Legislators must back public health system In a...


February 03, 2002

Legislators must back public health system

In a legislative session with a budget fraught with huge deficiencies, advocates watch legislators struggle with [the choice of] which programs to give their attention. Crises abound, making it difficult to distinguish among programs. None is so compelling as the unraveling of Maryland's public health system that funds supports for children and adults who are vulnerable due to disability or mental illness.

Those who work in this sector know how fragile the system is and that it won't be saved by one-time-only initiatives. The costs of caring for our vulnerable citizens are on-going and critical. Without this state's long-term commitment to adequately fund and routinely increase program dollars, these programs will fail - not only the people they are intended to support, but our communities at large. These programs provide the public a safety net that is close by when families face crises.

How many people can say they have never been touched by a close friend, a neighbor, a co-worker or acquaintance whose life was shattered by the dilemma of how to support a family member whose needs are so great that nothing else is focused on? How many lost days of productivity has society experienced? Finally, it is essential to acknowledge the dedicated men and women who work in community programs for wages often below the federal poverty level. It is through them that lives are transformed and broken families healed. Collectively, Maryland's community programs for people with disabilities and mental illness have the skill to support people in communities, near families and other natural supports. They are successfully integrating people with disabilities and mental illness into competitive work and community living. The results benefit every Marylander as crises diminish and productivity increases.

Diane McComb

Severna Park

Executive Director ,

The MD Assn. of Community Services (MACS)

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