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Posts published in March 2006

Stability in mental health

They may be a little rough on the states overall: The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill is saying (in its just-released report) that almost all states deserve a C, D or an F grade in their efforts in that area, and not one deserves an A, just five (none in the west) meriting a B. You suspect a message at work.

That said, there's provocative material in this year's Grading the States report. Upshot in the Northwest: Oregon rates a C, Washington a D, and Idaho an F.

There's some high irony - to put it mildly - in parts of this. Oregon, for example, gets an A for "infrastructure." NAMI must have an artful meaning of the word, because Oregon's very weakest point may be its infrastructure, especially the decaying 9even dangerous) parts of its state hospital at Salem. (It does note Oregon State Hospital remediation as an urgent need.) It points out that the state does have mental/physical health parity, that its recovery sytems are solid and handles services decently, all while falling below the national average for per capital spending. Not a bad report, really.

Washington spends more - in most ways above the national average - but ranks lower in most respects in delivery of service and actual health care.

Idaho was one of eight states graded F, weak on almost everything but its suicide rate, which was well above average. It ranked dead last, 51st, in the area of total mental health spending. Legislation in this area still is making its way around the Statehouse, however, so sme judgement might best be deferred.

A bogus run

Among the advantages of the Oregon system of voting by mail is the disadvantage that system places on one of the least welcome invaders of modern elections: The last-minute ad.

When the votes are being cast over a spread of more than two weeks, you can't easily manipulate the results through engineering a last-minute panic attack over (most commonly these days) the radio. Since the voting is spread out, you're only likely to influence a small sliver of people; and even that sliver is reduced by the number of voters who, having heard a serious allegation, actually have the time and ability to check it out before voting. Instead, getting serious information out there tends to work better.

Like most states, Idaho isn't in that position, and so attack ads like the one aimed at a new Boise schools bond issue could have some effect. In this case, maybe not as much as its backers hoped, since the election is a couple of weeks off and the ad already has been airing - meaning that by the time most people vote, many of its charges may already be adequately refuted.

This isn't an endorsement of either side of the bond campaign. The Boise School District is asking for $94 million, which is a lot of money, and the voters ought to have a full and careful accounting from a district that has some history of obfuscation.

But the proposal is no new topic, and voters would be well advised to beware of most anything they hear in the final days before the election. Goes for other kinds of electi0ns, too, as the people of Boise have ample reason to know.