Letters to the editor for March 15, 2013

Intervening with youth

To the Editor:

Don Heinzman’s opinion piece in the Feb. 8 edition of the Anoka County Union titled “Better Mental Health Services in Schools” made a great point about elected officials recognizing the need for more mental health professionals in the schools.

Albeit it took the horrific tragedy in Newtown, thank goodness we are finally engaging in a national discussion about what to do with at-risk youth.

However, the focus on mental health services in the school ignores two key facts.

The first fact is that not every “high risk” youth will respond to counseling.  Some youth will, but others will not.

The second fact is that schools alone cannot bear this burden because each year a youth will spend about 2,000 waking hours outside of school compared to about 1,000 hours in school.

We need to look toward youth intervention services if we want to avert future tragedies like Newtown.

Why youth intervention? Because youth intervention recognizes that each youth has unique needs and that means each youth needs individualized intervention.

Youth intervention does that. In addition to counseling programs, youth intervention also includes mentoring, conflict resolution and anger management skills development, entrepreneurial skills building, diversion, as well as after school and park and recreation activities.

Provided in a youth’s community, youth intervention programs offer their services during after school hours, weekends, as well as during winter, spring and summer breaks.

With this level of accessibility, those of us working in youth intervention programs generally get to know each youth we work with very well.

With our training, we can identify which youth we are working with may be at risk for unspeakable acts and we know what to do to prevent tragedies.

It costs about $2,000 per year for a youth to participate in a youth intervention program and the return on investment is nearly $5 for each $1 invested.

These programs work too.  According to the 2012 report on Minnesota’s youth intervention programs, 90 percent of youth do not have contact with the law while participating in the program.

Doesn’t it makes sense to look toward youth intervention in order to avoid more Sandy Hooks when its costs are a fraction of what we pay for incarceration and provide the outcomes we want for youth?

Mr. Heinzman is correct: If we get to the “at risk” youth we can help them.

But the solution cannot begin and end with better mental health services in schools. That single focus will still let too many youth “fall through the cracks” until a tragedy occurs.

Youth intervention, by providing a whole host of activities throughout the year and not using a “one size fits all” approach, has the ability to reach all youth. What we need is more youth intervention programs if we are to ensure that our children and our communities are safe.

Paul Meunier
Ham Lake,
Director of services, YIPA

Declining culture

To the Editor:

The Newtown school shootings brought up once again the discussion of why and what we do about it.

Of course. there is an immediate attack on guns in general. While there may some legitimate suggestions that the semi-automatic be limited on the capacity the ammunition clip or background checks need to improve, the problem is not the guns.

The current declining culture of the United States is at the source of the problem.

As long as this country continues to drift away from a Christian faith which was the foundation of how this country was formed, evil will grow.

As long as we have so-called Christian leaders denying the truth of the Bible and selectively quoting it for their own benefit, evil will grow.

As long as we elect officials that think it is “progressive” to kill children in the womb of a healthy woman, evil will grow.

As long as we support programs that promote the ever growing dependency on the government from generation to generation, evil will grow.

As long as we have an education system that distorts history and gets involved with issues that should only be addressed by the parents, evil will grow.

In our system of electing officials, it is the voters who put government officials into office.

The ignorant and self-serving voter bears the responsibility of the decline of our country. There are too many citizens that are lacking decrement and wisdom. Until the citizens focus on the one truth, evil will grow.

Gene Hodel
Oak Grove

Dog park problems

To the Editor:

The only person that really complains about the Trackside Dog Park in Coon Rapids is Mike Carter.

Why is it that to accommodate this person they couldn’t just move the entrance to the other end of the street at the end where the dead end is.

Then no one would be parking close to Mr. Carter’s driveway. That would give the whole block for people to park on the dog park side of the street and not in any residential.

Moving an entrance seems much more fiscally responsible than to spend $60,000 to move the whole park when you can spend a $100 bucks to move an entrance.

I go there all of the time. I don’t see waste left behind and if there is, someone else usually picks it up; if they are already picking up a pile it is not a big deal.

I think that the county could use more than one or two dog parks.

Thank you.
Gayle Gressman

Claims by legislators

To the Editor:

We were surprised by some of some of the claims made by our state GOP legislators in a recent letter to the editor.

Rep. Peggy Scott and Sens. Michele Benson and Branden Peterson made many claims in a letter misleadingly titled “Responsible Budgeting.” We feel the budget that the GOP majority enacted was neither responsible nor sustainable for the quality of life that Minnesotans deserve.

Our legislators claim that they created a budget surplus. If that is a fair and factual account of our most recent budget, the question that is arises is this, “Why is the Legislature dealing with a budget deficit today?”

In the letter, it is never mentioned that the GOP majority balanced the budget by borrowing money, by accounting gimmicks and cost shifts.

We maintain the idea of a balanced budget enacted by the GOP during its time in the majority does not appear to be within the spirit or the letter of the balanced budget requirement of the state..

Large amounts of money were borrowed from our public schools under Gov. Pawlenty and continued under the subsequent GOP control of the Legislature.

To claim that success was made by beginning to pay back our schools seems disingenuous at best. Our citizens deserve a full and fair account of the means by which our budget was balanced.

State funding for K-12 education, when adjusted for inflation, has decreased 13 percent in the last 10 years. Our local property taxes have gone up to make up the difference.

At the end of their letter they also take credit for the unemployment rate going down. We would challenge our representatives to point to any specific legislation that they enacted that has had a direct impact on unemployment rates. We contend that they would be hard pressed to do so.

We agree that the citizens ought to pay attention to numbers and should hold their elected officials accountable. We believe that they have. Voters in Minnesota saw what a Republican majority looked like in St. Paul and overwhelmingly rejected them.

So yes, pay attention over the next two years, and ask yourself, “Do we want to continue moving Minnesota forward, or return to the irresponsible budgeting of the past.”

Mel Aanerud, DFL chairperson, Senate District 31
David Hoff, DFL chairperson, Senate District 35

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