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Wednesday February 2, 2011

Opinion & Editorial

Guest Comment

Sapphire Community Health provides vital services

by Sapphire Community Health board of directors: Carlotta Grandstaff, Dixie Stark, Jim Morton, James Walker, Jeri Drake, Edith Wark, Karen Tinney, Margaret Ennes, Patti Nelson

As many readers know, Sapphire Community Health is a primary care health center that offers medical services on a sliding fee basis, and is open to anyone in the community, including low-income patients and those without health insurance. No one will be turned away for inability to pay, but will be charged on a sliding scale basis, adjusted to income. Sapphire Community Health is one of about 1,200 such primary care health centers nationwide, and one of 25 in Montana. Until we opened nearly a year ago, Ravalli County was the largest community in Montana in terms of population without a community health center. The nearest federally qualified health center offering discounted medical services based on ability to pay is Partnership Health Center in Missoula.

Community Health Centers were developed by Congress in the mid-1960s and originated from the same Congressional program that gave us Head Start and Jobs Corps. For nearly a half-century, Community Health Centers, enjoying broad bi-partisan support, have been providing quality, affordable health care to millions of Americans who might otherwise have nowhere to turn for their most basic health care needs except the local hospital emergency room.

Small businesses make up 84% of all Montana businesses, yet only 29% have been able to offer health insurance to their employees. In Ravalli County, 15,768 individuals, 40% of the population, are living at or below 200% of the poverty level. Since we opened our doors in February 2010, we have seen nearly 600 patients. Considering how little advertising weıve done, and at barely a year old, that statistic alone speaks volumes about the local need for affordable health care.

Ravalli County taxpayers pay more than $1 million annually for the health insurance costs of county employees. While we agree that county taxpayers should fund this benefit, we also recognize that not all taxpayers can afford their own health insurance policy. We are grateful to the former board of county commissioners for their approval of a one-time contribution of $80,000 to Sapphire Community Health, and we publicly thank them for it. We believe it is a modest investment in the primary health care needs of those taxpayers in our community who fund health insurance for county employees, but cannot afford it for themselves or their families. Itıs an investment that will pay significant dividends in improved health and a lesser reliance on emergency hospital services. One hundred percent of this county contribution is dedicated solely to patient care.

Finally, we'd like to clarify that we are a non-profit organization, therefore all of our board members are volunteers who receive no compensation for their dedication to what we believe is a valuable service in our community. If you'd like to support us, please consider sponsoring a fundraising event, make a donation or come to Sapphire Community Health at 303 N. 3rd St. in Hamilton next time you need health care services. We accept private insurance and Medicaid/Medicare. But don't worry if you donıt have insurance, because we also have a sliding fee scale based on your ability to pay.

Letters to the Editor

Whatıs up with med purchasing change?

Dear Editor,

For 40-50 years I have taken meds daily for low thyroid. My doctor writes my prescription for 90 days (3 mos.) My insurance company pays their share and I pay mine. As of a week ago, when getting my pills, not street drugs, at a local drugstore, I could not pay for 90, only 30 pills for a month. Why? Is it because the government wants me to order my meds from mail order companies where one can get a 3-month supply? Is the government getting money from them or their sponsors? Is it part of the fine print in Healthcare? I resent it.

N.J. Gilmore

Response to Poten

Dear Editor,

At the risk of feeding Ms. Potenıs rhetoric in her letter of Jan. 22, 2011, I would like to clarify misrepresentation of facts.

Take the time to refer to the recent "white paper on trapping" released by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks ( click "hunting" then "select" trapping), for facts, statistics, trappingıs effect on Montana's economy and benefits to animal populations.

Many outdoor hobbies require the use of petroleum products. The gasoline for recreational vehicles, boats on our lakes, bringing tourists to our state or transporting goods, we all use fuel. Include the petroleum based clothing, faux fur and disposable diapers that are part of everyday life. This does not mean we should be condemned for it. Fur and other leather products, when put into a landfill or burned, do not pollute; they degrade, leaving no trace.

Trapping of wildlife is a form of managing a renewable resource. The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission was established to do just that. Moles to mountain lions, frogs to fish, buffalo to bears are studied by state biologist; information coming from trappers, hunters, fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts. With this information, the FWP Commission is able to establish limits and quotas on wildlife to insure stable populations.

To address Ms. Poten's "six struggling species":

The lynx travels between Montana and Canada making counting difficult. It is dependant on the snowshoe hare. When hare numbers are up, more kittens are born and survive; when hare numbers are down, fewer kittens are born or survive. These are facts proven by biologists in Montana and Canada.

The river otter numbers are higher then ever in Montana. Reports from biologists, trappers and fishermen attest to this.

The fisher was translocated from Wisconsin to Montana with the help of Wisconsin and Montana trappers. We now have a healthy population of fisher.

The pine marten is found in old growth forests throughout Montana. They can be harvested in certain areas only.

The wolverine is a solitary carnivore that travels a large territory, attributing to low population concerns. Counting actual numbers is done on a continual basis.

Ms. Poten's reference to the Swift Fox "reintroduction" is erroneous. The swift fox "migrated" to northeastern Montana from Canada. The population is large enough to relocate some to Indian Reservations at the request of local tribes in FWP Region 6.

All of the above species are managed by quota and limit. The information can be documented by FWP biologists.

It is important that John Q. Public research rhetoric such as Ms. Poten's to find out facts before forming opinions as to the management of Montana's wildlife.

Fran Buell

Beware Clark's ulterior motives

Dear Editor,

According to a recent article, a new group calling itself "The Citizen's Budget Committee" has formed with the apparent approval and support of our current county commission. In case anyone missed it, Ken Clark, who started the group, has a history of activism ­ along with our recently-elected commissioners and county attorney ­ with Celebrating Conservatism. Mr. Clark claims he formed the group to study the county budget, learn how it works and educate other citizens. Commissioner Foss claims this is the kind of "citizen's committee" she had been "incubating" during her campaign last fall. For his part, Commissioner Kanenwisher claims the new committee will be "facilitating" his goals as well. Mr. Clark was a sign-on to contracts, along with Mona Docteur, at the Adams Field House last year for Celebrating Conservatism's "Liberty Convention." Their list of speakers included Red Beckman, an anti-Semite tax protester/"militia" activist from the 80s and 90s who follows a bizarre split-off ideology called Christian Identity which preaches, among other things, that non-whites are sub-human mud people, and Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party, who declared in Kalispell last week (3 days after the Giffords assassination attempt) that "the mountain states just might become The Alamo of the twenty-first century"...and the he would "rather die fighting for freedom with liberty-loving patriots by my side than be shuttled off to some FEMA camp." (Anticipating thousands, the "Liberty Convention" attracted only a couple hundred hard-core extremists, including, apparently, Mr. Clark.)

Mr. Clark signed two infamous petitions circulated by Celebrating Conservatism in Western Montana that wound up in Ravalli County. The first petition, handed in to the sitting commissioners and the county sheriff, was dubbed the "Ravalli Co. Questionaire." A cut-and-paste from extremist "sheriff-first/county supremacy" websites recycling vitriolic rhetoric from violent vigilante groups from the 80s and 90s such as Posse Comitatus, the Montana Freemen and Christian Identity (recall: "mud people"), it included a demand that all Federal employees get permission from the Sheriff before "approaching a Citizen" or face criminal charges. They included all "federalized employees," including school officials, who "attempt to enforce a Federal agenda". The Sheriff was ordered--by these small-government aficionados--to form a cumbersome, expensive and repressive County Militia to 'protect' citizens from domestic enemies. "All able-bodied Citizens (sic)" will forcibly serve, and women will serve in combat only if " are in danger of being overrun." This questionnaire finishes with a threat: failure to agree with it could result in a "Grand Jury investigation" with the possibility of "criminal charges." This "Grand Jury" was referencing the not-so-euphemistic euphemism "citizen grand jury" so often used by extremists in the past to threaten officials with death. (Do the names F. Joe Holland and Cal Greenup ring any bells to any recently-relocated "patriots"?)

The second petition, printed in the Ravalli Republic in mid-April and also signed by then-candidate Suzy Foss, was another cut-and-paste from extremist websites. Self-titled "The Second Amendment Declaration" it was quickly dubbed "The Sedition Petiton" by others who wondered out loud at the public pledge within the document that the undersigned would "abolish the government" if one more gun tax or gun law were enacted.

As stated above, our three newly-elected commissioners as well as our newly-elected County Attorney, associated, affiliated and participated with Celebrating Conservatism in debasing local citizens and officials, and generally creating an emotionally-based anti-government backlash to any iteration of local government they didn't personally approve. These officials apparently approved of the guest speakers CC brought into our community, though, because they never repudiated them or their violent messages, or attempted to distance themselves from the same. Now Commissioners Kanenwisher and Foss are quoted as approving of Mr. Clark's "goals."

While it's too early to tell if the "Citizen's Budget Committee" will be allowed to morph into some kind of quasi-governmental Star Chamber to aid the new commissioners in carrying out their demonstrably government-expanding agenda, or if they are in fact sincere in just seeking "knowledge," it's important to remind people where these people are coming from, and what their past actions and statements have meant to our community.

The last couple of years have been two of the most intentionally-acrimonious years I've ever experienced here, and I've been here through some pretty nasty anti-environmental/anti-government times. One can claim that there was acrimony on "both sides" but for every acrimonious statement or act someone may try to hang on the "liberal left," you can hang ten on the acrimonious Right with ten times the validity. Any honest person who's been paying attention knows this, which means that most honest people paying attention who would otherwise participate in our democratic process want to get as far away from this mess as possible and so we don't get the benefit of their public presence at these critical times. On the other hand, many people voted for these new commissioners and the new county attorney without knowing anything about the positions they represented. This doesn't mean to me that those voters are necessarily dishonest. It does mean that many honest people in our valley are not paying attention. Our four new officials who have willfully aligned themselves with extremist ideologies were voted in largely because they had an "R" beside their name on the ballot.

Mr. Clark is quoted as stating that he started his budget committee "because we understood we have not been paying attention to how things operate." Actions speak louder than words, but words almost always precede the action, and, as any schoolyard monitor instinctively knows, angry words (repeated ad nauseum by such vigilante groups as Celebrating Conservatism, for example) can well lead to angry actions, and that condoning the words makes you ultimately complicite in the actions. In the wake of the Giffords assassination attempt, the bomb at the Martin Luther King Day parade in Spokane and the many other examples of violent words leading to violent actions in the past couple of years, BHRA suggests that people in this valley start taking Mr. Clarkıs advice, and please do pay more attention to how things are operating.

Bill LaCroix
Bitterroot Human Rights Alliance

'Extremist' extremely offensive

Dear Editor,

It's rare to see someone be so refreshingly honest about their extremism these days (Pete MacLachlan's guest editorial, BR Star Jan. 26, 2011). Mr. MacLachlan readily admitted to being 'obsessed' with the 'environmental Left's worldview' for much of his life. It seems he has recently done a pendulum swing to the anti-environmental Right. This swing from one extreme to the other is a common thing for some people. There is no middle path for people who can only see the extreme viewpoint.

I found most of the editorial to be arrogantly offensive. He writes as though he represents all of the environmental community. There could be nothing further from the truth. While he may have been motivated by the idea of creating 'a romantic utopian vision,' many environmentalists who are not extremists find that they are motivated by sound scientific data about the natural environment that we all need to survive.

He wrote about the 'shutoff' of water to California's Central Valley, which he claims caused 'uncertain futures for many thousands of people.' He doesn't seem to care much about the 4,500 families of fishermen no longer able to fish because of the severely reduced water available to the salmon fisheries (not to mention all the other hundreds of species suffering due to the removal of over 50% of the water from the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta.) He doesn't seem to notice that irrigating crops in desert environments may not be the best use of 80% of the water that is diverted from the Delta.

As recently as 1986, more than 750,000 Chinook salmon swam to sea past the Tracy, CA pumps that draw over half of the water from the Delta to send the water south to the farms and cities of California. Fewer than 5,000 Chinook made the trip past the pumps in 2009. Decades of excessive pumping have brought the Delta to the verge of ecological collapse.

The massive social and economic change that he accuses the Endangered Species Act of causing is actually caused by the massive corporate agribusiness of the Central Valley, which sucks up most of the water to supply inefficient farms. Huge agribusiness farming causes toxic pesticide and fertilizer runoff, in addition to solid waste lagoons that pollute the environment.

The potential for abuse of the 1982 Endangered Species mandate is mentioned as though there was no potential to mitigate for decisions based on the ESA. In fact, changes made to agency decisions are all open to public input. Also, the courts provide for controls over these agencies. He claims that the courts 'rubber stamp' policy decisions. This is not only false but insulting to the many court justices that tirelessly work to come to decisions that balance the many competing needs of our society and the environment.

He concludes his diatribe by suggesting that 'we are becoming a threatened species ourselves.' If this is true it will be because of our own arrogant ignorance and abuse of the environment that gives us all that we need for life to thrive.

Toddy Perryman

Unfair blame

Dear Editor,

In regard to the guest opinion by Travis McAdam in the Star of January 19, I wish to comment on the article. The article was in reference to the shooting in Tucson, Arizona last week of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

I agree wholeheartedly that violence and assassination do not mix with our free form of government. As a nation we do not wish to become like some countries where murder and threats are a way of political life.

I object, however, to the knee-jerk reaction of many who immediately blame the Tea Party Movement, Sarah Palin, and Republicans in general for the shooting. The shooting was not even hours old before the talking heads of the press began blaming everyone except the Democrats. It was not Sarah Palin who pulled the trigger, nor was it the Tea Party. It was the act of a lone gunman who thought he had a personal problem with the Congresswoman. No one else. He was obviously a mental misfit.

I do agree that some of our political rhetoric should be toned down a bit, such as when Democrats accuse George Bush of being Hitler-like.

Jack Darlow

Scoop your poop!

Dear Editor,

I walk my dogs everyday, often at Hieronymous Park and sometimes the dog park. I always have my doggy clean up bags with me and pick up after my two dogs. I know the park service provides doggy clean up bags and posts signs, but the amount of dog feces is enormous in both parks. Not sure about River Park as I don't take my dogs there very often. Hieronymous and the dog park are like minefields of poop. I see people with their numerous dogs off leash, no clean up bags in sight, and wonder what the mentality of their thinking is. One person actually said the poop is good fertilizer and that's why he doesn't clean it up! What can we do to inform the public of this problem? More signs? Poop patrol?

We live in a beautiful area but this is becoming a very big problem that is destroying that beauty and contaminating the land and water in and near the parks. Our neighborhoods are also affected, and again, who do these dog owners think is going to clean up their poop?

D. Alice Pierson

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