Wood strife, boy stuck in ER, student loan forgiveness

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My grandfather was in the lumber trade and removed white pines from thousands of acres throughout Minnesota in the late 1800s. Wildlife, the Sustainable Timber Harvest Initiative, Minnesota Forest Producers, Minnesota Timber Producers, and other interested organizations at the state and federal levels. What hasn’t been mentioned is that the specific area described in the Cloquet Valley State Forest is home to the 200 year old “old” trees.

According to a Minnesota historian, those 40 acres of trees were overlooked on the original maps used to obtain the profitable White Pines. This is the reason why these trees were left and not cleared. It is now a tourist attraction, which I intended to visit in the spring.

My grandfather was one of the lumber barons in the late 1800s. I can’t bring back the trees he felled, but I hope my letter can further stimulate interest in saving these last trees of historical significance – the old white pine seen nowhere else in Minnesota.

Tim Diegel, Edina

CHILD BLOCKED IN EMERGENCY

I was saddened, but not surprised, to read the story of the boy stuck in the ER for months (front page, October 23). It’s becoming an all-too-familiar story here and across the country. Children who have a diagnosis on top of a mental illness – such as autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disability – and children with severe aggression, simply cannot find appropriate care.

Importantly, children find themselves in crisis when parents are totally exhausted and have not been able to access more intensive levels of care or hire staff to provide in-home services. And once the child arrives in the emergency room in crisis, there is nowhere to go – hospitalization may not be appropriate, and there is nowhere to go. What’s even worse is that if a family simply cannot bring their child home because they have no support and cannot keep the child or other family members safe the family, she is accused of abandonment and neglect. And the child ends up in child protection. But it is clear that the parents are not neglecting their child, it is the system that is.

We worked with the Children’s Cabinet, the Department of Health and Human Services, hospitals, counties and providers to develop solutions for the next session. Fund access to regular respite care so that families can “recharge their batteries”. Streamline the process of accessing additional in-home staff and dramatically increase salaries for staff responsible for working with severely aggressive children. Require that our commercial health plans cover treatment provided in psychiatric residential treatment facilities. Plans do not currently cover this level of care, and it is a higher level of care than is currently provided in children’s residential facilities.

It is difficult for providers to offer new programs when the only funding comes from Medicaid. Expedited applications for Medicaid for families who need intensive home services offered only by Medicaid. It can take four to six months for the county and state to process an application, which is too long to avoid a crisis. Finally, build a small crisis center for these children that has a soothing sensory environment, high staff, and psychiatric services.

All of this will require additional public funds. But these are steps we must take to support these children and their families.

Sue Abderholden, St. Paul

The writer is executive director of NAMI Minnesota.

STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS

The Star Tribune editorial board omitted several major considerations in its treatment of President Joe Biden’s student loan cancellation order (“Four Worries About the Student Loan Plan,” Editorial, October 23).

I went to the University of California in the early 1960s when tuition was $120 per semester. State support for public higher education began to decline long before the last 20 years mentioned in the editorial. Federally insured student loans and direct federal student loans were poor substitutes for state aid. The $2,500 burden on the average taxpayer from Biden’s 30-year partial loan forgiveness program is peanuts ($83.33 per year). And does the editorial board also regret the double pardon granted to students from families poor enough to deserve a Pell scholarship? It may just be another unmentionable though the council complains about helping graduate students, some of whom have had to borrow enough to buy a modest home.

And why have I never read anything about “moral hazard” when companies declare bankruptcy and pay their creditors a fraction of what they are owed? Did the council even consider the almost non-existent bankruptcy provisions for student loans? And what about those unaccredited private colleges, making false promises, leading to unaccepted degrees and non-transferable course credits?

With $1.6 trillion owed (compared to just $930 billion in credit card debt), haven’t we abused our young people enough to warrant emergency action by the president, invoking a 2003 law? What if we add to the above that we now have an economic system producing an ever-increasing share of wealth for the top 1%, and a declining middle class? What about the young people inheriting a globally warming planet because we’ve done too little about the problem or been sucked into the lies of corporations and supporters about it?

And, by the way, one-seventh (14.3%) is quite a large segment of the population, not “just” 1 in 7. For comparison, all of us over 65 only add up to about 17 % Population.

Jeffrey W. Koon, St. Paul

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