If you were too busy keeping track of James Comey and the Russia investigation, you may have missed a news story that I find to be much more important.  The new proposed healthcare bill that the Senate has put forth seeks $880 billion in cuts to Medicaid.  There are many problems within the bill, but this is my utmost concern.  Why? Because I work with families who receive Medicaid funds.

I provide a service called Intensive In-Home.  It is a community-based mental health service designed for children and families who at risk for out of home placement.  I have previously worked with children involved with the Department of Juvenile Justice and am currently serving children who have a dual diagnosis of a mental health disorder as well as Autism Spectrum Disorder.  In other words, these people are some of the most vulnerable in our population.

In just over a year of time in community mental health, I have worked with dozens of families that benefit directly from Medicaid.  These are families who face hardships many of us will never comprehend— homelessness, domestic violence, substance abuse, developmental disabilities, illiteracy, debilitating medical conditions, sexual abuse, involvement in the the criminal justice system, community violence, lack of food, and even lack of running water.

These are people that you may not see or have a chance to talk to in your every day life.  I can tell you from personal experience that the vast majority of them are tired of being stuck in the cycle of poverty and are working to try to escape it.  Many of these families are working people who still can’t make ends meet. Some don’t work either due to disability or the fact that working would actually cause their situation to be worse off as they would lose key resources for their survival.

I love the people I work with.  I admire their resilience in the face of adversity that I have been fortunate not to encounter in my life.  My clients are children.  They have no say over the choices of our government or of their parents.  They often have extreme trauma from experiences they’ve had at a young age, for which our systems have labeled them as “bad kids,” sometimes going so far as to kick them out of school or put them in jail.

Thirty million children are recipients of Medicaid in this country.  Under the proposed health care bill, half of funding would be gone from the program by 2027.  Programs like the one I am a part of ensure that children receive important services early  on to address their problems and helps decrease the likelihood that the adversity they face will compound to even greater problems in adulthood.  These problems are the problems that will affect you as members of the community.

I have a personal investment in this as well.  Mental health services are often one of the first of programs to take cuts when things like this happen.  My job could be at stake.  Fortunately, I have other skills and resources to fall back on.  The families I work with do not.  The system already has been inadequate in serving their needs.

I still can’t wrap my head around the need to imprison our youth.  It isn’t productive and usually only makes their problems even worse.  The kids that have disabilities are already being pushed into mental health services for care due to lack of adequate disability services.  The waiting list for the waiver for comprehensive individual disability services (The Innovations Waiver) has a wait list of 7-10 years. I personally worked with a child who had been waiting more than half of his life to receive the services he needs.

In my work, I don’t fix people.  I help people learn tools to make changes to their own lives.  I am often frustrated by the constraints and roadblocks that seem to be found at every step of the way.  But despite that, I see real, tangible progress in almost every single case I have encountered. That credit is due to the hard work that these children and families put in.  We provide guidance, but they make their own choices.

One of the biggest issues I encounter with the families I work with at the beginning of treatment can be their inability to see the outside world around them.  I feel like we are suffering from this problem as a greater society.  We all benefit from the stability and health of those around us.  If these families who face even more dire circumstances than most of us can make a change, can’t we choose to make a change too?

I would love to see more, not less access to these types of services.  I fear the outcomes for those we choose to leave behind.  I don’t think that this bill represents who really who we are and what we value as a nation. I have the chance to work with many local organizations that are working to help these families as well.  But it isn’t enough.  We all have to decide to be part of this change. We have to decide to support one another so that we can all be lifted up.  I know that we would all be better off.

I decided to make my voice heard by calling my North Carolina Senators to tell them about what my job does for me, the families I work with, and my community.  I told them about the consequences of losing something so valuable.  I hope that I have opened your eyes a bit to what your fellow Americans are going through.  I hope you have been able to see what this will do to our children, and to our future.

I encourage you to reach out to your Senator’s office using the list below.  You can call them and leave a message. Let them know that what happens to your community affects you and that it affects your vote.

 

ALABAMA

Sen. Richard Shelby (R)

Sen. Luther Strange (R)

ALASKA

Sen. Daniel Sullivan (R)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R)

ARIZONA

Sen. John McCain (R)

Sen. Jeff Flake (R)

ARKANSAS

Sen. Thomas Cotton (R)

Sen. John Boozman (R)

CALIFORNIA

Sen. Kamala Harris (D)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

COLORADO

Sen. Cory Gardner (R)

Sen. Michael Bennet (D)

CONNECTICUT

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D)

Sen. Christopher Murphy (D)

DELAWARE

Sen. Christopher Coons (D)

Sen. Thomas Carper (D)

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Taxation without Representation

FLORIDA

Sen. Marco Rubio (R)

Sen. Bill Nelson (D)

GEORGIA

Sen. John Isakson (R)

Sen. David Perdue (R)

HAWAII

Sen. Brian Schatz (D)

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D)

IDAHO

Sen. James Risch (R)

Sen. Michael Crapo (R)

ILLINOIS

Sen. Richard Durbin (D)

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D)

INDIANA

Sen. Todd Young (R)

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D)

IOWA

Sen. Joni Ernst (R)

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R)

KANSAS

Sen. Pat Roberts (R)

Sen. Jerry Moran (R)

KENTUCKY

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R)

Sen. Randal Paul (R)

LOUISIANA

Sen. John Kennedy (R)

Sen. William Cassidy (R)

MAINE

Sen. Susan Collins (R)

Sen. Angus King (I)

MARYLAND

Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D)

Sen. Christopher Van Hollen (D)

MASSACHUSETTS

Sen. Edward Markey (D)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D)

MICHIGAN

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D)

Sen. Gary Peters (D)

MINNESOTA

Sen. Alan Franken (D)

  • Beth Wikler
    Health Policy Adviser
    beth_wikler@franken.senate.gov
    202-224-5641

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D)

MISSISSIPPI

Sen. Thad Cochran (R)

Sen. Roger Wicker (R)

MISSOURI

Sen. Roy Blunt (R)

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D)

MONTANA

Sen. Steven Daines (R)

Sen. Jon Tester (D)

NEBRASKA

Sen. Debra Fischer (R)

Sen. Ben Sasse (R)

NEVADA

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D)

Sen. Dean Heller (R)

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Sen. Margaret Hassan (D)

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D)

NEW JERSEY

Sen. Cory Booker (D)

Sen. Robert Menendez (D)

NEW MEXICO

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D)

Sen. Thomas Udall (D)

NEW YORK

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D)

Sen. Charles Schumer (D)

NORTH CAROLINA

Sen. Richard Burr (R)

Sen. Thomas Tillis (R)

NORTH DAKOTA

Sen. John Hoeven (R)

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D)

OHIO

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D)

Sen. Robert Portman (R)

OKLAHOMA

Sen. James Inhofe (R)

Sen. James Lankford (R)

OREGON

Sen. Jeffrey Merkley (D)

Sen. Ronald Wyden (D)

PENNSYLVANIA

Sen. Robert Casey (D)

Sen. Patrick Toomey

RHODE ISLAND

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D)

Sen. John Reed (D)

SOUTH CAROLINA

Sen. Timothy Scott (R)

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R)

SOUTH DAKOTA

Sen. John Thune (R)

Sen. Michael Rounds (R)

TENNESSEE

Sen. Robert Corker (R)

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R)

TEXAS

Sen. John Cornyn (R)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R)

UTAH

Sen. Michael Lee (R)

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R)

VERMONT

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D)

Sen. Bernard Sanders (I)

VIRGINIA

Sen. Mark Warner (D)

Sen. Timothy Kaine (D)

WASHINGTON

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D)

Sen. Patricia Murray (D)

  • Nick McLane
    Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
    Ranking Member, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)
    Nick_McLane@help.senate.gov
    202-224-2621

WEST VIRGINIA

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R)

Sen. Joseph Manchin (D)

WISCONSIN

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D)

Sen. Ronald Johnson (R)

WYOMING

Sen. Michael Enzi (R)

Sen. John Barrasso (R)

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