Jail is not a solution for addiction

The Maine Legislature recently voted to move forward on LD 966, An Act Regarding Persons with Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders in Jails and Correctional Facilities.

This bill begins to address our state’s great need for improved services for people with mental illness and substance-use disorders in the criminal justice system through required assessment and data collection.

While LD 966 may represent the first step in changing the way we approach mental health in the criminal justice system, it fails to meet the dire need of the thousands of incarcerated individuals currently struggling with these issues.

Though the opioid crisis and the mistreatment of youth at Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland are in the headlines, immediate action and legislation are needed.

This is a call to action to fund community mental health services that will prevent unnecessary death and incarceration.

Our state’s prisons can no longer serve as the answer to mental health and substance-use disorder. Each year, thousands of Mainers who desperately need mental health services sit in jail, and instead of receiving support and rehabilitation, they face lengthy sentences. It is time to end the stigma around mental health and substance-use disorder and for our Legislature to take the lead in meeting the needs of our state’s most vulnerable and marginalized.

Nina Frank Williams

Apologies to Islesboro ferry crew

Regarding the alleged threats against the crew of the Islesboro ferry, I think the Maine Department of Transportation commissioner should have proceeded with a little more caution before issuing his inflammatory threat to shut our ferry down.

When I first heard the uproar about threats against the ferry crew, I thought, “what kind of idiot would do such a thing?” It turns out, it may have been me.

When I read the commissioner’s letter outlining the threats, I was dumbfounded.

A few days ago, I jokingly asked if they gave the ferry workers bullet proof vests, and stated that people are angry about the ferry situation with the fare hikes and that I hoped they weren’t taking it out on the ferry crew. I was trying to convey my support for the crew, as they work very hard and have to put up with a lot of grief quite often. I hoped they were not being verbally abused, as they are obviously not part of the decision-making process. My words were apparently greatly misinterpreted, and for that, I sincerely apologize.

On Thursday, as soon as I saw the letter, I conveyed my apologies to the commissioner’s office, the town manager, the public safety officer and some of the ferry staff.

I understand that another person who made a comment that was misinterpreted as a threat has also apologized. Therefore, I believe there were never any actual threats made, and I sincerely hope that no one on the ferry crew, or on either side of this issue, fears for their safety.

David Mahan

Give proficiency learning a chance

I urge Maine lawmakers to keep the proficiency-based high-school diploma law and not go the optional route.

I taught for 36 years, 25 in midcoast Maine. I saw schools reach for every new shiny program that purported to improve student proficiency. New approaches weren’t given enough time before another was adopted. As an aside, I’ll point out that research has found that more than the method, it’s the good teacher who makes the difference to students. Thank you to the Legislature for not opting to lower teacher certification standards.

So let’s maintain student graduation standards. If school districts struggle, let’s provide assistance. Using common academic standards and proficiency-based diplomas is an approach that can benefit all students — and the state — but making it work means time to adjust instruction and to develop and improve assessments. Graduating seniors should have proficiency in English, math, science, technology and social studies.

We live in complex times, and today’s young people need as much preparation as possible to be successful and to be informed citizens. Accommodations should be made for special-education students, but overall, standards matter. Let’s maintain current student graduation standards.

Susan Vaughan
St. George

Diplomats valuable public servants

As someone who retired from the U.S. Department of State after more than 30 years of service, and as a resident of Orrington, I am proud to have been a member of the U.S. Foreign Service. But I’m continually surprised at how little is generally known about America’s diplomats. We serve at 270 posts around the world, often in hard and sometimes dangerous places, working to protect America’s people, interests and values.

In 1996, the Senate designated the first Friday in May as American Foreign Service Day. It is on this day that members of the Foreign Service around the world and here at home come together to recognize and celebrate the thousands of people who commit their lives to serving the U.S. abroad and the impact their work has on us all. This year, that day is May 4. This week is therefore an ideal time for anyone interested in what diplomats do and why it’s important, to learn more about the 16,000-member-strong U.S. Foreign Service.

I consider myself lucky that my colleagues are hard at work around the world, constantly seeking to promote U.S. policies, level the playing field for U.S. businesses, open markets for U.S. agriculture, assist U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad with both emergency and nonemergency services, protect U.S. borders, and achieve wins for America. With all the threats to U.S. security and prosperity out there, I hope my fellow citizens appreciate the Foreign Service and agree that, in order to maintain American global leadership, we must field a top-notch diplomatic team, or risk forfeiting the game to our adversaries.

Ellen Conway