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Letters: Light spending doomed Trump in Iowa

I attributed Donald Trump’s second place showing in Iowa to his lack of media expenditure.

Spending lightly pushed him down from the top spot as Ted Cruz and Marci Rubio outspent him in time and money. These men are politicians, Trump falters in comparison as merely a showman trying to capitalize on fame instead of political acumen and savvy. He should be running on an A.C. Nielsen ticket instead of a legitimate party ticket.

Vincent Kamin, Loop

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Enigma team

Lost among the major issues facing the city and state is the sorry state of the Bulls. Under former coach Tom Thibodeau, we were a force to be reckoned with. Now we are an enigma, an undisciplined group that shows up for some games, but lays down for others.

New coach Fred Hoiberg has apparently already lost control of the team before the All-Star game. That has to be some sort of record. Congratulations go out to General Manager John Paxson, he and his ego got what he wanted, a coach he could control. But the problem now is that the coach can’t control the team.

Scot Sinclair, Gurnee

Mental health crisis

No one disputes the danger of texting while driving. In a very short time, we have grasped the undeniable truth of this claim.

Here is another claim, equally true and equally undeniable: quality behavioral health care (mental health and substance abuse services), especially for low-income individuals and families, is in a state of crisis so dire that we may be on the brink of catastrophe. Without a state budget to fund community mental health grants, with managed care plans that restrict sessions of care for those with severe mental illness (many of whom depend upon their long-established relationships with providers), and with the dramatically decreased access to care created by losses of funding, the health and stability of our community is in jeopardy. Several days ago, Lutheran Social Services announced a decision to lay off 750 staff, directly because of the lack of State funding, seriously weakening one of the very strong members of our provider community.

For example, our agency’s award-winning psychiatric respite program, The Living Room, has lost one hundred percent of its State funding. Since its inception in 2011, The Living Room has saved the State of Illinois more than $2,000,000 by deflecting persons who would otherwise go to emergency departments to our most cost effective and hospitable alternative. Our success rate is 98 percent. Not funding The Living Room and other programs like it results in higher costs. It’s as simple as that. We know the inestimable value of the program, so we are scrambling to save it. This is an exceptionally difficult burden for an organization already stretching to follow its mission to serve our low income clients.

What will it take to convince the legislators and other decision-makers that this is a true and dangerous reality? That this is intolerable.

Community mental health rests on the capacity of all citizens to access and utilize treatment that allows them to live full and productive lives. When this happens, adults are able to work, to vote, to care for their families, send children to school, and participate in the civic lives of their communities. When access to care is limited, serious harm results that begins with the individual in need. If individual suffering isn’t enough (although we believe that it is), lawmakers should know and remember that untreated emotional distress and mental illness can quickly escalate to criminal acts and dangerous behaviors.

Without a state budget, behavioral health services can’t be provided and needs cannot be met. Providers and clients in community-based settings see this clearly. What will it take to convince members of our broader communities, including our governor and other lawmakers?

How do we articulate these concerns so that funding can be restored? It is a sad yet indisputable fact that individuals who benefit from State-funded behavioral health care have very little influence when most budget conversations take place. Their lack of socioeconomic power, coupled with the stigma of mental illness, creates a deafening and dreadful silence.

Community mental health is in serious trouble. Many state agencies have closed because they cannot afford to continue to operate without State funding for programs that serve low-income clients. Other agencies are restricting services, not taking new clients, laying off staff, shuttering satellite locations, as our colleagues at Lutheran Social Services have been forced to do. Because there are fewer and fewer agencies and services, those that remain are inundated with requests for care that often come from people at high risk for suicide, homicide, and homelessness who deserve immediate, life-saving care.

The lack of basic funding for essential services has created a catastrophe for the citizens of Illinois. It is not just those of us who have lost services who are suffering; it is also the families, the employers, the schools and churches and wider communities. The fabric of our community is being torn apart because we are not supporting those with fewest resources and, often, greatest need.

Texting while driving may result in death. We understand this and most of us grasp it well enough to curtail our own behavior. Lack of funding for behavioral health is equally perilous.

We must see these realities clearly. There is still time to restore at least a measure of life-saving services that will allow all of our citizens to access expert care that can result in lives of recovery, enriching the health of all of our communities.

It’s not too late. But we don’t have time to waste.

Ann Fisher Raney, Skokie

Rail safety

Rail safety is a major issue in our area with a growing number of trains carrying oil and other volatile materials. DuPage County first responders now have a new resource to assist them during a potential rail emergency: a mobile app called “AskRail.”

The idea for the app originated at a meeting between county officials and the railroads, and was launched a few months ago. The app is designed to give first responders access to vital information about the contents of railcars during an emergency.

The relationship between local governments and the railroads has greatly improved over the last few years. As Chairman of the National Association of Counties’ Transportation Committee, safety was foremost in our thoughts as we worked with the railroads, who are also committed to rail safety. We are taking steps together to prevent, mitigate and respond to rail emergencies.

The railroad industry helps train thousands of first responders every year, and the training is coupled with community response planning. Freight railroads are working to close the knowledge gap about their operations and how communities can prepare.

Giving our first responders this vital information is key to preparing for rail emergencies. Innovations like “AskRail” allow our emergency responders to quickly identify the contents of a railcar involved in a rail emergency. Knowing what we are dealing was the first step; increased training and coordinated response is our next goal.

I’m pleased the railroads in DuPage County, and elsewhere, are investing in the safety of our community – but we can do more. I am confident we will continue to work together, creating more innovations to make our community a safer place to live, work and raise a family.

Jim Healy. DuPage County Board District 5.

Aurora, Naperville and Lisle

Wise proposal

Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently introduced a proposal to the City Council that would prevent discounts on tobacco products and raise the minimum age of sale of tobacco products to 21 years old. As a cancer advocate, I applaud the mayor for his leadership on reducing tobacco use in our city.

As the tobacco industry continues to find new ways to market its deadly products, it’s important that we keep cigarettes out of our kids’ hands. Thousands of young people in our state become new daily smokers every single year, often leading to a lifetime of addiction.

Cheap and easily accessible tobacco products put young people at a higher risk of losing their lives prematurely to smoking. This proposal is a step in the right direction to keeping kids from ever picking up a cigarette in the first place.

Tobacco use is still the number-one cause of preventable death in our country. So I’m happy to see Mayor Emanuel and city officials take the lead on reducing Chicago’s tobacco burden. I’m hoping this proposal will fully cover all harms that come from tobacco use and make our city a healthier and better place to live.

Melissa Rickey, Chicago