Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor: Jan. 16

Mental health care needs more champions in Kentucky

Over the almost 60 years of our association's history, we have seen a commendable decline in the stigma of several mental illnesses. We are observing it now in the restrained press coverage of the accused shooter in Tucson. Still, the event prompts a review of what we know about mental illness and its treatment.

Severe mental illnesses — like schizophrenia, major depression and bipolar disorder — are not uncommon. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, about 5 percent of American adults are coping with or recovering from them.

A severe mental illness often begins in a person's late teens or early 20s. It drains and often exhausts the patience and resources of parents and educators who attempt to balance the young adult's need for independence with the continuing need for protection and nurture.

Medication and psychiatric therapies support the recovery of most people; those with persistent and disabling illnesses can recover with additional community supports.

However, new-generation medications with side effects more benign than those of older drugs are hideously expensive; psychiatric supervision is difficult to access, and community supports are largely unfunded. Kentucky's community health centers, which care for about one-third of all Kentuckians with severe mental illnesses, have not had a significant increase in state funding for two decades.

As it happens, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has been a champion of mental health care in the Arizona legislature and in Congress. All of us can be champions when opportunities arise to strengthen local and state systems so that effective mental health treatments and supports will be there when people need them.

Bruce Scott

Interim executive director

Mental Health America of Kentucky


End this senseless war

Unlike the six senseless killings in Tucson, Ariz., the senseless killings in Afghanistan get slight to no attention in the national discourse. Yet 1,454 American soldiers have been killed in that 10-year war, and 499 of them were killed in 2010. Already, nine have been killed in 2011.

In the fall of 2001, America ousted the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and fractured al-Qaida forces fled to refuge in the mountains of Tora Bora. At that juncture, the 9/11 attack had been avenged and the following appropriate warning had been effectively communicated to the terroristic community: "Attack our homeland and we will come and get you." Enough said and done.

Incredibly, the war in Afghanistan was recently extended for four more years. That decision will cost taxpayers $100 billion annually. Worst of all, it will cost additional American lives, and likely at an accelerated pace.

When our politicians declare that "jobs, jobs, jobs" will be their emphasis in the 112th Congress, they simply reveal their ill-advised priority.

True, most Americans are worried about the lack of jobs or job security. Both are legitimate worries, but they should rank a distant second to the needless carnage in Afghanistan.

The immediate stoppage of the senseless killing and maiming in Afghanistan should be the first priority of the 112th Congress, and it should remain so until every American soldier is back on American soil.

Shafter Bailey


Get facts on payday loans

The Herald-Leader continues to misunderstand the payday lending business as evidenced in the Jan. 4 editorial, "Put interest cap on payday loans."

Placing an annual percentage rate (APR) cap on a financial product with a two-week term is tantamount to charging a yearly rate for a night's stay at a hotel. APR's are designed for mortgages and auto loans — not short-term credit.

By law, payday lenders are not allowed to charge interest rates. Payday loans are single-payment, fee-based products. Statistics show that more than two-thirds of Kentuckians who took out payday loans between April — when a new statewide tracking database was created — and September took out 6 or fewer two-week loans.

That means most payday customers spent over half that period with no outstanding loans.

Although payday lenders clearly and fully disclose the cost of their product, industry opponents use the APR to distort the cost, in an attempt to misguide consumers and legislators.

The only way to reach the much-hyped, triple-digit APR is to take out one payday loan and continue to pay another fee on that loan every two weeks for an entire year.

Due to Kentucky statutes that forbid loan renewals, it is impossible for a consumer to accrue this level of interest.

Placing this annual rate on payday advances would force the industry to charge such a low fee that all loan providers in Kentucky would go out of business, depriving hundreds of thousands of Kentucky families of access to short-term credit and costing over 2,000 Kentuckians their jobs.

Kevin Borland

Kentucky spokesman

Community Financial Services Association of America


ARAMARK's performance

Shame on ARAMARK for taking advantage of prisoners, and shame on the state of Kentucky for condoning it.

Bravo to Rep. Brent Yonts for taking a stand to help some of society's most vulnerable. Yes, they committed crimes which landed them in prison. However, most of those imprisoned are either mentally ill or were themselves victims of abuse, neglect or addiction. We have the responsibility to care for and rehabilitate them.

Instead, we allow them to be fed substandard food while someone lines their pocket. ARAMARK is not only cheating the prisoners, it is also cheating the taxpayers of Kentucky. It needs to stop now. Yonts should convene a committee meeting with prison officials and ARAMARK higher-ups and let ARAMARK cater it, serving exactly what they serve to the prisoners. Better yet, make it a week-long symposium with three meals a day, plus snacks.

Dorothy Kline


Pett stimulates discussion

The role of an editorial cartoonist is to inform, create discussion and, yes, controversy. We may not always agree with the message but it always makes us think.

A Jan. 9 letter demonstrated that the Herald-Leader has accomplished this positive impact on the community. Amateurish? We look forward to Joel Pett's annual two-page review of the year.

It's a great summary that stimulates discussion and all types of emotional recall. Obviously from that letter, Pett's success is underestimated by us "middle-of-the-roaders".

Congratulations to him.

Elvis and Geneva Donaldson


Don't permit this mine

A&G Coal Corp. applied for a permit to surface mine above Lynch, starting near the top of Black Mountain and on westward along Looney Ridge to the east end of Lynch. If the permit is granted and mining is allowed, our side of the mountain will soon look like the east side going down into Inman, Va. If you've been to the mountain, you know there is no longer a mountain on the Virginia side, thanks to A&G.

The way the mountain will look is only one disturbing factor. We also stand to lose one of the most precious drinking water sources God has ever provided. I am talking about the only water source we have — Looney Creek and the creek's contributors, Trace Branch and Barnett Branch.

None of the people who own or plan to mine this coal are from our area, so it is not about any loss of jobs here. The coal will be hauled to Virginia. Kentucky will not receive coal severance tax from this coal.

I'm reminded of the old union song, Which Side Are You On? Do we want to keep our mountains and water, or do we want to be able to throw rocks from Lynch over into Virginia? We must stop this mining before it starts. We must contact our Kentucky and federal legislators to tell them we do not deserve this kind of treatment. These people work for all of us, not just for the coal companies. Which side are you on?

Stanley Sturgill


Turn off this church

A certain church called off protests at funerals in Tuscon, Ariz., in exchange for air time on two radio stations.

If you don't like a movie after seeing previews, you don't go. Or if you don't like a show on TV, you switch to another channel or use the off switch.

Most people with common sense would likely do the same with the garbage this church would discuss on the radio.

Ira Fink


Qualified for incentives

Kentucky's Tourism Development Act does not require a project be of any specific kind, if it meets the qualifications, which the Ark Encounter Theme Park certainly does.

There is no doubt the 1.6 million estimated tourists who will visit Kentucky to see this park will have an enormous economic impact, not only on Grant County, but on the state as a whole. As compared to other amusement/theme parks, this project definitely qualifies, as it is being built by for-profit investors who expect a return on their $150 million investment.

This is no different than any company, such as Toyota, moving to Kentucky and receiving state incentives, corporate tax credits, etc., which enable Kentucky to compete with other states.

As far as the issue of separation of church and state, no one has written to complain that churches of all denominations already receive tax credits by being exempt from state and local property taxes, as well as some federal taxes.

Those who oppose the religious theme of this park are not compelled to visit it but should not deny others the opportunity.

With the creation of over 900 jobs and the 10-year economic impact of over $4.5 billion, how could any community or the state say no? Answers in Genesis is not getting these tax incentives; the for-profit group of investors is receiving them only after completion.

Marlene McComas


Evolution and the creator

In response to the Jan. 10 column from scientists working with Answers in Genesis, "Some scientists also embrace creationism": As far as I can tell, "creation science" offers no testable hypotheses. Therefore, it is not science. It really is that simple.

Among professors in the biological sciences, every one of us understands evolution as a profoundly important unifying theory. I find a wide range of religious and spiritual beliefs among these colleagues. The theory of evolution doesn't preclude religious practice, unless one views the Bible as an inerrant science textbook.

It seems puzzling to me that thoughtful religious people fight the theory of evolution rather than celebrating it as a wonderful glimpse into the mind of the creator.

Paul Vincelli