Young families are not alone

As the Caribou chief of police and a member of both the Maine Children’s Trust and Aroostook Council for Healthy Families boards of directors, I would like to echo comments in the BDN’s recent guest column by Dr. Todd Landy and Education Commissioner Pender Makin.

Parenting is the hardest and most rewarding job. Today’s novel and unprecedented social distancing and home schooling requirements are challenging parents in ways we never envisioned.

Children and families are more isolated than ever before. This is a time of increased stress, especially for parents of babies and toddlers. We must be vigilant in our support for families in ways that strengthen outcomes for their children.

Overall, crime is down in our state. And while many of the calls for help my colleagues and I typically deal with daily have decreased, the one area which has increased is calls involving family conflict, which, if left unchecked, can lead to violence.

Law enforcement has responded in many ways to support families in our communities in meeting their daily needs by dropping off food, supplies and medicines, and also checking in and seeing if parents need anything else. Often they just need a listening ear.

There are additional resources available through our statewide Maine Families home visiting program and all of the local prevention councils in every county. Professionals at the Aroostook Council for Healthy Families support parents of young children by offering virtual 1:1 parent supports, as well as virtual parent support groups.

Now, more than ever, young families need to know that they are not alone, and we all want to help them be the best parents possible for their children.

Michael Gahagan

Chief of Police


Caged fish capital?

The Belfast City Council is advocating for the advancement of the state review of Nordic Aquafarms during the pandemic. As the world better understands risks of viruses and diseases, Nordic’s giant fish factory should have full environmental, disease and mercury assessments. Massive monocultures, where fish never see the light of day, can be breeding grounds for resistant diseases and funguses, which could threaten Penobscot Bay.

Diseases found at salmon factories include amoebic gill disease, poxvirus, pancreas disease, bacterial kidney disease, cardiomyopathy syndrome, pasteurella skyensis and the list goes on. In an expose on Scotland’s fish farms, Rob Edwards reported for the Ferret on June 27, 2018, inspectors found that sampled fish had “severe lice damage to their heads” and a “high lice burden.” They also found “no eyes,” “gross haemorrhaging,” “deformed hearts,” “enlarged spleens,” “anorexia,” “necrotic” gills and “yellow pseudo faeces.”

Beyond diseases, the industry journal Undercurrents reported on March 2 that Norwegian land-based salmon farmer Atlantic Sapphire, lost about 227,000 fish at their facility in Hvide Sande, Denmark.The cause is thought to be a nitrogen spike. In 2017, the same facility lost 250 metric tons of fish in a mass die-off.

Instead of going from the ” Chicken Capital” to the “Caged Fish Capital,” Belfast could be a leader in restoration, by eliminating blockage to fish passage on rivers entering Belfast Bay. Once alewives and other migratory fish return by the millions, the base of the food chain could again feed returning cod and salmon — and you and I.

James Merkel


Real reform for surprise medical billing

Having served as a state legislator, I realize important legislative issues sometimes require compromise solutions. That’s what we’re seeing on the surprise medical billing issue being debated in Washington right now. Congress says they are working on a surprise medical billing solution, but recent proposals have unfortunately been a giveaway to insurers who have spent millions lobbying Congress to protect their profits.

It’s time for Congress to look at the policy that’s working in a number of states, including New York and Texas. It’s called Independent Dispute Resolution (IDR). This is working in states because it’s fair. This process pulls patients out of the billing dispute between doctors and insurers

A successful proposal needs a meaningful IDR component that protects patients from insurer’s attempts to limit access to care. And it needs to prevent insurance companies from manipulating the IDR process. They are masterful in their ability to find loopholes, and I expect they will keep pushing for one that gives them the ability to set their own prices, which would be disastrous for rural doctors and hospitals and ultimately patients.

One bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, checks all the important boxes to stop insurers from gaming the system at the expense of patients.

The back and forth in Washington has gone on long enough. Everyone agrees that a national solution is needed when it comes to surprise medical bills. Sen. Susan Collins has always been a leader on tough issues. Now it’s time for Congress to hammer out a solution that takes the best of what’s working at the state level and put patients first. I hope Collins will put her skills to work on this issue as well.

Garrel Craig


Mainers can’t be fooled on transmission line

As someone who works, hunts and fishes in the Maine woods and whose family owns a camp in the Rangeley Lakes, I strongly oppose the Central Maine Power transmission corridor through western Maine. The corridor would clearcut a new 150-foot wide corridor through 53 miles of pristine forest from the Canadian border to The Forks. We should not let a foreign-owned company ravage Maine for profit.

While I am appalled at the impact the corridor would have on Maine’s western mountains and woods, I am just as appalled at CMP and Hydro-Quebec’s spending to try to save the deeply unpopular project.

CMP spent more than $5 million in the first three months of 2020, and a total of more than $7 million since October 2019 This from a company who is still dealing from the fallout of their smart billing failures, sending disconnection notices to Mainers during winter, and with the worst customer satisfaction of any utility in the country, according to JD Power.

CMP seems desperate. Maybe they know their project is deeply unpopular in Maine and are spending millions attempting to save it. But they cannot fool us. The CMP corridor is a bad deal for Maine.

James Keenan