February 26, 2024

Letters about mental health, tax cuts, anti-Semitism

Mental health hospital to provide critical, affordable services

One in five Oklahomans struggles with mental health issues. These individuals, our friends, family and neighbors, often have no place to turn for help, resulting in arrests or worse. Our state’s growing mental health crisis has been centered in our prisons, which are not built to adequately meet mental health needs.

March marks the milestone for The Donahue, a state-of-the-art facility that will serve as the state’s largest psychiatric hospital. Located on the campus of Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City, this facility will address critical areas of need and offer a spectrum of services for both adults and children. From acute care at the Urgent Recovery Center to seamless referrals to outpatient services, The Donahue is committed to providing immediate access to Oklahomans experiencing a mental health crisis.

This effort is in addition to the Mental Health Lifeline, which allows people to call or text 988 to be transported to one of 20 urgent care and recovery clinics across the state 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With these options, thousands of Oklahomans will now have access to affordable assistance when they are most vulnerable.

When we work together to address the mental health needs in our community through services rather than criminalization, we can cultivate hope and progress. The Donahue is not just a mental health facility, it is a community that comes together to support each other.

–Sue Ann Arnall, Oklahoma City

Tax cuts will have minimal impact; Giving kids free summer meals would do more

It is baffling that many rural Oklahoma House representatives support a 0.25% income tax cut instead of voicing their concerns about a governor who has rejected the state’s participation in a federal summer feeding program for eligible schoolchildren for free or reduced school meals. At $40/month per child for three months, that is well above what the average family in our rural school districts will achieve with a 0.25% tax cut, with more than 60% of families eligible for the nutrition program.

I find it amazing that rural Oklahoma continues to support those, in both state and federal government, who always vote to deny dollars to these families. The Biden administration has sent more than $1 billion to the state of Oklahoma for broadband expansion alone. Not a single Republican senator or representative from Oklahoma elected to serve us nationally voted for this support, which will have a positive impact on our rural communities. Kevin Stitt and the state Republicans in our government don’t get any credit for this either. Our rural areas deserve more than what their elected officials are offering them. We don’t need an income tax cut that will have minimal impact at best; we need real programs to support our rural communities.

–Penny Barber, Edmond

Anti-Semitism, the ‘canary in the coal mine’, indicator that something has gone wrong in society

Why should the average American pay attention to, let alone be concerned about, this alarming increase in anti-Semitism? After all, Jews make up only 2.4% of the American population.

There is a basic humanitarian response that everyone should have when they witness hatred of any kind, regardless of the target. However, the serious uptick in anti-Semitic speech and actions has much broader, terrifying implications for our society. For decades, the presence and rise of anti-Semitism has been the proverbial “canary in the coal mine” – a powerful and disturbing indicator that something has gone deeply wrong in society and that other layers of prejudice and hatred are rumbling just beneath the surface.

You don’t have to look further than Nazi Germany, where anti-Semitism opened the door to violence against (other marginalized groups).

– Edie Roodman, Nichols Hills and Melinda Parks, Oklahoma City

Calling on Senator Lankford to support child tax credit expansion

James Lankford, I homeschool all my children and would like to continue doing so. My children are much happier with their lives and freedom. Recognizing and passing on this child tax credit will not only help us, but many more families. Please help and think about the humanity of our children’s future. We parents do our best. We need more help.

There are currently 19 million children excluded from the full credit due to the structure of the child tax credit. The bipartisan tax package (HR 7024) would benefit approximately 16 million children, with more than 80 percent of the roughly 19 million children in families excluded from the full credit because their family income is too low.

Data shows that the temporary expansion of the child tax credit allowed people to pay for childcare so they could work and care for their families. What we all actually want is a happy life, a happy family and freedom. Please help move this forward so that families can benefit financially to continue moving forward.

I really appreciate you and am grateful for sending this your way and hope for a smart decision in the future.

— Baylee Elwell, Chester

Seniors would benefit from a property tax cut in Oklahoma

So nice to sit and read the newspaper with a cup of hot coffee. The cartoons were excellent. However, there are more serious things to think about. Like the governor’s proposed tax cuts.

The 0.25 percent income tax cut and the proposed grocery tax cut are fun to think about, but I can think of another tax that would be more beneficial to Oklahomans as a whole. The property tax. The proposed income and grocery tax cuts would go a long way toward eliminating that hellish tax on homeowners. You work for years to pay off your house, but the state government tells you that you don’t actually own your house. The state you live in actually owns it, and if you want to continue living there, you have to pay a tip to the state to say you own your home. Then the state says that if you don’t pay that gratuity for three years, the county assessor and county treasurer will take the house you’ve worked so hard for over the years and sell it at auction. And once that is done, you will no longer receive money for the paid-off home.

Seniors who have to live on a limited income and who cannot pay taxes are often evicted from their homes where they have lived for thirty, forty years or more. There are some states that do not have property taxes. If a person lives in one of those states, they are less likely to lose their home to a greedy group of politicians and bureaucrats. I suggest that the Governor and Legislature should reconsider which taxes should be cut because this is one that should be cut for the sake of the seniors who live on limited incomes and who own homes.

—Andre Snodgrass, Norman

Restore hope to dialysis patients

Last year I wrote to you about my journey as a kidney patient after my diagnosis in 2017 and I am writing to you again to call on Congresswoman Stephanie Bice to protect kidney patients like me.

Recently, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling weakened protections for dialysis patients by allowing private insurance to reduce coverage and forcing patients onto Medicare before the traditional 30-month grace period. The problem is that Medicare only covers 80% of a dialysis patient’s bill, including mine. Fortunately, I can continue to work, but I have to fight tooth and nail to pay my bills.

While I can make ends meet, not everyone can. That’s why it’s important that we help protect health insurance for dialysis patients so they can pay for the treatment they need to survive. Reducing the financial burden will keep more patients active and cheerful, which I believe improves outcomes.

Congressman Bice can protect patients like me and support the Restore Protections for Dialysis Patients Act, which would clarify the current ambiguity in the law and secure private dialysis coverage for the entire 30-month grace period.

– Darren Lyons, Oklahoma City

I remember Bob Ravitz

Unfortunately, we recently lost a good friend.

Bob Ravitz was one of the kindest and most caring people I have ever met. Every time I spoke to him, after the conversation ended, he always left me with a smile on my face. He was kind, he was funny and he was always concerned about helping others. Most importantly, he changed the lives of so many people for the better. When he saw something wrong, he fought passionately to make it right. He truly believed in justice for all.

When I think of Bob’s life, I want to draw on what was said in Robert F. Kennedy’s Eulogy: He “need not be idealized, or made greater in death than he was in life; but he is remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw evil and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw injustice and tried to stop it.

To his wife Diane, his children and his grandchild I can only say: God bless. I truly believe his early departure was because God needed his help on a much bigger project. And Bob, all I can say right now is: until we meet my friend again.

You will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.

– Mark Steenfigure, Oklahoma City

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