11 revealed a crack in the community's defense against teen suicide.
Michigan is among 14 states that encourage, but do not mandate suicide prevention training for its teachers. None of the 12 largest school districts in Greater Lansing have written protocols or required training.
That is not acceptable.
A Michigan Department of Education survey in 2015-16 revealed 18.5% of Ingham County seventh-graders "seriously considered" attempting suicide and 7.7% of them attempted it. In Eaton County, 21% seriously considered it and 7.7% of them attempted it.
That means in a middle school of about 300 students, more than 50 have considered suicide.
It makes sense to require educators and support personnel to undergo suicide prevention training. Some might say that's adding "one more thing" to teachers' crushing workloads.
We'd argue it's equipping them with the best skills possible to help the students in their classrooms - the same as knowing CPR or recognizing signs of child abuse.
Parents need special training, too; training to recognize the signs in their own child or in their child's friends.
Our local school districts should move on their own to adopt suicide prevention protocols and mandatory training, rather than waiting for the state to pass a mandate. There are training resources available - some at no cost - that could reap benefits immediately.
And then schools should make that same training available to parents. It would provide a foundation for educators and parents working together to protect and nurture our children.
It no doubt takes a village to raise our children. Let's make sure we adequately train the villagers.
Times Herald (Port Huron). June 15, 2017
Pipelines best way to move crude - except 5B
Amid the ongoing clamor to close Enbridge's 5B oil pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac, the Great Lakes Commission has produced some sobering crude oil arithmetic. The commission is a joint United States-Canada body charged with protecting the Great Lakes.
It recently completed a series of reports on the state of oil transport infrastructure in the Great Lakes region and its economic and environmental impacts.
It should come as no surprise that, in one way or another, much of North America's crude oil passes through the Great Lakes region. We like to say that all roads end in Port Huron. They pass through Port Huron — and that includes pipelines — connecting the four corners of the continent.
That controversial Straits of Mackinac pipeline delivers Canadian crude to Sarnia refineries via Marysville and the St. Clair River.
Pipelines move more than 90 percent of petroleum products within and across the region. Railroads carry most of the rest, and ships transport a small share. Pipelines are popular because they are the cheapest to operate. Railroads are the most flexible option, commission researchers say, and are the most expensive.
The cost is not measured only in dollars. Trains and tank cars are the transport method most likely to be involved in an incident that kills or injures someone. Pipelines have leaks, but they don't collide with minivans at unguarded country intersections and they derail in the middle of the night.
From 2007 to 2015, rail transport of crude oil, the commission says, resulted in about $2.5 billion in environmental and social costs, "mainly because of higher injury related and loss-of-lives related costs." At the same time, pipeline transport generated about $1.3 billion in environmental and social costs — and that includes about half a billion dollars for Enbridge's Kalamazoo River spill alone.
Remember, though, that pipelines move 10 times as much crude as trains — at half the environmental and social cost of rail.
The 60-year-old and clearly deteriorating lines at the Straits should be shut down. It needs be replaced with a safer alternative — which means a different pipeline, not rail or ship.
Enbridge needs to replace that line with new pipe and a saner route that doesn't pass beneath the Great Lakes.
The Mining Journal (Marquette). June 18, 2017
'Boxed In' did great job detailing dark store tax issue
Congratulations go out to Northern Michigan University professor Dwight Brady and a group of 14 NMU students for being awarded an Emmy for producing a documentary on what is known as the dark store issue.
"Boxed In," a 24-minute film on the tax loophole that businesses of all sizes are using to lower property taxes, was honored last weekend at the 39th annual Michigan Emmy Awards in Detroit. It was awarded the Emmy in the politics/government program special category.
In a Mining Journal story on the matter, Brady, who won an Emmy in 2006 for the documentary "Michigan's Green Energy Economy," said he was surprised when he realized his work had been recognized.
"It's a huge issue in small, rural areas. It impacts the tax base so much — tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue statewide," he said.
The impact in the Marquette area has been significant. For example, officials at the Peter White Public Library decided to close the facility on Sundays due to reduced monies. In addition, the Marquette County Youth Home closed last year, due, in large measure, to lost funds because of dark store tax issues.
Brady, and his NMU student team, deserve credit for producing a film that documents a troubling governmental issue that remains unresolved today.
Traverse City Record-Eagle. June 18, 2017
AHCA must not gut Michigan Medicaid
Lawmakers must take a cue from their counterparts in the medical world and "do no harm" as they tinker with health insurance reform.
There's no denying the Affordable Care Act has begun to show some substantial flaws — since its inception the well-meaning system of health insurance exchanges has spiraled in some areas from a marketplace to a monopoly. And the landmark law fell victim to special interest pressures, failing to install common-sense market reforms like cross-state competition and standardized forms.
But the ACA did accomplish several needed changes like requiring insurers to cover people with preexisting conditions, expanding Medicaid coverage to many low-income working Americans and allowing children to continue on their parents' health insurance until age 26.
So it's a bit dismaying to hear rhetoric from Washington built on absolutes when it comes to the ACA: One side seems dead-set on dismantling the law, throwing the baby out with the bathwater while some on the other side seem to believe what we have now is infallible.
Both sides need a bit of a reality check, maybe step away from the swirl of political chest thumping in Washington, D.C., and take stock in what position might best serve their constituents, not special interests.
They must commit to "do no harm" as they monkey with the second reworking of our health insurance system in a decade.
And they won't have to look far to find potential harm in the Grand Traverse region.
Thousands of northern Michiganders — working people who don't earn enough to afford private health insurance — received coverage under a Medicaid expansion ushered in by the ACA. Health policy experts, Gov. Rick Snyder and officials from Munson Medical Center all have railed against the slash to Medicaid funding included in the version of the American Health Care Act recently passed by the House. They all contend the shift — a move to a fixed payout to states to provide Medicaid to their low-income residents — would gut the expanded coverage in states like Michigan and toss many working-class citizens off of insurance coverage.
It's a change that could impact 140,000 people in Munson's 24-county coverage area in northern Michigan. That includes the 50 percent of children in the region who receive Medicaid coverage.
That expanded coverage wasn't just a handout, either. The program drastically reduced the number of people who racked up steep emergency room bills without a way to pay for care, piling bad debt on hospitals that are required to provide emergency treatment. It wasn't a complete remedy, but the move certainly allowed many to receive non-emergency treatment and sent at least partial payment to providers who otherwise would often receive no reimbursement for care.
It's an impact rendered from the ACA that is widely accepted by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Michigan as positive.
That's why it was so dismaying to see northern Michigan's Rep. Jack Bergman join his colleagues in the House in supporting the AHCA in the form it passed to the Senate. Now, Republican senators work behind closed doors to hammer out the version of the AHCA they hope to pass in the near future.
It's a version we all should hope sets aside the soap box rhetoric and commits to "do no harm."___