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Louisiana editorial roundup

September 19, 2018

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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Sept. 18

The Courier of Houma on the New Orleans Saints:

It might not have been pretty, but Sunday’s home win by the New Orleans Saints could be the start of something big.

The Saints needed all the points - and luck - they could muster to knock off the hapless Cleveland Browns, but in the end, the Black and Gold sent their fans home from the Superdome on a high note.

Those fans will be hoping to keep the winning streak alive on Sunday when the Saints travel to Atlanta to take on the archrival Falcons.

It will be another stout test for a team that has already seen more than its share of ups and downs in this young season.

After losing last week 48-40 in an offensive shootout to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Saints this week struggled to score and had to put up 18 points in the fourth quarter to eke out the win. Even then, the Saints needed help from the Browns’ kicker, who missed two field goals and two extra points.

But the fans welcome the change of fortune and the change in defensive efficiency. After the Tampa Bay game, last year’s much-improved defense seemed to have given way to previous years’ difficulties.

The Cleveland game, though, saw a return to form by a defensive unit that will have to perform well for the Saints to have a chance at a postseason run.

On the other hand, the offense - which had looked nearly unstoppable at times last week - seemed to have great difficulties. The score, after all, was 6-3 at halftime, with Cleveland in the lead.

A win was the result at the end of Sunday’s game. And the win is what will count at the end of the season.

Saints fans will hope for more of them to come, along with perhaps some more-convincing wins that don’t test their nerves until the final seconds of the games.

And the Saints weren’t the only ones who made local football fans nervous this weekend. Like the Saints, the LSU Tigers ended up with a win over Auburn on the road. But they put their fans through some serious tension before the game was in the books.

However they happen, wins are welcome. And their fans should be able to look forward to more of the same from here.

Online: http://www.houmatoday.com

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Sept. 16

NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune on families dealing with mental illness:

Reggie Seay, a 63-year-old attorney and father from Kenner, wrote legislators a letter June 1 pleading for mental health services to be funded.

“I am writing again to let you know I STRONGLY oppose cuts to mental health care funding in the budget proposals under consideration. The cuts to mental health care funding would have a devastating effect on my son and my family. ... My adult son, Kevin, has schizo-affective disorder and is disabled because of this disease. His health insurance is Medicaid. The services he receives, minimal though they may be, are an absolute necessity. I cannot imagine how he will survive without them. ...”

The Legislature kept in place the funding Mr. Seay and other families dealing with mental illness need. But Louisiana’s mental health resources had already been decimated over the past decade. The needs are great: an estimated 634,000 adults in Louisiana have a mental illness or substance abuse disorder.

Over the coming weeks, NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune’s “A Fragile State” project will show how Louisiana’s fragmented and severely underfunded mental health network fails families. The Seay family’s experience, told by reporter Katherine Sayre, is the first of these stories.

We will look at the particular difficulties people in rural Louisiana have getting help, the ongoing stigma of mental illness and the dwindling resources for people who are suicidal, among other problems.

Reggie Seay put it this way: “Sometimes in big ways, sometimes in a hundred little ways, it’s like the whole game is rigged against you.” It shouldn’t be that way.

His son, Kevin, has been hospitalized 37 times in the seven years since he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He is one of about 39,000 people with schizophrenia and 79,000 people with severe bipolar disorder in Louisiana, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center. As difficult as it has been to manage his illness, he has had more options than many people in Louisiana. Others with a similar diagnosis have no caregiver and end up homeless and untreated.

Louisiana’s leaders have let them all down.

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration closed the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital in 2009 and promised that families could get those inpatient services at Southeast Louisiana State Hospital in Mandeville. Then, in 2012, his administration closed that hospital.

“We have not recovered from that yet, and it’s probably going to take years to recover from it,” said Anthony Germade, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Louisiana.

The state has cut other mental care services and lost federal money, which has left people who are dealing with mental illness in an even more precarious situation.

The expansion of Medicaid two years ago, which provided health care coverage to more than 470,000 uninsured Louisiana residents, was a positive development. But the payment rates for Medicaid in Louisiana are so low that it is hard to get providers to take patients. And the scarcity of mental health services makes that doubly difficult.

As the Seay family demonstrates, even families with financial resources can’t always get treatment. A team at University Medical Center recommended in 2017 that Kevin Seay should try a long-term stay at Central Louisiana State Hospital in Pineville. But he never got closer than 51 on the waiting list. Meanwhile, UMC sent him a bill for $50,279 for his treatment there over several weeks.

The hospital in Pineville has 120 beds for patients like Kevin, but the wait list was at 79 people last year. The state has a license to operate up to 196 beds, which essentially would wipe out the wait list, but there is no money allocated to pay for those beds.

The U.S. Department of Justice also found that Louisiana was warehousing mentally ill people in nursing homes when they should have been provided mental health care in their communities. The state agreed in June to a five-year plan to get those 3,800 nursing home patients back home with support services that stabilize their illness. There has been no cost attached yet.

But Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Legislature must be prepared to find a way to pay for those services.

Louisiana has fallen short in other ways. After NOPD Officer Nicola Cotton was killed in 2008 by a man with a history of schizophrenia who attacked her and took her gun, lawmakers passed a law to set up a new court process. Nicola’s Law calls for assisted outpatient treatment courts, in which a judge oversees mental health treatment in difficult cases.

But, a decade after it passed, there is not a single treatment court in Louisiana. Civil District Court Judge Kern Reese hopes to launch a pilot program this fall in New Orleans, but long-term funding is still needed.

After years of mid-year deficits, the state budget is finally stable. That doesn’t mean that money can be easily found.

But Louisiana residents must demand that the governor and the Legislature make mental health a top priority. The suffering of these families diminishes us all.

Online: https://www.nola.com

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Sept. 15

The Advocate on a mayor banning his city’s parks and recreation department from purchasing Nike products:

All along, the mismatch between Kenner city government and the worldwide brand of Nike was not going to end well for the former.

It’s good news that Mayor Ben Zahn is retreating from his inflammatory pledge to ban his city’s recreation department from purchasing Nike products for use at city recreation facilities.

After a barrage of criticism and much social media attention, the mayor said he would back down based on advice from the city attorney.

“That memorandum divided our city and placed Kenner in a false and unflattering light on the national stage,” Zahn added.

Well, what did Zahn expect?

Nike’s publicity machine got a real boost, beyond the controversy over its decision to use former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in an ad campaign. Kaepernick ignited a firestorm in 2016 when he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and social injustice.

A lot of people didn’t like that protest but others did; Kaepernick was emulated by other players, to the vocal displeasure of folks from President Donald Trump on down. We think standing for the anthem has always been a good way to honor the blessings and the promise of America in spite of its imperfections.

The Zahn memo was ill-advised from the start, easy pickings for activists like Louisiana’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and public officials in New Orleans joined in the criticism.

Zahn’s memorandum said Nike products could not be purchased for use at the city’s recreation facilities. It also required the parks and recreation department director to approve all athletic purchases by booster clubs using their facilities. While he didn’t mention Kaepernick in the memo, the mayor’s deploring the company’s “political message” was an obvious reference.

“My patriotism will not waver,” he said. “But my focus needs to be on the city of Kenner and the many great projects we have in store for our city.”

We don’t disagree and wonder why his focus wandered this far in the first place, and even more so why he was issuing this kind of order without, apparently, consulting the city attorney in advance.

We agree with the mayor that Kenner, not only home of the airport but a thriving city in its own right, was not well-served by its public officials engaging national controversies without apparent consultation with others. That’s a recipe for climbdowns, and Zahn’s was embarrassing and inevitable, given the strong feelings provoked over the last couple of years by the Kaepernick protests.

And Nike sold some more apparel, with the mayor fueling a social-media buzz that should never have occurred.

Online: https://www.theadvocate.com

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