Closing addiction clinics may cost more in long run

On Oct. 2, The News reported that the administration of Erie County Medical Center is considering closing all of its outpatient addiction treatment programs. Given the economy, all programs should be scrutinized for need, cost and effectiveness. Unfortunately, the need for treatment of alcohol and drug dependencies remains. Marked increases in prescription drug abuse and sustained levels of alcohol abuse are well-documented. Daily, The News chronicles the resultant human tragedies of overdose, accidents, legal problems and family disruption.

Besides the human toll, side effects of addiction are costly. Many studies have shown that effective treatment is a good societal investment; for every dollar spent on good treatment, $7 are saved by the community in reduced expenses on health care, employment, legal and social services. However, many who are in need of treatment cannot afford it because they do not have insurance. While closing the clinics may reduce the short-term, bottom line of ECMC, it may end up costing us all more in the long run.

Most of the addiction treatment programs in our area are under severe financial stress; some have closed, others are on the verge. Therefore, minimizing the deficits is key. It is encouraging that ECMC staff and their representatives are willing to review further steps. The compassionate professionalism of these staff should be supported in future plans. Open discussions should include all costs, revenue and deficits. In addition, the hospital should insist that health care insurers reimburse with rates that at least match cost. The Erie County Department of Mental Health should assert its role as coordinator of local services to assure that the treatment system's ability to deliver high-quality service is not critically affected by closure of more programs.

ECMC outpatient programs have served the community for more than 40 years, providing care to individuals and families regardless of ability to pay. Therefore, any proposal for closure should be done thoughtfully and openly.

Robert B. Whitney, M.D.



Use peer mediation to help our students

As a certified mediator in Minnesota, I am convinced that peer mediation can be a viable option within our school districts to help students deal with issues that are bothering them. Simply put, mediation is the process in which two parties sit down to discuss their issues in front of a neutral party to come up with a resolution. This resolution could be an apology, an agreement or something else that the parties decide. The goal is to end problem at an early stage before it escalates into something more serious.

This method has worked in middle schools and high schools in St. Paul and Minneapolis. As a former peer mediator instructor, I had the opportunity to train, teach and implement programs to help students solve their problems with other students. The makeup of our peer mediators was diverse; we had athletes and members of the choir, band and student council. What all the students had in common was their interest in helping the student body and curbing problems before they escalate.

The 20 to 30 students selected as peer mediators found this training to be helpful. The training allows "options" for students to solve their own problems peacefully. Students are willing to discuss their problems candidly with other students, because of the fear of punishment by a parent or administrator. Peer mediators are able to recognize a more serious situation and when that happens they alert the proper administrator to step in.

Altering someone in a negative situation is only the first step. Actually confronting the situation and attempting resolutions to address the problem is a whole new and different step. These problems can be solved early on, before any more damage is done.

It is worth the time and effort to look at peer mediation as a solution to problems within our school districts. If implemented correctly, this can work in Western New York.

Doug Curella



Collins kept his word, delivered on promises

Four years ago, I heard a successful resident of Erie County say that he wanted to run the county like a business, lower taxes, reduce employees, create more opportunity and eliminate political party payoffs. Well, a decisive majority agreed, and we elected Chris Collins as county executive.

Now we have a realistic county executive who did what he said he would do for the people. Don't you think it would be an intelligent decision to keep him doing this for the people? If you don't, then vote for Mark Poloncarz, who will likely raise your taxes, hire lots of bureaucrats and expand the county government in spite of declining population. Think about the consequences of his liberal, special-interest rhetoric. Vote Collins to be happy, solvent and progressive, and be assured that what he tells us will be the truth, not more political rhetoric.

Paul E. Locke Sr.



Clinton could lead nation out of crisis

It's high time we citizens placed the good of the country above party affiliation, and turned our attention to which individual among us might be capable of pulling the United States back from the edge of an abyss.

I shan't bore the reader by stating the obvious, as one need only look at the wretched state of affairs in which we are mired, and the lack of light at the end of the tunnel to appreciate our present danger. There is, however, a person who possesses the brains, the crucial experience and the guts required to turn this country around. Her name is Hillary Clinton.

Kevin Dolan



NFTA officials should take pay cut

I have a suggestion for reducing the $15 million deficit at the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. Perhaps Executive Director Kimberley Minkel and other officials can share the sacrifice by cutting their salaries by 50 percent. Minkel is salaried at $170,000 (the same as Gov. Andrew Cuomo).

These NFTA officials are contemplating a fare hike for the NFTA users. A fare hike will have the same effect on a family's finances as would a tax increase. So here is a case of unelected officials increasing taxes.

I don't doubt for a minute the operating costs of the system are increasing. But to force the users of the system to shoulder the entire burden while these politically appointed officials continue to draw their very generous salaries and other benefits is elitism at its worse. If the NFTA is serious about reducing and addressing the deficit issue, all items should be scrutinized, including the very generous salaries paid.

Larry Dudeck