Saugerties Times letters (5/4-10)

Congressman Faso meets with mental health providers 

We would like to thank Representative Faso for meeting with mental health providers who live and work in District 19 on April 13 to discuss the complex and critical issue of maintaining affordable mental health services.

We discussed a number of issues including: parity (keeping mental health benefits equal to medical coverage with regard to insurance coverage and reimbursement) as well as the cost effectiveness of preventive mental health services. We shared an Impact Statement that this group compiled for Mr. Faso. Ellen Pendagar, CEO for the Mental Health Association in Ulster County, shared how studies have repeatedly shown that maintaining robust mental health services reduces significant costs to the taxpayers down the line. When services are cut, we see increases in emergency room visits, hospitalizations, late stage medical conditions, increases in incarceration, homelessness, foster care and more.

We were encouraged to hear Congressman Faso state that he is a proponent of parity. He also shared that he has a strong interest in school based services that have a mental health component. Cheryl Qamar, former Deputy Commissioner of Mental Health in Ulster County explained how school based services are an excellent delivery system as they improve access and  remove the stigma of going to a therapist or counselor to get support. Additionally, school based mental health services augment needed supports for the whole family as well as reduce the burden to schools.


In closing, we invited Mr. Faso to continue in a bi-partisan dialogue with us as there are many more issues to unpack and resolve. Therese Bimka, LCSW pointed to the profound polarization within our nation and community, suggesting we can model how to stay engaged in conversation across the aisle.

Congressman Faso indicated support for continued dialogue. We look forward to continuing this critical dialogue on the difficult issues we face as a community.

Cindy Dern, LCSW; Rev. Therese Bimka, LCSW; Cynthia Muenz, LCSW; Cheryl Qamar, LCSW; Ellen Pendegar, CEO of MHA; Martha Steuding, MH


I remember…

About 15 years ago when I was in the Legislature, A woman called me and asked for assistance concerning public transportation provided by Ulster County. She was an amputee and wanted to take the bus to Kingston to get to her job. She lived off of Partition Street on a side street. Because the side street required extra skill, the bus had a hard time reaching her residence where she would be picked up. County officials suggested that she walk to the edge of Partition Street so the bus didn’t have to make the difficult turn to pick her up. She was very frustrated about this and asked me to please help her. I did.

The County said to me, “why can’t she walk to the edge of Partition so the driver doesn’t have to negotiate that sharp turn.” I replied, “why isn’t the driver able to make the turn to pick her up near her residence?” A stupid question asked by the official as she couldn’t get there in a wheelchair and in the winter at 6 a.m. the cold was brutal and sometimes snow was piled two to three fight high making it impossible for her. This was a real problem.

Well after a few meetings with me, they agreed to try a different way of making that turn and what they insisted was impossible became reality.

So, today a lady comes into the salon, asks if I can cut her hair and I said “sure.” She looked closer at me and asked, “I know you.” I said, “OK…but I’m sorry, I don’t believe I know you.” She said, “you’re Bob Aiello, and you helped me greatly with a problem when you were a Legislator.” By the way she was sitting in a wheelchair and had one leg. Oh my God, I thought, now I remember. I really fought for that. She thanked me profusely and we had a long conversation about all of the progress she made since I had seen her all those years prior.

I was and still am stunned by today’s incident and even though being a politician brings much misery it times like this makes it all worth it.

Robert Aiello, former Legislator


Faso’s shell game

Rep. John Faso (R-Kinderhook) is perpetuating a shell game while supporting the American Healthcare Act (Trumpcare).

Under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare),those with pre-existing conditions cannot be charged more than healthy beneficiaries. Under Trumpcare, states can seek a waiver that can raises their rates. “High risk” state pools are created to offset these increases, but are often underfunded. Many will then be forced to drop their coverage and utilize emergency rooms that we all pay for. Faso’s cynical answer is to note that through NYS law, funding for people with pre-existing conditions is mandatory so we don’t have anything to worry about! He hides behind our strong state mandate as a reason for supporting the draconian Republican plan.

Faso crows about the amendment to Trumpcare that he helped to broker. The amendment, called by some the “Buffalo Bribe,” mandates the state to re-assume full fiscal responsibility for funding Medicaid in counties outside of NYC and northern suburbs. On the surface, a seemingly great tax deal for rural property owners, and a political win for him, but a loss of over 2.3 billion in state revenue. Faso’s amendment would force Albany to add2.3 billion in new state taxes to cover the shortfall, or to implement drastic cuts for our hospitals and healthcare providers, leading to diminished services for thousands of New York residents. There is no free lunch. Faso’s selective use of state mandates is a game, and we’re on to it.

Mike Harkavy


Parents beware 

In 2015 there were approximately 27 deaths by drug overdose in Ulster County; as well as 337 overdose calls to EMS and 268 incidents when Narcan (a drug that counteracts the deadly effects of opioids) was administered. Last year at least 26 people died by overdose, according to the Ulster Coalition against Narcotics.

Over 50% of Ulster County High School seniors report that they have tried an illicit drug, 58% report that they have tried marijuana — (NYS Youth Development Survey).

Over the last three years the drug arrests for 16 to 21 year olds in Ulster County has increased dramatically. We now hold the dubious distinction of being the county with the highest rate of youthful drug arrests in New York State outside of NYC, says  the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Prevention hasn’t worked. Parents are basically on their own when it comes to protecting their children from drugs. Some key warning signs for adolescent drug use are: changing friends, falling grades, losing interest in previously favored activities, unreasonable demands for privacy and overly guarded cell phone and internet use.

However, these signs typically indicate that the teen has gone beyond experimenting with drugs and is using on a regular basis. There is a desperate need to help parents detect drug use in their children before it gets to that point.

Follicle drug screening may be the answer. It analyzes hair and can detect prior drug use for 3 months. However, it’s a little pricy and your going to have an argument about doing it with your teen, especially if he or she has experimented with something. However, both the price and the argument are worth it when one considers the cost and pain of addiction.

Thomas Kadgen


Decline of unions

Many Americans who voted for Trump, as well as many who did not, want to see job growth in America. Specifically, people say they want to see manufacturing jobs come back to this country, pointing out, correctly, that those mid-century manufacturing jobs contributed mightily to the growth and stability of the middle class. They are not wrong. But what frequently is neglected is the fact that the jobs, in and of themselves, were not solely responsible for sustaining the middle class, allowing people to own their own homes, feed and care for their families, send their children to college, take a vacation now and again and enjoy a financially secure retirement.


Part of what made those manufacturing jobs great was the strength and power of unions. Unions fought for benefits, unions fought for rising wages, unions fought to keep jobs and protect pensions. In recent years, unionism has declined steadily and so have the conditions of most American workers. As corporations seek to reward shareholders with plush quarterly returns, the drive for profits pushes management to cut hours, depress wages, eliminate benefits and end pensions for workers, making manufacturing jobs little better than minimum wage jobs.

Given the decline of unionism and the rise of deceptively named “right to work” states, if those manufacturing jobs do come back, they won’t be the same high paying jobs with generous benefits and pensions. Manufacturers shipped their jobs off shore expressly to avoid incurring the costs of a well-paid work force. Americans who think Trump’s promise to bring jobs back to American will bring back the halcyon days of a stable and rising middle class will be disappointed. Those jobs will not be the same well paid, benefit enhanced, union protected, pensioned jobs of the past. Corporations in 21st century America are dedicated to profits for their executives and their shareholders. Employees will be merely a means to that end.

Deidre J. Byrne


Some people litter; some people pick it up

I wrote a letter to the editor several weeks ago regarding the accumulating garbage on Saugerties roadways. No sooner had I submitted my letter than orange bags began appearing on the roadsides; a cleanup was underway. Yikes! I thought, better retract that letter lest you seem the ingrate. A hasty retraction occurred (thank you editors) and I decided to see how far the cleanup would go. Concurrently, I noticed similar efforts in various communities across the Hudson Valley, all done to coincide with Earth Day.

My sincere thanks to all who participated in these cleanup operations, and if more work is being planned, my thanks in advance.

That said, I would like to propose an idea: let’s just pick up garbage, as a matter of course, all year round, not just once a year in April. The roads where cleanup was done look markedly better, but there is new garbage out there and plenty of old garbage yet to be removed. My friend Colleen calls it: “Going on a litter pluck.”

So, if you are able, and have just enough OCD and civic-mindedness to motivate you, let your freak flag fly and get out there and pluck some litter. I resigned myself to this fact long ago: it is a world easier to simply pick up someone else’s trash than to try to shift the consciousness of one who does such things. Why do people pitch garbage from their cars? That is a question with a multitude of potential answers and one which I do not have the patience or time to negotiate. Some people litter; some people pick it up. Be one who picks it up. It’s good for the soul, it’s good for the environment, and it’s good for our town.

Joanna Driscoll Hanson


Junior post prom thanks

The Saugerties Junior Post Prom Committee wishes to thank the following for their generous support and contribution to the Saugerties Junior Post Prom Party held on April 21, 2017: Rob Houtman — Saugerties Bowlers Club; Stewart’s Ice Cream Shop; Sue’s Pizza; Hungry Bambino’s Pizza; Stone Pony, John Mullen & Sons, Inc.; Grant D. Morse PTA; Helsmoortel Realty, Inc.; Timberwall Construction; Charlton Precision Products, Inc.; Mickey’s Igloo3; Lox of Bagels; Dunkin’ Donuts; Subway; Kiwanis Ice Arena, Girls Community Club. They help make this community great.

Special thanks to the wonderful PTSA volunteers who made this event so successful, enjoyable and fun: Amanda, Bonnie, Brenda, Carol, Gwenda, Jamie, Kelly, Keyana, Nadine, Ramona, Valerie and the many loving and supportive friends and family.  Sincere thanks to Tom and Kathy Averill and Mr. Hirsch.

Saugerties Junior Post Prom Committee


Hope for addicts

On Wednesday, April 26, there was a presentation and panel discussion held at Ulster County Community College which highlighted the coordinated effort against the opiate-based addiction crises that plagues Ulster County. The Ulster County Legislature’s UCAN Committee has been involved in this effort against the opiate addiction crises along with other elected officials on the County, State and local-levels and members of local law enforcement. In addition, there have been other invaluable contributions from members of the medical health and mental health fields along with assistance from volunteer-based groups that target the nature of addiction cycle and the processes required in order to facilitate awareness and healing from the throngs of addiction.

Dr. Raymond Harvey from the Institute for Family Health in New Paltz and Kingston spoke about the bio-chemical science and processes involved within the human body and mind that make addiction recovery a continual task. Dr. Harvey explained how the pain and pleasure centers within the human brain are damaged from any type of continual addiction that people engage in, and he displayed the MRI-enhanced images of human brains from people who had partaken in various addictive-based activates such as overeating, alcohol abuse and opiate-based abuse.

Dr. Harvey demonstrated how the images of healthy brains differed from the images of damaged brains and how the images of brains return back to normal after 14 months of perpetual sobriety. Locally, Dr. Harvey has been the catalyst behind the training and certification of hundreds of people from the area community on how to administer Narcan (Naloxone) to addicts who have overdosed from opiate-based drugs. If administered correctly, Narcan has the ability to bring overdosed addicts back to life which gives them a second chance at recovery. Numerous County Legislators around Ulster County promoted training-based events where local residents were trained by Doctor Harvey on the administration of Narcan. My fellow Saugerties legislators Mary Wawro (who is a member of UCAN), Dean Fabiano and I all participated in the Narcan training session at the Saugerties Senior Center in 2016. Unfortunately, Dr. Harvey is moving to Sweden, and his invaluable contributions in the battle against the opiate-based addiction crises will be sorely missed!

The event at UCCC on the 26th demonstrated how there is hope for those who are afflicted by addiction and for their family members and loved ones, as this coordinated bipartisan effort has resulted in State Laws being changed in order for Narcan and other opiate-blocking -based drugs to be made more readily available and for the admittance into addiction recovery programs to be more accessible. Unfortunately more work needs to be done in this area, as some insurance companies still do not cover immediate entrance into addiction recovery programs upon first request.

Chris Allen, Ulster County Legislature