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Posts published in “Jones”

“Egregious and tyrannical”

jones

A convergence of three unsettling headlines appeared for my morning reading the day before the nation observed the 20-year commemoration of the tragic deaths of almost 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001. The very day of the remembrance ceremonies, the 7-day average for loss of American lives to the on-going Covid-19 catastrophe was 1,666, as we rapidly approached a death toll of 660,000 Americans. Ninety-eight percent of the Covid deaths since the first of the year could have been prevented by a free and effective vaccine.

The converging headlines read: “Covid-19 hospitalizations in Idaho reach a record level;” “Idaho Gov. Brad Little ‘exploring’ lawsuit against President Biden’s vaccine mandate;” and “Unvaccinated people were 11 times more likely to die of Covid-19, CDC report says.” Putting the stories together, Idaho’s Covid hospitalizations have skyrocketed for lack of adequate state preventive measures, our Governor is thinking of joining a number of other GOP governors in suing the President for trying to increase our vaccination rate, and unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to die of Covid than those who have their shots.

Idaho’s Covid crisis came about because too many Idahoans simply won’t perform their civic duty of protecting themselves and others by getting a life-saving vaccination. That undemanding act would let everyone get back to work, school and regular life. Federal and state leaders have urged, begged and cajoled people to do their part in bringing the pandemic under control but too many of us refuse to do it, endangering us all. The State of Idaho and many other Republican-led states refuse to require either vaccinations or, the second-best preventive measure, mandatory masking.

Should the federal government throw up its hands and just let the unvaccinated Covid patients pile up in the hospitals and mortuaries? That would be just as irresponsible as the state GOP governors who refuse to implement effective measures to get people masked and vaccinated. The hospitals need to be freed up for patients with other life-threatening conditions, and unvaccinated people need to be prevented from continuing to be virus spawning grounds.

The President’s idea of using the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) to make workplaces of 100 or more employees safe for workers is reasonable and lawful. That will also protect the customers of those businesses and give the public confidence that something effective is finally being done in many Republican-controlled states to bring the pandemic under control. The economic and health benefits will be significant. We won’t have to spend every waking minute fretting that our kids and grandkids will be exposed and infected at schools or businesses.

Republican Party Chairman Tom Luna called Biden’s vaccination plan “one of the most egregious and tyrannical violations” of the U.S. Constitution. The legal basis for Biden’s action was laid on December 29, 1970, when President Richard Nixon signed the OSHA bill into law. Every Republican Senator, except the former segregationist Democrat and Dixiecrat, Strom Thurmond, voted for the law. I was working for Republican Senator Len Jordan at the time and he looked at it as a way to keep workers safe on the job.

OSHA is designed to protect workers from serious health and safety threats at work and is tailor-made for the Covid-19 virus. The mandate for employees to be vaccinated for the protection of everyone in the workplace is much like the mandate for school kids to get vaccinated against a whole raft of dread diseases as a condition of going to school.

Some of those GOP governors who are running around like Chicken Little, claiming that the sky is falling because of Biden’s vaccination mandate, may actually find some secret benefit in it. Biden’s actions promise to bring the pandemic under control, whereas the inaction of the governors has only exacerbated it. The governors can now score political points for railing against the mandate, while their voters are blessed by the lives saved as a result of the President’s action.
 

Misinformation violations

jones

Dr. Ryan Cole of Boise has been accused of spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, discouraging life-saving vaccinations and touting unproven remedies for the virus. Even though a number of complaints have been lodged against him on those grounds, the Idaho Medical Board (IMB) has taken the stance that disciplinary action is not available under its guiding statutes. Is there no remedy for broadcasting harmful medical advice on COVID?

The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) issued this statement on July 29: “Physicians who generate and spread COVID-19 vaccine misinformation or disinformation are risking disciplinary action by state medical boards, including the suspension or revocation of their medical license. Due to their specialized knowledge and training, licensed physicians possess a high degree of public trust and therefore have a powerful platform in society, whether they recognize it or not. They also have an ethical and professional responsibility to practice medicine in the best interests of their patients and must share information that is factual, scientifically grounded and consensus-driven for the betterment of public health. Spreading inaccurate COVID-19 vaccine information contradicts that responsibility, threatens to further erode public trust in the medical profession and puts all patients at risk.”

Amen!

The authoritative FSMB pronouncement does not necessarily apply in physician disciplinary proceedings in Idaho. Rather, the IMB applies statutory guidelines enacted by the Idaho Legislature. It appears to me, however, that the Board is reading its statute too narrowly. The Board seems to believe that discipline can only be meted out where a traditional doctor-patient relationship is involved. That is, where a patient goes to the doctor’s office for consultation and treatment. That is not how things always work in today’s world, with telemedicine and powerful social media.

Dr. Cole has broadcast his medical opinions and advice far and wide with the obvious intent of influencing the medical decisions of a vast audience. How can it be that a doctor can face license revocation for endangering the health or life of an individual traditional patient, while facing no discipline for misleading and risking the health of thousands of devoted followers?

Cole has described the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines as “fake” and made the bogus claim that the mRNA vaccines cause cancer and autoimmune diseases. He has peddled the false claim that thousands have died after getting vaccinated and falsely insinuated that a Boise surgeon died from being vaccinated. His recommended cure to the masses is to use unproven remedies, particularly Ivermectin which is widely used as a livestock dewormer. These contentions have been thoroughly debunked but that has not stopped Cole from spreading this dangerous misinformation. Adding to the problem, his message has been amplified by a variety of social media outlets. Many thousands have likely been influenced by Cole to avoid getting vaccinated against the virus or to treat it with unproven remedies, putting their very lives at risk.

On September 3, the Idaho Medical Association stated: “Dr. Cole has made numerous unfounded and dangerous claims about the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 that do not align with the Idaho standard of care.” The American Medical Association strongly opposes prescribing Ivermectin to treat COVID-19, except in a clinical trial.

IMB’s disciplinary statute allows it to take action against a licensed doctor who provides “health care which fails to meet the health care standard provided by other qualified physicians” in the community or who “promotes the sale of drugs...to a patient that are not...medically indicated.” Recommending to his many devoted followers that they refrain from getting life-saving shots but, rather, take unproven, ineffective remedies like the dewormer, would certainly seem to fit within these provisions. Cole reportedly admits to prescribing Ivermectin to 170 of his patients.

The IMB should act to protect Idahoans. If it won’t, the other 10 states where Cole appears to be licensed (AZ, CA, MN, MT, NV, OR, UT, TX, WA and WY) could take disciplinary action that could then be reciprocated in the Gem State.
 

More cash in the trash

jones

The Idaho Supreme Court delivered a resounding blow for democracy of, by and for the people on August 23, declaring the Legislature’s bill to throttle the initiative and referendum to be unconstitutional. Although many people, including five former Idaho Attorneys General, had warned that the legislation, Senate Bill 1110, was violative of the Idaho Constitution, the legislators passed it anyway. Now, they will have to pay the price, which could come close to half a million dollars.

The Legislature's disregard for the Constitution in this case is not out of the ordinary. In recent years, particularly this year’s session, legislators have shown little consideration for constitutional limitations. House majorities approved legislation to unlawfully restrict the Attorney General’s authority to represent State agencies, to keep itself in session throughout the year in violation of the Constitution, to defy and disregard valid federal laws, among other things. Thankfully, cooler heads in the Senate stymied a number of the unlawful acts, except of course for the legislation to kill the initiative and referendum.

Each of the illegal legislative acts exposes the taxpayers to liability for attorney fees and court costs in the event the legislation is challenged in court, as it was here. The Legislature has reportedly shelled out $3.2 million from its “constitutional defense” kitty since 1995 to unsuccessfully defend its legally deficient statutes. It is likely the cost of defending the ill-fated initiative legislation will come in somewhere between a third and a half a million.

The Secretary of State was the defendant in the suit and was ably represented by the Attorney General’s office, which is charged with defending the constitutionality of State statutes in court. The cost of attorneys from that office is near $60 per hour. The Legislature chose to double team by joining the suit and hiring expensive private counsel. The private counsel’s discounted rate is reported to be $470 per hour or almost 8 times the AG’s rate.

The Legislature has been billed about $185,000 for its unsuccessful defense and may end up paying even more once the dust has settled. There is also the internal cost to the State for the AG’s defense. Plus, the Supreme Court awarded fees and costs to the attorneys representing the challengers, Reclaim Idaho and the Committee to Protect and Preserve the Idaho Constitution. Those attorneys, Deborah Ferguson and Craig Durham, did an absolutely remarkable job of deconstructing the unlawful statute and should receive compensation comparable to the Legislature’s private lawyer.

It is probably good that the Legislature replenished its legal slush fund by 4 million dollars this year so that some in the Boise area legal community can put food on their tables for supporting and defending its unlawful statutes. On the other hand, as the Idaho Falls Post Register has accurately opined, this is a clear waste of taxpayer money.

Mention should be made of two other unconstitutional bills that came close to being enacted by the Legislature this year, both of which would have restricted the Attorney General’s authority to represent the State. House sponsors claimed that deputy AGs were not up to snuff, that they could not stack up to lawyers in private practice who charge large hourly rates. This case blew those claims out of the water.

I read all of the documents presented to the Supreme Court and watched the argument before the Court. The deputy AG who represented the Secretary of State did every bit as well as the private attorney who represented the Legislature. The AG’s office does not have to take a back seat to anyone. The attorneys representing the challengers, as well as retired deputy AG Mike Gilmore who filed his own challenge to the misguided initiative statute, did a most remarkable job. And, they had the Idaho Constitution in their corner.
 

About ‘personal choice’

jones

During an August 18 meeting of the Nampa City Council, a councilman voiced what has become a familiar refrain of late, saying that people should have the “personal choice” of whether to mask up or get vaccinated. Getting carried away, he compared mandatory Covid-19 protective measures to racial segregation. Disregarding this outrageous comparison, are people entitled to their own personal choice when the health or safety of others is at risk from a virus or other known threat? George Washington would likely say no.

When the ranks of his troops were being decimated by the smallpox virus in 1776, Washington ordered the mass smallpox inoculation of the Continental Army. He knew that the overall good of his troops and the success of the Revolutionary War were much more important than the objections of the Continental Congress or the wishes of individual soldiers. He was proven right and, as a consequence, we gained our independence from Great Britain.

Americans have become accustomed to having their personal choices limited in order to serve the public good. I’ve experienced it time and again during my almost eight decades. It used to be that a person could exercise their personal choice to light up a cigarette at almost any time or place. When we learned that second-hand smoke is deadly--each year, it causes about 7,330 lung cancer deaths and 33,950 deaths from heart disease--governments across the country banned it in most indoor settings. There was great outcry from smokers at first, but we now accept it as good public policy.

Some people griped to high heaven when governments first spoke of prohibiting texting while driving several years ago. When it became apparent that it kills around 35,000 people a year, texting-while-driving laws became commonplace. It is not a permissible personal choice.

Into the 1960s, police officers would often tell folks pulled over for drunken driving to go home and sleep it off. Tough laws began appearing on the books after that point, with the full support of the public. Drunk driving is no longer an acceptable personal choice. It killed 10,142 people in 2019.

Drug Laws prohibit us from personally choosing to smoke or inject controlled substances. Drug abuse caused 67,367 deaths in the U.S. in 2018, with 250 occurring in Idaho. We are not allowed to make that personal choice.

Suffice it to say, there are many instances where governments of the people correctly decide that the health and safety of the public overrides the personal choice of individuals. That is a necessary ingredient of a civilized nation. It is especially so where a highly communicable disease, which is primarily spread upon the breath of human carriers, threatens infection and death to thousands of others.

The death toll from the coronavirus greatly exceeds that from each and every one of the other health hazards mentioned above. There were about 380,000 Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. in 2020 and 265,000 so far this year. The delta variant is currently surging across the State, filling ICU beds to capacity, and jeopardizing any progress made thus far against the pandemic. Governor Little has correctly pointed out that since the first of this year, over 98% of Covid19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths have been among the unvaccinated.

We readily accept limitations on our personal choices to safeguard society from drunk drivers, drug abusers, smokers, texting drivers and the potential carriers of a variety of diseases in our public schools. Why won’t we stand for simple limitations on our personal choices, like wearing masks and getting a couple of safe and effective shots, to protect ourselves and others from hospitalization and possible death from this very infectious virus? That would be a valid, compassionate, life-saving personal choice for all of us, while also serving the public good. The Pfizer vaccine received final approval from the FDA on August 23, so get vaccinated Idaho!
 

A solicitor with Idaho background

jones

President Joe Biden has nominated a native Idahoan, Elizabeth Barchas Prelogar, to serve as next Solicitor General of the United States. If confirmed by the U.S.Senate, she would be the second woman to head that office. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, who served from 2009 to 2010, was the first. Prelogar would be the forty-sixth U.S. Solicitor General (SG) since Congress established the position in 1870.

The SG is a powerful legal position in the U.S. Department of Justice, just below the Attorney General. The office represents the interests of the United States before the U.S. Supreme Court, deciding which cases to appeal to the Court on behalf of the government and defending cases brought against the U.S.

The newest appointee to the SG office was born in Boise to Rudy and Jeanne Barchus in 1980. I don’t recall meeting Prelogar, but I knew her father, Rudy. He was an irrepressible individual and a talented lawyer who served as first head of the Consumer Protection Division in Idaho Attorney General Wayne Kidwell’s office. Rudy provided a good start for Prelogar’s remarkable legal career.

Prelogar graduated from Boise High School in 1998, graduated summa cum laude from Emory University in 2002 and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2005. In the interim she earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Law clerkships with distinguished jurists are highly prized by new law school graduates and it is extremely unusual to get more than one. However, Prelogar managed to get three. Her first was with then-judge Merrick Garland on the influential District of Columbia Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. Garland is now The U.S. Attorney General. She then clerked for two Supreme Court Justices, first Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and then Elena Kagan.

Prelogar joined a prestigious law firm’s appellate practice division and later, from 2014 to 2019, served as an attorney in the SG’s office. Perhaps because she is fluent in Russian, she was briefly assigned to the investigation of Russian interference into the 2016 U.S. presidential election being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. After six years in the SG’s office, Prelogar went out to private law practice, but was named in January of 2021 as principal deputy solicitor general and acting SG.

Prelogar is more than a talented lawyer. She is reportedly blessed with a good sense of humor, like her father. In December 2016, she squared off with then-judge Brett Kavanaugh (before his elevation to the Supreme Court) in a comedic mock trial involving the “wrongful death” of Romeo and Juliet.

Some may also recall that Prelogar was Miss Teen Idaho in 1998, Miss Idaho U.S.A. in 2001 and Miss Idaho in 2004. As Miss Idaho, she spent a year traveling to classrooms around the Gem State to raise awareness about showing sensitivity to individuals with disabilities.

In my estimation, President Biden has made an outstanding selection to run the government’s legal business before the Supreme Court. Prelogar has impeccable qualifications to advocate for the people and to support the legal foundation of this country. I expect to see even bigger things in her future. Idahoans can be proud of this fine product of their State.
 

Must everything be a political fight?

jones

Back in the good old days, before the advent of cable news and social media, people had political differences but we did not tend to take offense from matters of everyday life. If people wore masks back then, it was just assumed that they were either bank bandits or health nuts. There was absolutely no reason in those days to take serious political offense from the presence or absence of a face covering. If a school board wanted to have an “inclusive” environment for students, it was not taken for granted that the kids were to be indoctrinated as part of a Communist plot.

Ever since Donald Trump called the country’s attention to the scourge of critical race theory (CRT) last October, some have claimed it to exist in every nook and cranny of the Gem State. Despite the fact that those fearful of the concept have yet to identify what it is or where it can be found in our school system, they are bound and determined to root it out.

For instance, the Kuna School Board meeting on August 3 fell apart when folks got riled up and demanded the exclusion of the word “inclusive” from the school’s strategic plan. Some Kavemen patrons saw the word as a gateway to CRT indoctrination. It is obvious that we don’t want our schools to be inclusive because that is a pathway to Communist mind control.

Back in June the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which champions the right of Idaho kids to be free of public schools, took on the Coeur d'Alene School District for developing an “equity framework.” The Foundation saw this as promoting a “deeply ideological, morally shameful and anti-academic program.” We should not scoff at this description because the IFF has spent years developing this very type of program to perfection.

Another stroll down memory lane might remind us of the day when the appointment of a doctor to a public health board was just a ho-hum affair. Commissioners of health boards would routinely appoint a licensed Idaho physician as a board member to provide input on public health issues. It is not so simple anymore because we find that political credentials of doctor appointees may well take precedence over public health knowhow.

The primary case on point is the physician vacancy on the board of Central District Health, which serves Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley Counties. Dr. Sky Blue, an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist, received high praise from the local medical community and appeared at one point to be the front runner for the position. But then, the Ada County Republican Central Committee waded in to urge support for Dr. Ryan Cole, a doctor with lesser medical credentials but much more ideological heft.

Dr. Cole, a pathologist, received the disapproval of one Meridian doctor for his “role in discouraging vaccination and promoting unproven medical treatments.” Another physician disapproved of Dr. Cole’s advancement of “conspiracy theories.”

The Republican Central Committee expressed concern about Dr. Blue’s support of masks, vaccinations and other Covid-19 precautions. Any physician who believes in established science is obviously suspect.

Unfortunately, these kinds of needless quarrels are tearing apart communities across the country in proceedings of legislatures and all kinds of government boards and agencies. Ah, for those good old days of yore when we did not find it necessary to have heated arguments over non-existent problems like CRT and when facts prevailed over conspiracy theories.
 

The sad state of the GOP

jones

I can recall a time many years ago when I was proud to call myself a Republican. The Party had many leaders with vision and a dedication to sound public policy. Governor Bob Smylie strongly supported education and was able to get a sales tax enacted in 1965 to better fund Idaho’s public schools. My boss in the early 70s, Senator Len Jordan, supported civil and voting rights for all Americans. Former Governor Phil Batt was a supporter of human rights and good government.

During my service as State Attorney General in the 80s, Republicans joined with Democrats to pass the malicious harassment law and Terrorist Control Act, both of which were aimed at white supremacists. During that timespan, Republicans were conservative to moderate, but truthful, pragmatic, reasonable and honorable.

The present-day Republican Party has strayed so far from those roots that it is almost impossible to recognize. The dysfunctional performance of so many Republicans in the last legislative session drove reasonable folk to despair. Because so many in the GOP refused to support reasonable measures to control the spread of the coronavirus, many Idahoans needlessly died.

Two Republican officeholders are doing their level best to smear Idaho teachers and schools by falsely claiming that school kids are being indoctrinated. Rather than listening to Idahoans who say they are wrong, Lt. Governor McGeachin and Rep. Priscilla Giddings have fawned over a far-right conspiracy theorist who claims schools are pedaling Communism and pedophilia.

Both of these indoctrination theorists are running for higher office where they could wreak much greater havoc on the Gem State. McGeachin hopes to attain the Governor’s office with the help of her extremist friends in Real 3%ers of Idaho. Giddings will have to convince voters that it is fine for a would-be Lt. Governor to disclose the name of a teenage rape victim, lie about it and defame the victim. To their credit, responsible Republicans like Rep. Greg Chaney of Caldwell have acted to call her to account for her inexcusable conduct.

Another candidate for governor on the GOP ticket is Ammon Bundy, who was famously seen being arrested and bundled into a police car, tethered to an innocent office chair, for disrupting proceedings in the Idaho Legislature. The chair was released without bond but Bundy was subsequently convicted and banned from the Capitol grounds.

These are just a few of the misfits that Republican primary voters have unleashed upon the State. I do not contend that all of those voters are as flawed as many of the GOP candidates who prevail nowadays in primary elections. There are numbers of Republicans who are greatly distressed by the people sent to Boise by their fellow party members.

There are several reasons why candidates like McGeachin, Giddings and the top 15 or so on the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s “freedom Index” prevail in primaries. The closed Republican primary often produces the candidate who is able to move farthest to the right on the political spectrum. Generally, the primary does not produce a large turnout, which favors the committed radicals.

Also, the party machinery has been taken over by political zealots, making it difficult for worthy candidates to step forward. A prime example is the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee, which recently approved a resolution supporting the wacko John Birch Society. That would never have happened years ago. The Birchers were famous back in the 60s for claiming water fluoridation was a Communist plot. They continue to be wild conspiracy theorists.

Unless the Republicans who are concerned about the direction of their party take action to cleanse their ranks, the legislative dysfunction will continue or even worsen. This next primary election could be a wonderful opportunity to cull the herd. Although I became a committed independent in August of 2002, when it became clear that Cheney and Rumsfeld were going to take the country to a disastrous war in Iraq, I still vote in the Republican primary and will be there to help the reasonable Republicans take back their party.
 

Compulsory vaccinations

jones

Hennings Jacobson strongly objected to the state’s requirement that he be vaccinated. He argued that “a compulsory vaccination law is unreasonable, arbitrary and oppressive, and, therefore, hostile to the inherent right of every freeman to care for his own body and health in such way as to him seems best.” Similar arguments have been made by others around the State of Idaho in recent months.

Jacobson’s argument was presented to the U.S. Supreme Court on a cold December morning in 1904. He objected to a Massachusetts law requiring vaccination against smallpox. The Supreme Court upheld the law, saying that the U.S. Constitution “does not import an absolute right in each person to be, at all times and in all circumstances, wholly free from all restraints.” The Court held in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905) that the health and safety of society took precedence over Jacobson’s objections to being vaccinated. It is still the law of the land these 116 years later.

The State does have the constitutional right to require a wide range of what might seem to be coercive measures for the protection of society. Idaho Code section 39-4801 requires immunization of kids from preschool to 12th grade as a condition for attending school. Current school requirements include DTaP, Polio, MMR and Hepatitus B.

Idaho’s Clean Indoor Air Act, which is based on legislative findings that secondhand smoke causes injury to members of society, prohibits smoking in a wide range of public venues. When it was under consideration in the Legislature, many raised Jacobson-like arguments against it, but it is accepted public policy today.

The State requires most employers to provide worker’s compensation protection for the benefit of their employees. Automobile owners must carry liability insurance for the protection and compensation of others. Parents must have child safety seats for the protection of their children. We all must have and use automobile seat belts. These requirements just scratch the surface of the obligations the government imposes upon us to protect ourselves and society. The State also has the power to stem a pandemic.

There is good news on the pandemic horizon. Experience with the Covid-19 vaccines establishes that they are safe, effective and a sure way to stop the pandemic in its tracks, provided that at least 70% of the population becomes fully vaccinated. Since the first of the year, about 99% of Covid-19 deaths have been among the unvaccinated. The State can and should require people in areas threatened by the virus to get vaccinated.

The bad news is that there is no chance the Idaho Legislature would ever take effective action to protect the public from the virus by requiring vaccinations. Because only 45% of Idahoans are fully vaccinated, our people remain vulnerable to the disease.

The job of protecting our vulnerable population has fallen by default upon the private sector. Employers can and should require employees who interact with the public to get vaccinated as a condition of employment, particularly in the healthcare industry. Thanks to St. Luke’s, St. Alphonsus, Primary Health and other health care systems across the State for taking this common sense step to protect the public. On the national level, medical groups representing millions of doctors, nurses and other health care workers have done likewise. The VA is requiring front-line health workers to get vaccinated.

With the Legislature’s abdication of its responsibility to safeguard the health and safety of Idahoans, private citizens and businesses must step forward to get the job done. Otherwise, our society will fall victim to the “anarchy” that the Supreme Court said would occur if everyone could make their individual choice of whether or not to get vaccinated against a dangerous disease.
 

Behavioral health

jones

There is a chronic shortage of behavioral health resources in Idaho. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that about 100,000 Idaho adults had an unmet need for mental health treatment in 2018-2019. Children fare no better in the Gem State. Idaho has received a 46th place ranking among the states for child access to mental health care. The Idaho suicide rate hit a record high of 420 in 2020. Suicide calls have seen an uptick in Boise, and most likely across the State, since the first of the year. There were 250 reported drug deaths in Idaho in 2018. These problems have intensified since the onset of the pandemic.

There is a critical lack of crisis intervention help for people with serious mental health or drug abuse problems, particularly for those without insurance coverage or other financial resources. People who need immediate help are often turned away because existing crisis response facilities are already crowded. Sometimes, the only alternative is to call in law enforcement officers, many of whom are not trained to deal with mental health and other crisis issues.

To its credit, the state has begun to reduce the behavioral health deficit with Regional Behavioral Health Centers but there is a long way to go to meet the need. The Idaho court system has contributed with its problem-solving courts. Drug Courts, Mental Health Courts, and Veteran Treatment Courts have been instrumental in helping troubled people deal with mental issues and drug abuse. The problem is that these services are only available to those caught up in the justice system. So many people in Idaho who are not yet in legal trouble but who need similar support simply cannot find it.

Idaho should adopt an approach now being used in 42 other states, including every state that borders Idaho except Wyoming. That is, establishment of what are called Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs). This program has produced good results in making mental health and substance abuse services available to many localities across the country on an around-the-clock basis.

CCBHCs have been established in all but 8 states to help address the shortage of resources. They provide 24-hour crisis care and evidence-based services to anyone in need of mental health or substance abuse treatment services, regardless of ability to pay. That saves lives and, by providing for intervention before situations reach truly crisis proportions, government dollars.

The CCBHC program was begun in 2014 as a Medicaid demonstration project in 8 states and later expanded to include a grant program. Because of favorable results, it has gained rare bi-partisan support in both Houses of Congress. Legislation has recently been introduced to expand the CCBHC program and put it on sounder financial footing. The legislation, called the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act of 2021 (Senate Bill 2069), is co-sponsored by Republican Senators Blunt, Ernst and Daines and Democrat Senators Wyden, Tester and Cortez Masto, among others.

CCHBCs would significantly improve Idaho’s ability to deliver behavioral health services within its borders, and grant those in crisis situations immediate access to those services, without consideration of their ability to pay. All we need to get things started is for Idaho’s U.S. Senators to sign onto the legislation and support its funding. The Governor’s implementation of the program would seal the deal.