Louisiana editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Courier of Houma on declining bug populations:
We in Louisiana have a deep understanding of how close we are to nature.
We can see the impact man’s activities - from leveeing the river to cutting through wetlands - can have on our natural defenses and our natural resources.
So perhaps we are in a great position to understand how delicate the balance is between man and nature, and how even the slightest change in that balance can have wide-ranging impacts.
Scientists are worried that a host of factors has led to a declining population of bugs. They aren’t so much worried about mosquitoes and other pests. Instead, the species of bees, moths and fireflies seem to be dwindling.
They think it is because of reasons such as habitat loss, light pollution and increased pesticide use.
But they worry about the effects that flow from this change. Many of these bugs are crucial to the process of growing plants.
The whole notion might surprise those of us who find abundant proof of lovebugs and other flying bugs whenever we take our cars out - particularly at night.
But the anecdotal evidence we see is no match for the numbers collected by the people who do worldwide counts and can detect the changes in the populations.
Agricultural practices can have huge impacts on the animal populations. The scientists who track these trends suspect that our tendency to plant huge swaths of land with just one kind of crop keeps the bugs from being able to multiply and thrive as they once did.
The use of pesticides, too, is a suspect in the investigation. We know from watching the dead zone develop each year in the Gulf of Mexico how far those pesticides and other agricultural runoff can travel from their primary sites upriver.
The people of Louisiana should be able to comprehend this problem and sympathize with those who long for a return to the delicate balance that has benefited us for so many generations.
The answer, though, is not simple. Our water issues suggest that agricultural runoff and the widespread use of powerful pesticides is an unaddressed problem throughout much of our nation - one that comes home to affect those of us who live near the Gulf. That might be a good place to start to attack the bug issue.
We depend on nature more than we might assume. This is yet another reminder of that uncomfortable fact and another reason why we should consider ways to protect the environment that ultimately works for us.
American Press of Lake Charles on Louisiana getting a $9 million federal grant to address mental health problems among students:
Louisiana is being pushed to do a better job caring for and treating its mentally ill, those who may not belong in nursing homes and youngsters in alternative schools. An investigation and studies have shown problems in both areas.
Court documents indicate at least 3,800 people, or 14.5 percent of all nursing home residents in 2016 were mentally ill. The state is getting a $9 million federal grant to address mental health problems among students, especially those in alternative schools.
The goal for the mentally ill in nursing homes is to determine how many of them would be better served in home and community settings. The Advocate said a two-year investigation determined Louisiana violated the Americans for Disabilities Act because of over-reliance on nursing homes for those who are mentally ill.
The state is going to have to come up with funding to invest in home and community-based programs that will help those willing and able to move out of nursing homes. Louisiana has one of the highest percentages of adults with serious mental illnesses living in nursing homes, and it has to do better.
As for students, a report by a 39-member panel of superintendents and others last year said school officials are too quick to toss students with behavior problems and most of them fail to get the help they need when assigned to alternative schools. The Advocate said the statewide dropout rate in grades 7-12 is 4 percent, but it is 19 percent in alternative schools.
Doris Voitier, superintendent of the St. Bernard Parish School District and a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said many of those alternative school students have family and mental health issues that impede student progress. She said the federal grant will allow for an expansion of current partnerships with the LSU Medical School and the Methodist Hospital Foundation.
The state will receive $1.8 million annually for five years. It will allow the state to set up a comprehensive mental health support program for schools supervised by the state Department of Education and state Department of Health.
Increased emphasis on how Louisiana treats its mentally ill is welcome news for its older and younger citizens who have had to wait much too long for the care they need and deserve.
The Advocate on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette honoring former Gov. Kathleen Blanco by creating a public policy center:
It is characteristic of Kathleen Blanco that the former governor, battling a terminal illness, does not want tributes or statues in her honor, but is thinking about the longer future.
She will be honored by her alma mater, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, by creation of the Kathleen Babineaux Blanco Public Policy Center housed at the university’s Dupre Library. More than 500 well-wishers attended a Friday dinner where Gov. John Bel Edwards and other luminaries spoke in her honor.
The center will make her extensive papers from a long career in public life available to researchers. Over the decades, she has been a legislator, member of the Public Service Commission and lieutenant governor as well as serving as chief executive, 2004-2008, including the traumatic years of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the long recovery from them.
But the center is also intended to generate research on Louisiana’s current and future problems, including education and poverty concerns that she has long sought to address. “The center will design stronger futures for our children and grandchildren,” Blanco said.
We hope so and welcome a new policy voice in Louisiana’s future.