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Georgia editorial roundup

July 31, 2019

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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July 30

Savannah Morning News on mental health care for underserved communities:

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, only about 25 percent of African Americans seek mental health care, compared to 40 percent of white Americans.

In many ways, African Americans are one of the most underserved populations when it comes to mental health. They tend to be less likely to reach out for help, which can lead to a dismissal of symptoms or even misdiagnosis for those who do seek treatment.

A Surgeon General’s report found that only 20 percent of Latinos with symptoms of a psychological disorder consult with a doctor regarding their concerns. For Latinos, there can be additional obstacles to treatment, including language barriers, access issues and social stigmas surrounding mental health issues.

Economic status can also be a complicating factor, as well. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Heath, poverty has a direct impact on a person’s mental health status. African Americans living below the poverty level are three times more likely to report psychological distress, compared to those with a more stable economic status.

INITIATING TOUGH CONVERSATOINS

The ELLA Foundation, (is) a local nonprofit dedicated to initiating tough conversations through its ongoing Let’s Talk community discussion series. ...

Charity Lee, the founder and executive director of The ELLA Foundation, understands the potentially tragic consequences of mental illness first-hand. In 2007, her 13-year-old son, Paris, murdered her 4-year-old daughter, Ella, at the family’s home in Abilene, Texas. Diagnosed as a sociopath, Paris is currently serving a life sentence in a Texas prison.

Although Lee was devastated by the loss of her daughter and the incarceration of her son, she decided to turn this horrific experience into something positive. She created The ELLA Foundation to help anyone affected by violence, mental illness and the criminal justice system through education, support and advocacy.

Since moving to Savannah several years ago, Lee has launched a series of programs and initiatives designed to spark dialogue about tough issues. To date, the Let’s Talk series has focused on mental illness and childhood trauma, mental illness and faith, and mental illness and the LGBT+ community.

The interactive Let’s Talk series, which is designed to encourage audience participation, was created in the aftermath of the Parkland School shooting. The event focusing on mental illness and people of color is the sixth in an ongoing series.

Lee excels at bringing together community experts, from therapists to individuals who have struggled with these issues first-hand. Ultimately, The ELLA Foundation strives to transform those who committed acts of violence as well as victims of violence and to facilitate positive social and personal change.

PEOPLE OF COLOR AND MENTAL HEALTH

The reality is that people of color can be more likely to suffer from depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide. They’re also more likely to experience factors that can increase the risk of mental illness, like homelessness and exposure to violence.

Here in Georgia, we can do a better job meeting the mental health needs of our citizens. We need to make sure we address the symptoms, as well as the underlying causes of mental health issues, in order to stem the rising suicide rate among minorities, particularly African-American men.

Kudos to Charity Lee and The ELLA Foundation for raising awareness about the need to address mental health issues involving people of color more strategically and more compassionately.

Real change starts when we acknowledge a problem. Only then can we truly address that problem and begin to develop meaningful solutions.

Online: https://www.savannahnow.com

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July 30

The Brunswick News on a possible change to the Georgia-Florida rivalry football game:

When the SEC spring meetings took place in May, a few eyebrows were raised when Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart implied that the future of the annual Georgia-Florida rivalry contest may not be in Jacksonville.

What Smart said at that time was that he was “always looking to see what you can do to make your program better. Nothing is off the table, but nothing has been decided.”

The situation came up again earlier this month at SEC Media Days where Smart and Florida head coach Dan Mullen both weighed in on the subject with neither really saying much.

Smart stayed on point with his earlier comments.

“I’m for what’s best for the University of Georgia and as a group and as a staff and as administration, and we’ll look at that internally and make the decisions based on what is best for our student-athletes and what is best for the university,” Smart said.

It is still hard for us to see how playing the game in Jacksonville is a detriment to Georgia. Yes, they do potentially lose a home game that recruits could be on campus for, depending on scheduling, but what damage that does to recruiting is an unknown quantity. Circumstantial evidence, i.e. the last few years of recruiting rankings, would suggest that playing in Jacksonville doesn’t have an effect on recruiting.

What is known and quantified is that Georgia-Florida weekend is a big deal for the Golden Isles. Scott McQuade, president of the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau, told The News last week that Georgia-Florida weekend is “undoubtedly one of our highest traffic weekends in the Golden Isles.”

McQuade added that the numbers from that weekend are the kind typically seen during the peak summer season. More importantly, the weekend provides a shot in the arm to area businesses such as hotels, restaurants and others during a time of the year that is typically more quiet.

Since 1933, Jacksonville has been home to one of college football’s best traditions. Even when you take the economic impact out of it, the game just wouldn’t be the same somewhere else. We hope that this talk is nothing more than idle chatter, and the game remains in Jacksonville for many more years.

Online: https://thebrunswicknews.com

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July 27

The Augusta Chronicle on a new medical school program:

Add three plus three plus six.

For our state, it could add up to a revolutionary shift forward in health care.

Augusta University and the Medical College of Georgia are developing and proposing an inventive approach toward medical education, made public earlier this year. It’s being called the MCG 3+ Track. It debuted at the “3+3+6” initiative.

It’s a powerful idea with a ton of merit: Shorten medical school from four years to three, for students who commit to becoming primary care physicians. Those are the doctors who often are a patient’s first stop when seeking care — such as family doctors and pediatricians, among others.

After graduating, the doctors complete three-year primary care residencies. Residency is the intense, specialized postgraduate education students receive after leaving med school.

After that, the freshly minted physicians agree to spend at least six years practicing their new profession in rural Georgia, whose distance from quality health care is vast.

Three plus three plus six. Easy addition.

But for too long, the education of physicians in this state has been a frustrating exercise in subtraction.

Start with 100% of medical-school graduates who become doctors — many educated at MCG right here in Augusta. Now subtract about 75%. That’s the amount of grads who leave the state to pursue their medical careers.

Next, take the amount of money in a med-school graduate’s bank account. Now subtract about $200,000. That’s the average debt those new doctors face. It’s a lot of money to pay back.

So to pay it back, a lot of doctors decide to enter into medical specialties that pay higher salaries. Georgia sorely needs primary care physicians. But if you train to become, say, a neurosurgeon, you can make several times the amount you would make in primary care.

Guess which path a debt-ridden student often chooses.

Those choices subtract needed doctors from the state. Georgia has 159 counties, and 63 of them have no pediatricians. Eleven have no family medicine physicians.

Six counties have no doctor at all.

That’s inexcusable. It just doesn’t add up.

But Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has done the math on the MCG 3+ Track. He loves the idea.

“I supported it in the budget this year,” he said during a visit with The Augusta Chronicle’s editorial board July 8. “Very impressed — speeding up the training for a doctor, getting them into residency. If they work six years in rural Georgia they basically have their tuition paid for.

“I mean, that is a home run.”

That home run can translate into a grand slam when it starts yielding the anticipated results.

After education, health care was the biggest focus of spending in the 2019 Georgia budget. Part of the budget support Kemp mentioned was granting a request to increase the University System of Georgia’s funding formula for MCG. That 10% boost over the next three years is expected to add about $20 million to its medical education programs, which now cost more to administer.

Filling that gap allows AU to focus more intently on expanding MCG - including continued development of the 3+ Track. To help fund its development, the state has allocated $500,000. Money also has been budgeted for more residency slots. School officials hope the excitement already generated by 3+ keeps rising when lawmakers convene next January in Atlanta.

Georgia’s physician shortage, coupled with the scarcity of rural care, means Georgia has a major health problem.

And with this new med-school proposal, AU and MCG are writing possibly the biggest, boldest prescription for a health problem that this state has ever seen.

Online: https://www.augustachronicle.com

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