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NH Senate Battles Over State Budget, Slashes Funding For DCYF, Drug Treatment And Kindergarten

Last night, the New Hampshire State Senate was burning the midnight oil as Senators battled over the State’s budget.  After 11pm last night, the Republicans pushed through their budget along party lines (14-9).  Along with cuts to drug treatment programs, funding for full day kindergarten, and DCYF, the budget is a massive tax giveaway to the wealthiest in our state.  Republicans also rejected a budget amendment to ensure low-income families would still be able to access healthcare through low cost options like Planned Parenthood.

“This budget creates an artificial, trumped-up surplus to sell the biggest Republican ruse of all, that slashing taxes for the rich will grow revenues and improve the lives of poor, middle-class people,” said Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Jeff  Woodburn (D-Whitefield). “The reality is that this budget props up the wealthiest 1% in our state and kowtows to the most conservative 5% in the House.

“Throughout every step of this process, Senate Democrats have been clear that we are willing to work with our Republican colleagues toward a bipartisan, fiscally responsible budget that works for everyone, not just those at the top. But the right-wing budget passed this evening is purely a political document and fails to adequately address the challenges and needs of our state,” added Woodburn.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley told the Concord Monitor, “We find ourselves doing as much as we can while protecting taxpayers and growing our economy.”  This is essentially the same argument the Trump administration is using to justify massive cuts to the Federal Budget and to justify cutting taxes on the people who pay the most in taxes.

The Governor’s budget undercuts the alcohol fund which is key in combatting the opioid crisis. Tym Rourke, Chair of the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol & Drug Abuse, said yesterday that the additional dollars directed toward the alcohol fund are deceptive, and could be diverted elsewhere, forcing treatment and prevention programs to scramble for resources. Sununu’s uprooting of opioid funds is similar to the Trump budget, which cuts money from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, slashes drug prevention funding by 11%, cuts Medicaid funding in half, and cuts $400 million in substance use disorder and mental health funding.

In addition to underfunding the fight against opioids, Sununu’s Senate budget does nothing to avoid tuition hikes at community colleges and state universities, dedicates no funding toward job training of Community Mental Health Centers, and stops short of providing adequate funding to the Department of Children, Youth & Families and the developmental disability program. Most surprisingly, the Senate Republicans refused to spend even a dollar in the budget on the popular full-day kindergarten program.

The underfunding of key programs for New Hampshire’s working families and most vulnerable citizens are designed to make room for $216 million in business tax cuts in the next 4 years. After 12 years of Democratic leadership in the corner office, New Hampshire has the third-lowest unemployment rate in the country and was rated the number one state in America for economic opportunity by US News.

“What it comes down to is that budgets are about priorities and the priorities laid out in the Senate Republican budget do not match those of hard working Granite Staters,” added Sen. Dan Feltes (D-Concord). “This budget fails to include job training programs that would boost our workforce and close our skills gap, breaks promises made to our retirees and increases health care costs for our seniors, and doesn’t invest in full-day kindergarten, something necessary to closing the opportunity gap and attracting and keeping young working families in New Hampshire. The budget fails to adequately address DCYF and child safety. It also fails to adequately address our mental health crisis in the short-term, nor does it make the cost-effective investments that will prevent the crisis from expanding; including in childhood mental health. Quite simply, this budget fails to meet the critical and time-sensitive challenges we face.”

“A budget based on incorrect, deflated revenue estimates is one that needlessly discards invaluable resources for New Hampshire’s most needy. The budget is the bill that impacts every person in New Hampshire and is the most important piece of legislation that we vote on. While the budget approved today makes steps in the right direction, it simply leaves too many needs unmet,” said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro (D-Manchester). “This budget fails to fully fund full-day kindergarten, fails to fully fund our efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, and fails to adequately meet the needs of those suffering from mental illness. The people of New Hampshire deserve better than what was passed in the Senate today.”

Among the highly contested sections of the budget was severe cut to Planned Parenthood funding. The Senate ultimately rejected an amendment to keep Planned Parenthood’s doors open in the event of a federal “defund.” A federal “defund” of Planned Parenthood, as proposed by the Trump Administration, would block Medicaid patients from receiving care. This move, if passed in Washington, would be immediate, giving no time for budget writers to come back to the table to find a New Hampshire solution to funding.

The amendment was proposed by Senator Feltes (D-Concord), and was an opportunity to ensure that there is continuity of care for patients if Planned Parenthood is “defunded” at the federal level. Currently,  New Hampshire consistently ranks one of the top healthy states in the nation, with one of the lowest teen pregnancy and STI rates in the country, and excellent maternal health outcomes. This contingency amendment aimed to keep that enviable status by using state Medicaid dollars to protect federal losses in the event of a federal “defund”.  Also speaking on behalf of this amendment were Senator Soucy and Senator Hennessey.

“The Congressional Budget Office estimated that most of the federal savings from eliminating Planned Parenthood would be offset by the high-risk, high-cost of unintended pregnancies which would result in additional Medicaid births. Because many of those patients won’t be able to find another provider, taking away cancer screenings and preventive care will only drive the costs up in other parts of our health care spending. Furthermore, since our state currently uses Medicaid funds to purchase coverage through Medicaid managed care and premium assistance – there wouldn’t be any additional cost for these capitated rates, while there would be the very important benefit of maintaining continuity of care for thousands of Planned Parenthood patients,” said Senator Dan Feltes.

In addition to providing quality care for many Granite Staters, Planned Parenthood’s services are also extremely cost effective, as every dollar spent on publicly-funded contraception saves more than $7 in other costs. Ensuring that Planned Parenthood stays part of New Hampshire’s health care system helps prevent unintended pregnancies and STI occurrences.

The amendment was rejected by a partisan vote of 14-9.

“We’re grateful for the efforts of State Senators to protect the health of people who rely on Planned Parenthood for lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control and other needed health care in New Hampshire. However we’re deeply disappointed that Senate Republicans took a partisan approach which could result in disruption of access to reproductive care. We will continue to strive for a bipartisan approach to protecting women’s health and rights,” said Jennifer Frizzell, Vice President for Public Policy for Planned Parenthood of New England.

“Last night’s vote comes as politicians in Congress are threatening the health and lives of millions of people across the country who rely on Planned Parenthood. We applaud the efforts of our state legislators to help shield  our patients in New Hampshire, yet the health and well-being of millions of people across the country still hangs in the balance. If members of Congress do not abandon this attack, it will be nothing short of a health care disaster,” Frizzell added.

Senate Democrats added their distain for this attack on women’s health providers.

“It’s a disturbing reality that in 2017, women in the United States, and now in New Hampshire, continue to play defense against constant efforts to restrict access to the healthcare services that women need to lead safe, healthy and independent lives,” said Senator Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth). “As Republicans in Washington explicitly target major women’s healthcare providers like Planned Parenthood for elimination, there is significant, substantiated anxiety that women are in imminent danger of losing access to the affordable, high quality and preventative health services that clinics like Planned Parenthood provide.”

“When Republican members of the all-male, Senate Finance Committee introduced an amendment on the final day of deliberation in executive committee, without first holding a public hearing, to codify a state-level version of the Hyde amendment to prohibit the use of state funds for diversion to reproductive healthcare clinics, they made clear their intent to promote their personal and political ideology at the expense of women’s health,” said Senator Martha Hennessey (D-Hanover). “This is especially clear given that it is already established in practice that no federal or state funds in New Hampshire are used to cover abortion services. The ulterior intent of the amendment is clear: it is to send a message that Senate Republicans do not value or intend to preserve the lifesaving services that Planned Parenthood provides to the women of New Hampshire.”

“These efforts to defund and restrict access to Planned Parenthood are not only unconstitutional, they also disproportionately impact low income women, women of color, young people and immigrants who rely on Medicaid for their healthcare coverage,” added Senator Donna Soucy (D-Manchester). “In Manchester alone, upwards of 5,000 women utilize Planned Parenthood’s services, including physical exams, cancer screenings, family planning resources and STI testing and treatment. These clinics are invaluable to New Hampshire families and our communities. Given the uncertainty in Washington, we should be doing all that we can to assure the thousands of women who rely on these services that their care will not falter.”

“We find it disturbing that our Republican colleagues not only doubled down on their efforts to deny women’s healthcare coverage, they triple and quadrupled down on it with every subsequent amendment to restrict access,” said Senator Bette Lasky (D-Nashua). “While I respect that this is a contentious issue open to debate and disagreement, these amendments should have gone through the proper, public process, not introduced in the late hours of the night as we take our final votes on the budget.”

Granite State Rumblings: Raising Grandchildren & Finding The Perfect Book For A Child This Holiday Season

A few weeks ago Every Child Matters in NH hosted our first Children’s Policy Summit. We took a look at the effect the opiate crisis is having on Granite State children. 

One of the sessions focused on the rising numbers of grandfamilies in our state (grandparents as the primary caregivers of their grandchildren). This is not an issue that is exclusive to New Hampshire. The rise in the number of grandfamilies is also being seen in Maine and throughout the country as well.

Here is an article on this issue that I hope you will find of value and share with grandfamilies you may know.

Grandfamilies: the Health Challenges of Raising Grandchildren

Michael O. Schroeder, U.S.News & World Report

With an opioid abuse epidemic raging, many children of parents addicted to prescription painkillers or heroin, or whose parents have died from overdosing on the powerful drugs, are now being cared for by their grandparents. That’s contributed significantly to a rise in so-called grandfamilies: As of last year, 2.9 million children in the U.S. were living with grandparents who were responsible for their care, according to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ news service Stateline. That’s up from 2.5 million in 2005.

There are many other reasons a grandparent may end up needing to be a full-time caretaker for a grandchild, too. They include parental death from any cause, incarceration, mental illness, physical illness, divorce, homelessness, military deployment or having teenage parents, says Jaia Peterson Lent, deputy executive director at District of Columbia-based Generations United, a national nonprofit that seeks to improve the lives of children and older people, with an emphasis on connecting the generations. “There are also cases where parents need to move elsewhere for employment but do not have resources to bring the children with them,” she says. 

The Loss of a Parent

While some children experience the permanent loss of a parent though death, many others suffer trauma and loss in another way: They’ve lost access to their parents in their day-to-day lives for reasons ranging from imprisonment to addiction, says Susan Neely-Barnes, a professor and interim chair of the department of social work at the University of Memphis. Often, children dealing with the difficult transition face mental health challenges, such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse. “The grandparents are taking on more responsibility than what we as biological parents have to deal with often,” says Neely-Barnes, who has studied the health-related quality of life impact of grandparents taking on a custodial, or parenting, role.

Grandparents are also often grieving the loss of their own adult child — or the life they’d envisioned for their son or daughter — Lent says, and struggling with having to forgo the traditional grandparent role. “Whenever you envision a grandparent, you get to spoil a child, you get to provide the cookies and the candy, not be the disciplinarian,” she says.

The demands of parenting can take a toll on grandparents’ well-being, according to research on custodial grandparents. Custodial grandparents experience increased stress and depression, compared with non-custodial grandparents, and physical health problems as well, Neely-Barnes says. “For most relative caregivers, kinship care is usually unplanned, it’s in a crisis and it’s by default,” says Joseph Crumbley, a family therapist in private practice specializing in kinship care who is based in Philadelphia, since the birth parents aren’t around or able to take care of their children. That can lead many relative caregivers to feel overwhelmed, Crumbley says. While grandparent caregivers are usually under age 65, they’re still older than typical biological parents, so the physical and mental rigors of parenting can be harder to handle, he adds.

A Healthy Family

The range of stressors ranges from financial difficulty to housing concerns — is there enough space for a child? — and challenging relationship dynamics with parents can add to the strain, Crumbley says. To lessen the burden, experts advise grandparents take the following steps to preserve their health, while improving their ability to care for a child:

Be open in discussing challenges. Some grandparents may be embarrassed to acknowledge that they’re taking care of their children’s children, says Carolyn Graff, chief of nursing at the Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis — such as in circumstances where a grown child is incarcerated or facing other potentially sensitive issues. But by acknowledging it, she says, grandparents can more clearly communicate their needs.

Find support and get answers. You may find family or someone you’re just getting to know who’s also raising a grandchild provides a sympathetic ear and helpful counsel. “There’s a wonderful network of support groups across the country of other grandparents and other relatives that have stepped into this role,” Lent says. Connect online, or for local options to access grandfamily support groups, call Generations United: 202-289-3979. In some states, you can also access kinship navigator programs through which caregivers can connect with advocates, such as a social worker or trained case manager, who provide relatives caring for children with information, resources and referrals to other experts. This can help in navigating an array of areas, from making health care- and education-related decisions to understanding the implications of having legal custody, or not having custody, of a child. Generations United provides a list of kinship navigator programs.

Access financial resources. Grandparents and other family can serve a critical role in caring for kids when parents aren’t able to. But caregivers often neglect their own needs to take care of the child, Lent says. When children come into the care of relatives, along with chronic stress and depression, some relative caregivers experience physical illness that goes unchecked, like high blood pressure, she says. Particularly when money and time are tight, grandparent caregivers are more likely to forgo filling prescriptions or seeing the doctor, says Graff, who’s done research on custodial caregivers. Experts say that makes it all the more important that they access available support and financial resources, as needed.

In some instances, where a child has been removed from a parent’s custody by the state, a relative may consider applying to become a licensed foster parent for the child — though that’s not an option in all states. “It’s an extensive process,” Lent says. But those who are licensed foster parents receive a foster care payment to help with the cost of caring for a child, as well as getting connected with support services, while agreeing to state involvement, like home inspections. In the majority of instances, grandparents caring for grandkids do so outside the formal foster care system. Those in financial need may consider applying for community support or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; though significantly less than foster care payments, this governmental funding is available in all states. “Some states take the relative’s income into consideration,” Lent says, regarding TANF funding. “Most states, however, provide the ‘child-only’ grant, which does not consider the relative’s income.”

Talk to your doctor. Whether you’ve put your health on the back burner or are concerned you can’t afford your own pricey medication given the high cost of caring for a child, Graff recommends telling your health provider about your role as a caregiver. That way you can discuss your constraints and concerns to find workable solutions — from taking a generic medication, where a safe effective alternative to an expensive brand-name drug is available, to making sensible lifestyle changes that fit within a busy schedule to accommodate time-intensive caretaking responsibilities.

Crumbley emphasizes that relative caregivers prioritize their mental and physical health not only for themselves, but to properly care for children. “One of the things that we have to constantly remind relative caregivers is that they’ve got to be OK for the children to be OK,” he says. “We’re starting to see some research that’s suggesting that the more depressed relative caregivers are, the more difficult it is for them to access services and to meet the needs of the children. So we’re definitely seeing a correlation between mental health of the relative caregivers with the quality in care and access of services for the children that are in their care.”

Take a beat for yourself. Whether you contact a professional or organization that provides respite care, or get a hand from a family member or friend, find someone you trust who can care for the child occasionally, so that you can take a break. Just as downtime is good for a child, experts say it’s equally crucial for caregivers. “It can be just a couple of hours,” Lent says. “But that needs to be something that you prioritize and plan for as a caregiver to make sure that you’re preserving your own health.”

GROWING UP GRANITE

Looking for the perfect gift for that special kid? Here are some suggestions from our friends at The Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF).

CLiF maintains a database of books recommended by our advisory board and program staff. Our lists are designed to appeal to young readers of all ages, abilities, and interests.

Our book list is now publicly available, searchable, and contains ISBN codes and Lexile reading measures.

Search the full book list here.

Or, scan below for reading level and interest group and click to find some of our top choices on our Pinterest boards.

We constantly update book lists with new titles, reissues of classics, award winners, popular books at CLiF giveaways, and books we find through initiatives like #weneeddiversebooks. If there’s a title you think we should add, let us know. 

PICTURE AND BOARD BOOKS

Books for reading together, looking at pictures, and reading independently. Board books are specifically for babies and toddlers; most picture books are appropriate for children from newborn through elementary school.

EASY READER

Books designed for children learning to read.

EARLY CHAPTER

Books for children who have started reading independently. Encompasses a wide range of interests and abilities. Many of these are also great read-aloud books.

CHAPTER / MIDDLE GRADE

High interest books for kids who are able readers. Includes several read-aloud classics.

AWARD WINNERS

Every year national organizations and states recognize the best books published in various categories. Here are links to a few major awards, including New Hampshire and Vermont’s student choice awards.

  • Newbery Medal and Honor – Awarded by the American Library Association for excellence in children’s literature, traditionally middle-grade
  • National Book Award for Young People’s Literature – Awarded by the National Book Association for excellence in children’s literature, often middle-grade or young adult
  • Coretta Scott King Book Awards – Awarded by the American Library Association for excellence in writing, illustration, and new talent for African American authors and illustrators
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award – Vermont’s state award for excellence in literature, chosen by students. Traditionally middle-grade
  • Great Stone Face Award – New Hampshire’s state award for excellence in literature, chosen by students. Traditionally middle grade
  • Caldecott Medal and Honor – Awarded by the American Library Association for excellence in illustration
  • Red Clover Award – Vermont’s state award for picture books, chosen by students
  • Ladybug Award –  New Hampshire’s state award for picture books, chosen by students

Happy Reading and Gift Giving!


All of us at Every Child Matters would like to wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with you, for you, and beside you this past year. We could not do our work without the support of each and every one of you.  We will be back with new editions of Granite State Rumblings and Maine Musings in January.

As you think of end of the year giving, we hope that you will consider making a donation to Every Child Matters.

Thank You and Happy New Year!


More False Attacks From Kelly Ayotte’s Special Interest Backers

Kelly Ayotte’s Discredited Washington Special Interest Backers Launch More Desperate and Completely Baseless Attacks

CONCORD – Kelly Ayotte’s discredited Washington special interest backers launched two new baseless attack ads, continuing their vile and false efforts to politicize the heroin and opioid epidemic while also misleading Granite Staters about Governor Hassan’s record of leading the fight to strengthen mental health services in New Hampshire.    

The National Republican Senatorial Committee – which Kelly Ayotte continues to fundraise with as recently as this week – has previously come under fire in New Hampshire for its false attacks politicizing the heroin and opioid crisis. NHPR reported that “the [NRSC’s] ad generated concerns in drug-treatment and recovery circles,” while the Concord Monitor reported that New Hampshire’s recovery community was “disturbed” by the ad, with one substance misuse advocate saying “Frankly, I’m horrified by it.” 

And when it comes to the false attacks regarding New Hampshire Hospital, the contract was approved in a unanimous vote by the bipartisan Executive Council and the Concord Monitor reported, “Riverbend Community Mental Health CEO Peter Evers said he met with state officials Wednesday and was assured there are no empty beds at New Hampshire Hospital. ‘I absolutely take them at their word that they have adequate staff.’”   

“Kelly Ayotte’s discredited Washington special interest backers will do anything to try to protect their reliable vote in the Senate, including launching false attacks politicizing the heroin and opioid crisis that have been called ‘disgusting,’ ‘trash,’ and ‘exactly what is wrong with politics,’ said Maggie for NH Communications Director Aaron Jacobs. “The fact that Kelly Ayotte would continue to fundraise with a group that has launched ads that have ‘horrified’ substance misuse advocates on the front lines of combating the heroin and opioid crisis speaks volumes about Ayotte’s record of putting her special interest backers before the people of New Hampshire.”

The facts about Governor Maggie Hassan’s bipartisan leadership to combat the heroin and opioid crisis:

When Kelly Ayotte’s special interest backers previously ran false ads politicizing the heroin and opioid crisis, The Nashua Telegraph called the attacks “trash” and “the worst kind of electioneering,” and pointed out that Ayotte’s special interest backers don’t care “a whit about New Hampshire or its people.” Substance misuse recovery advocates and law enforcement decried the NRSC’s previous attack ads on the crisis, highlighting Governor Hassan’s strong leadership while calling the ad “despicable” and saying they were “appalled.”    

The truth is, Governor Hassan has worked to ensure that those on the front lines have the tools they need to combat the heroin and opioid crisis since she entered office. She’s implementing a comprehensive state strategy that includes supporting law enforcement and expanding drug courts. She’s also secured millions of dollars in additional funding for treatment, recovery and prevention and re-authorized the state’s Medicaid expansion plan, which is critical to providing access to treatment. And New Hampshire has seen a 25% increase in state-funded treatment beds.

The facts about the Governor’s bipartisan record of leading the fight to strengthen mental health services in New Hampshire: 

The state’s contract with Dartmouth-Hitchcock was unanimously approved by the bipartisan Executive Council and went through the procurement process mandated by state law. Dartmouth-Hitchcock has been clear that the announced upcoming layoffs will not affect their legal obligation and responsibility to meet the critical personnel needs of the contract, and the state will ensure that Dartmouth-Hitchcock is held accountable to their responsibilities under this contract. 

Governor Hassan has focused on mental health treatment throughout her time in office, including significantly increasing funding to revitalize the state’s community-based mental health care system and passing and reauthorizing New Hampshire’s bipartisan Medicaid expansion that is already providing mental health care to thousands of Granite Staters. 

Meanwhile, Kelly Ayotte has a long record of votes that would hurt New Hampshire’s mental health system. Ayotte has repeatedly voted to repeal New Hampshire’s bipartisan Medicaid expansion that provides coverage – including for mental health services – to over 50,000 Granite Staters. Ayotte has also sided with the Koch Brothers and voted for funding measures that would have slashed funding for mental health services, including support for a 2011 CR that would have cut $200 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration.

(Featured image by Gage Skidmore, FLIKR) 

At House Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing, Kuster Highlights Efforts to Improve Health Care for Veterans

Kuster discussed legislation to reduce opioid use among veterans, increase hiring of veterans in VA medical facilitieskuster

(Washington, DC) – Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and the lead Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, took part in a hearing to discuss healthcare for veterans at the VA and how to improve access to care. The hearing focused on “The Commission on Care and the Future of the VA Healthcare System” a report mandated by the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act (VACAA) of 2014. 

During her statement, Kuster highlighted two pieces of legislation that would advance improvements to access to healthcare and treatment for veterans. Kuster discussed the Helping Our Veterans With Chronic Pain and Opioid Addiction Actwhich would establish pilot programs to facilitate the coordination of care and case management to veterans in need of chronic pain management, including veterans suffering from opioid dependency. Kuster specifically pointed out that past reliance on certain metrics for addressing pain had led to increased prescribing of opioids and that her legislation would encourage alternative methods of pain treatment.

Kuster also highlighted the Grow Our Own Directive: Physician Assistant Employment and Education Act of 2015 which would create a pilot program within the VA to provide educational assistance to former medics and corpsmen for education and training as physician assistants in the VA. 

You can watch Congresswoman Kuster’s full remarks here.

 

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