The Opinion Shop

August 1, 2014

Letters to the Editor: Mental illness, plastic bags, Hobby Lobby case, immigration, President Obama, employment, Pilot Mountain, race, parks

These letters were not published in the print edition but deserve a look.

These letters were not published in the print edition but deserve a look.


The Senate is proposing draconian changes to how people with mental illness get health care. The goal to make sure physical health care needs are met, not just mental health needs, while spending a reasonable amount of money is a good one.

How will the proposed change affect someone with schizophrenia? Someone with a thought disorder is required to go to a new company. Maybe they won’t be approved for a service that has worked for them. Perhaps the therapist and the company they have built up a trust with is no longer on the list of providers. Disruption. Chaos. Delays. Individuals may land in the emergency department, where they wait on average for more than three days.

We would never tolerate that for people who don’t have mental illnesses. People in residential care may lose their eligibility. Another risk: eliminating all kinds of services, even things like outpatient care, prescription meds and dental care.

Let’s build upon the successes we have in our publicly operated system, which has effectively delivered services while costs are contained.

NAMI NC supports the governor’s and the House’s plan to continue the successes with the capped Medicaid budget for behavioral health, while adding protections for physical health care through building on successes of our hospitals and primary care providers. Help those who live with mental illness get the health care they need by continuing our public managed care.

Deby Dihoff

Executive director, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) NC



Using the many reusable shopping bags I’ve accumulated has become second nature, but it was a habit I had to cultivate over months. I recently visited California and Colorado where grocery stores and Target charge customers for plastic and paper bags, and I was happy I had my bags with me . Target gives a 5-cent credit for using my own bags, and Whole Foods offers 10 cents for using my own bags.

I do not want my already-encased-in-plastic-and-styrofoam chicken breasts wrapped in more plastic bags! The bags are a nuisance and an eyesore as they blow across the highways and stick to tree branches and clog streams .

Adding a few cents to a purchase for plastic bags will encourage customers to remember to bring their own bags . As an experiment, I began collecting the myriad other plastic bags we accumulate in our consumer lives – bread bags, newspaper bags, plastic from toilet paper packages, plastic shrink wrap – and it was staggering how much there is! In a few short months I accumulated a massive, bigger plastic bag stuffed tightly and weighing nearly 20 pounds! I’m happy these bags won’t end up in a landfill or a river, but it’s troublesome to think how much more is out there.

Elizabeth Kozel Gottfried



I read Ross Douthat’s July 8 culture war piece “ Hobby Lobby: Why liberals need to end the culture war” and the responses. I would like to make a few things clear.

On one side of the “culture war” is our secular humanist nation. The recognition and defense of individual liberty as a birthright are the real American Revolution. It’s why we have the Statue of Liberty. This birthright applies to everyone, regardless of color, creed, sex or sexual orientation. A woman’s right to rule her own body is part of our freedom that we have fought so hard to protect. No man or religion can change that reality.

The Hobby Lobby decision was about corporate power to carve out exemptions from the ACA, not religious freedom. It could have been about Christian Scientists refusing to pay for childhood vaccinations.

Religious right-wingers need to stop complaining about having to pay for things that conflict with their personal moral code. I have to pay for war. If the anti-women’s-choice crowd cared at all about life, that’s the fight they would pick.

Jeff Hamilton



The July 12 letter “ Being neighborly” struck a humane chord on the pressing issue of the deportation of thousands of children. In just three years, the number of unaccompanied kids has risen fivefold.

President Obama is now requesting $4 billion to simply deal with the problem when it could have been tackled successfully years before in a much more cost-effective manner by securing the future of these countries at a much lesser cost to the American economy.

We need to look beyond the “immigration rule book” and realize that as long as there is widespread hunger, disease and lack of basic resources, the issue of illegal immigrants will continue to destabilize the economy.

Spending billions of dollars to send these innocent kids back to the world of neglect, gang wars and oppression is not a viable long-term solution. Better targeting our U.S. foreign aid to improve their chances of a safe, healthy and congenial atmosphere to thrive back home certainly can be one.

Himanshi Jain



The writer of the July 8 letter “ Deserved coverage” seeks unemployment compensation for illegal alien workers. It seems to me a moot point. Under federal law, it is illegal for any employer to hire, recruit or refer for a fee any alien not authorized to work in the United States. For first offenders, there is a $250-$2,000 fine per illegal employee. For a second offense, the fine is $2,000-$5,000 per illegal employee. For employers who have been convicted of hiring illegal immigrants more than twice, the fine can range from $,3000 to $10,000 per employee.

If the employer demonstrates a pervasive pattern of knowingly employing illegal immigrants, he or she could face additional fines and up to six months in jail. This does not include “harboring” illegal immigrants, or knowingly employing 10 or more illegal immigrants in one year. Harboring an illegal immigrant can lead to 10 years of prison time.

Unfortunately immigration laws are no longer enforced in this country. If the laws were enforced, these illegal aliens would never be hired and the job would go to a citizen of the United States, who would receive unemployment compensation.

Andy Maholick



Regarding the July 27 news article “ State park as private rental?”: There is, in fact, precedent for closing state park facilities to run private events.

The Rally America organization holds eight to 10 events across the country each year, almost all of which are run over closed state park and gameland roads, many with private residences.

In one case in Pennsylvania, the residents gladly either stay home during the daylong event or make arrangements elsewhere until the roads reopen. Rally cars run in excess of 100 mph throughout this event, and the last thing anyone wants is to have a race car collide with a resident’s vehicle at speed.

On the other hand, this event is a huge boon to the local economy, as both locals and out-of-towners swarm into the woods to spectate, and there usually isn’t a hotel room to be found for 20 miles around the event headquarters.

Regardless of the day of the week it is run, an event at Pilot Mountain will likely bring motorheads out of the woodwork, and these folks will all need to eat and rest their heads.

I’m inclined to go with the governor on this, whether or not the event promoters can ante up the fee.

Mike Strohmeyer


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