Positive news about Muslims

I extend my thanks to the Bangor Daily News for including the Aug. 17 article from MPBN, “Teacher makes Muslim students ‘comfortable.’” I thank the paper first because of all the negative news connected to the Islamic faith and this is a very positive story. I thank the paper again because this is about Maine, and a teacher who is Muslim who believes she can and is making a difference in how Muslim people and persons of color are understood in our state. Keep up this good work.

Bruce Burnham

Old Town

Improving Riverview

I found the Aug. 16 BDN editorial about “DHHS’ ever-changing plans for housing mentally ill” to be troubling. My concern is not with the department’s plans, but rather with the implied lack of purpose that they represent.

Members of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, including myself, often discuss the fact that we house forensic patients for whom the court has determined they no longer require a “hospital level of care.” The federal regulators cited this as a major problem, and it has been an impediment in regaining certification for the Riverview Psychiatric Recovery Center. Everyone agrees that we have people in Riverview who do not belong there.

I applaud the department for beginning to construct a “forensic step down facility.” It has long been necessary, and it will greatly improve the backlog of both forensic and civil admissions to Riverview. Our civil hospitals will be grateful that beds are finally opening up within the mental health system. Likewise, the courts will have increased access to Riverview for evaluations and observations, once those patients are in an independent setting.

This is a positive step and it comes on the heels of the department funding 12 additional beds at Spring Harbor this spring. Both are significant accomplishments that could only be achieved through aggressive budgetary control in the Department of Health and Human Services.

There are 14 individuals in Riverview who do not require a hospital level of care. It is appropriate to construct a facility that has the capacity to address the needs of these individuals and those patients who will be rehabilitated at some point in the future.

Rep. Richard Malaby

Hancock

Update net metering policy

As the debate around the pros and cons of “rooftop solar” energy continues in Maine, it is critical to point out that the net metering policies originally designed to spur on a fledgling industry are in fact creating a system of cross-subsidies that transfer wealth from less affluent households to more affluent ones.

Net metering is the product of an era of primitive technology, high cost solar panels and little competition. The result for solar customers is high priced solar installation costs and less than optimal technology, even in the face of declining panel costs and availability of efficient technological accoutrements. For nonsolar customers, net metering compels them to pay retail prices for wholesale energy, to pay for services to solar vendors they do not and, in some cases, cannot provide to subsidize the system costs incurred to serve solar customers.

Those are excellent reasons why it is a good thing that Maine is reconsidering its net metering policies. The state has an opportunity, in pending proceedings before the Maine Public Utilities Commission, to enable rooftop solar to take its place among our mainstream energy and clean energy resources. This can be accomplished without all of the adverse consequences of net metering. Solar panel costs are declining and customers should be able to take advantage of that opportunity.

Updating net metering policies along these lines will lead to a more sustainable growth for solar energy as well as more choices for and fairness among Maine customers.

Ashley Brown

Executive director

Harvard Electricity Policy Group

Denmark

Collins’ party allegiance not an issue

I would add to the Donald Trump and Sen. Susan Collins brouhaha that her Republicanism and conservatism are not the issue here. Maine has had a proud history of sending honest, hard-working and independent-minded representatives to serve us in Washington. The list of courageous, pragmatic doers we have elected over the years from both of our political parties and independents, such as Sen. Angus King, is a long and distinguished one.

People might recall that we had one Republican congressman (a freshman at the time) who cast a committee vote for impeachment of his party’s sitting president. Bill Cohen was able to continue to represent his party and his state during a long and distinguished career as a senator and secretary of defense.

Oddly enough, Cohen is relevant to the current issue, as recently, he came out strongly in opposition to Trump’s candidacy. I haven’t heard folks challenging Cohen’s party membership or his conservatism, perhaps because he is not a current office holder. Collins is in excellent company with many Republicans who judge Trump unfit for the presidency. I want to thank her for speaking her mind.

John Lord

Brewer

Grow public health nursing ranks

Recently, on a news-talk radio show, Gov. Paul LePage pointed out that our health care system should shift from treating disease to keeping people well. At the Maine Public Health Association, we could not agree more, which is why we believe that a strong public health nursing core is critical to public health safety in our state.

For example, during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, 50 public health nurses, employed by the state, got to work. The nurses organized and staffed vaccination clinics. They educated providers. They advised about safe vaccine handling and storage. By mobilizing public health nurses, Maine managed to vaccinate high-risk populations, such as children and seniors, at the highest rates in the nation, reducing risk of infection across the state.

This is why we are especially concerned that Maine’s public health workforce has been cut in half, resulting in increased duties and reduced presence, particularly in our rural communities. If another H1N1 outbreak or similar event occurs, will Maine fare as well? We urge the Maine Center for Disease Control to fill vacant public health nursing positions and restore the public health workforce to its full staffing potential so that we may continue to keep Mainers well.

Rebecca Boulos

Interim executive director

Maine Public Health Association

South Portland