Don't Kill DALPA letter to the editor...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Don't Kill DALP

A letter to the editor (July 3) written by Maryland Secretary of Human Resources Alvin C. Collins discussed the Transitional Emergency Medical and Housing Assistance (TEMHA) program, which was created in response to significant constituent pressure after Gov. Parris N. Glendening eliminated the Disability Assistance and Loan Program (DALP).

The letter mentioned that the state departments of human resources, health and housing are working together on TEMHA and working with community agencies to meet the critical needs of individuals with disabilities.

We -- the community agencies -- have long supported an inter-departmental approach to addressing social needs, but we must point out that the non-profit service sector has been addressing the needs of vulnerable people for centuries with varying degrees of support from the public sector.

One of the biggest shortcomings of TEMHA is its complicated and difficult nature that is staff intensive, but not "person-centered."

When the ratio of clients to social service workers is as high as 2,000 to one in some areas, it is not physically possible to give sufficient time to each individual in need. This does not more efficiently target the use of state dollars and staff, as stated by Mr. Collins, but rather cuts off individuals with severe disabilities who are least able to navigate the system.

The notion that this new program -- which is funded at just 32 percent of its level last year and only 25 percent of its level two years ago -- has an unmet need of $1.2 million doesn't compute.

Not even $11.2 million will allow 22,000 persons with disabilities to live a minimally decent life. That equals about $42 a month per person. Can any of us maintain decent housing, health and personal hygiene for that amount?

This program was not designed with the best interest of disabled individuals in mind, nor taxpayers' best interest. It was created on a foundation of myths and generalizations instead of well-researched facts.

Most former DALP participants (81 percent) used their meager $157 a month for rent. Now most will only get a $50 housing voucher.

No program is perfect, DALP included. But if there are problems, fixing them is the solution, not eliminating an entire program and creating in its place a much more bureaucracy-laden one that provides fewer services to fewer people.

Governor Glendening should restore DALP and continue to work with advocates, service providers and individuals with disabilities to fix the broken parts.

Ann T. Ciekot

Baltimore

The writer is acting director of Action for the Homeless, a United Way agency.

Safe Births

Now that our only remaining Baltimore area lay midwife has been convicted and told not to attend any more home births, what are those of us supposed to do who wish to give birth safely at home?

Legally, a "certificate nurse-midwife" or obstetrician could attend home birth, but few (or none) will do so.

I suppose it would be legal for my husband and I to stay home alone and birth a baby unassisted, but it is illegal for a lay midwife with years of experience to attend us. Maryland is one of only seven states considering lay midwifery illegal.

I had my first baby with a midwife in a birthing room, and the hospital stay was a miserable experience. I brought home a staph infection and took weeks to recover.

My second baby was born at home on a snowy December morning. I could smell brownies baking, and we had an intimate gathering of friends and family to celebrate the birth of our youngest son.

Recently I attended my sister's hospital birth and realized anew that hospitals are simply not the optimum setting for "normal" childbirth.

The frantically busy obstetrician had little time for my sister and only stayed for the arrival of the baby.

Within an hour of being born, the baby was spirited away to the nursery and not brought back for a couple of hours.

Hey, try that on the farm with a newborn foal or calf and more often than not the momma rejects her own baby because she doesn't bond with it.

Years of data collected worldwide show clearly and unequivocally that home birth is safer than hospital birth in a majority of cases. The state of Maryland has virtually taken this option away from us.

Susan Streaker

West Friendship

Think Regionally

Donald F. Norris's article on metropolitan or regional government is very interesting because it raised the issue of the regional tax base in the context of regional needs and aspirations (Rejoinder, July 9).

Public opinion, as measured by Mr. Norris, does not appear to be enthusiastic about new forms of doing government business.

We may find some solace in Molly Ivin's observation, made after the 1992 national election, that "the collective judgment of Washington pundits, political insiders, wise men, Capitol cognoscenti, Beltway buffs and other purveyors of inside skinny on where our collective political enterprise stands . . . [has] been wrong -- dead, flat, utterly wrong -- at every turn."

Mr. Norris's article reveals more regional awareness than might jTC have been expected and gives hope that he, along with his academic colleagues at Hopkins, the University of Baltimore and elsewhere may soon be joined by government and business types to see whether we are not ready for a serious discussion of what metropolitan and regional government can do for us all.

Baltimore was once the city that had difficulty saying yes to anything new, and then came its renaissance. Perhaps the next phase will include the broadening of government.

Jacques T. Schlenger

Baltimore

A Symbol of Our Nation

A constitutional amendment to make flag burning illegal will achieve the opposite of what the sponsors intend.

Our flag is a symbol of our nation and our beliefs. Burning the symbol does not change what the flag stands for.

President Lincoln said at Gettysburg that his words could not consecrate the battle ground, because it had already been consecrated at a higher level by those who fought and died there.

Our flag has been consecrated, not by the words of politicians but by the brave actions of men and women who gave their lives for our nation.

A constitutional amendment that reduces the flag to an object will achieve what no protester can achieve, the desecration of our flag.

Let the protesters burn flags if they choose.

One of the ideals for which men and women have fought is free speech. Free speech, including the right to promote stupid ideas, belongs to all of us, not just our representatives in Congress.

awrence Foster

Linthicum

While I applaud the House of Representatives for approving a constitutional amendment banning the desecration of the United States flag, I feel that it ultimately doesn't go far enough.

There are many symbols of America equally as worthy of consideration -- and conspicuous by their absence from the amendment.

For example, aren't state flags worthy of protection, too? And how about local flags? Am I to just sit back and watch the desecration of the Baltimore County flag and do nothing?

And how about the presidential seal? How ironic it would be to protect the symbol of the president and not the actual president from desecration. So the amendment really should also ban all disrespect of the president, too. Why stop with the flag?

What we really need is an amendment protecting the U.S. Constitution from silly amendments like the one the House just passed.

Geoffrey K. Bond

Baltimore

Was Congress in Cahoots or Incompetent?

I applaud The Sun for the series on Battalion 316 (June 11-18). I am deeply troubled by the State Department's tolerance of the atrocities committed in Honduras and throughout Central America during the 1980s.

The officials who participated in this amoral and hypocritical policy should be held accountable. I strongly urge judicial inquiry as a means of bringing those responsible to justice and educating the U.S. public.

As a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala, I saw first hand the results of the campaign of terror waged by the military against political opposition and the mostly peasant Maya majority.

Like Honduras, this was a regime supported by the United States. It sickens me that my taxes were used to sponsor torture and murder.

What concerns me is that Congress has been spared any blame despite the fact that it authorized the spending of millions of dollars a day in the region.

This is because media attention has focused on the State Department. I believe that the State Department lied to Congress, but I have a hard time accepting that Congress was so easily misled.

Reporters Ginger Thompson and Gary Cohn quote former Honduran Vice President Jaime Rosenthal saying: "There were stories about it in our newspaper and most other newspapers almost every day . . . If they say they did not know, that is bad, because it would mean that they were incompetent."

Mr. Rosenthal was referring specifically to the U.S. embassy, but his argument applies to Congress as well. If information was so accessible, then why was Congress so ill-informed?

Either Congress was in cahoots with the administration and together they lied to the people of the United States, or Congress was simply incompetent. I am not sure which possibility scares me more.

Brian Harr-Siebenlist

Laurel

The Sun's special report series on the slaughter in Honduras in the 1980s is too little, too late. If The Sun had done good investigative reporting back in the early '80s, it may have saved many lives by informing the American public of what was being done in our name and with our money.

I knew about the CIA's work in Honduras (as well as Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile, etc.) while it was happening, and I wrote letters to Congress pleading with them to cut the funding and stop the slaughter.

A bumper sticker on my car at the time said, "Your taxes pay for torture, rape & murder in Central America." I had to explain to someone at a red light that Central America did not mean Kansas.

I knew about what the CIA was doing by reading the alternative "left" press, and not depending on The Sun, The Washington Post, The New York Times, etc. to tell me about it. Yes, the CIA was behind the atrocities, and yes, Washington knew, but the mainstream press also knew (or should have known) but did not inform the American taxpayers.

For a democracy to work, it needs a well-informed populace. An independent free press should keep the populace well informed. Obviously, our democracy is not working well.

Amy Donohue

Fallston

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