- The Washington Times - Friday, March 3, 2006

Taiwan’s useless unification panel

The story on Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian’s decision to suspend that country’s National Unification Council (NUC) and its guidelines (“Taiwan abolishes unification panel,” World, Tuesday) mentioned the American and Chinese opinions on the issue, but did not mention those of the most important group involved, the Taiwanese people, of whom only 24 percent supported the council’s stated goal of unification; 78 percent believe that Taiwan’s future should be decided by the Taiwanese.

Many reports in the international media have also noted Mr. Chen’s commitment to the “five no’s” of 2000, in which he pledged not to make any moves toward independence during his term.

However, just as many reports fail to mention that these pledges were contingent on the end to China’s hostility against the democratic island nation.

Suspending the NUC has nothing to do with independence, and it certainly does nothing to alter the “status quo.”

With over 700 missiles pointed at them and an “anti-secession law” on China’s books legalizing military action against the Taiwanese should they decide to exercise their god-given right to self-determination, is it any wonder that they would want to get rid of a useless government body dedicated to ignoring their free will?

PING-CHANG TSAI

Silver Spring

India’s nuclear competencies

The architecture of 21st century geopolitics is changing very fast due to the rise of China and India (“Bush seals India nuke pact, yesterday, Page 1), economically, politically and militarily.

The United States wants India to expedite its transition from a significant Asian power to a leading global power in their mutual interests as well as for the benefit of the wider community of free democratic societies.

India, the largest democracy, has been a very responsible nuclear power in contrast with Pakistan and the nuclear bazaar that Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan ran.

No one appreciates more than the United States India’s continuing and increasing contribution to productivity of the international businesses based on the Indian core competence in knowledge-based industries.

One of the reasons for the U.S. initiative not often focused upon by many commentators is the indigenous scientific competency of India.

International sanctions prevented India from buying nuclear fuels such as uranium or specialized nuclear power-plant parts. India had to build every part on its own and develop an indigenous nuclear-power process that would make most of the limited supply of local uranium and other materials.

More important, India is only about 10 years away from creating a fully functional fast-breeder reactor plant. This cutting-edge technology is crucial for India to meet its growing energy needs, and it can continue to develop fast-breeder reactors without international assistance; hence India would not allow any international controls over this technology.

President Bush knows that if the United States does not assist India with its uranium requirements now, American opinion, regarding international access to India’s nuclear technology in the age of growing energy scarcity, would not matter much.

Mr. Bush, a Texas oilman, would like to make investments by way of providing civilian nuclear assistance to India now, for a potential future bonanza of nuclear power for the United States and the West after a few years, that only Indian scientific brilliance can provide.

VIPUL THAKORE

London

For the record

I read with interest your article “Mental health facility folds over $2 million debt” (Metropolitan, Feb. 19) and felt it important to clarify as well as correct certain statements.

First, the Center for Mental Health (CMH) has been the largest provider of behavioral health services to children and families in the District — by 2004, serving some 2,000 children and adults annually.

Most of CMH’s clients have come from east of the river in Anacostia, but also from other neighborhoods across the city. With nearly 40 years in operation prior to its closure in December 2005, CMH was well-known for its innovative, comprehensive and highly effective family-centered services.

Specifically, its “Family Health Model” has received local as well as national awards, and was a participant in an external study by a major university. The article states that several hundred of CMH’s previous clients have found other providers. We hope this to be true; yet, the reality is that a wide gap remains in the availability of adequate care, while the elimination of specialized services to the city’s most vulnerable children under 6 is both an injustice to these children and their families and a costly decision for the city in the years ahead. Early intervention works.

Second, CMH’s Jan. 7 bankruptcy filing resulted from three years of increasingly difficult operation and financial performance following its move under the newly created Department of Mental Health (DMH) in 2002.

From 2002 until 2005, CMH experienced the impact of a series of ill-planned and implemented regulatory actions as well as an 11th-hour defunding of its widely acclaimed services to seriously behaviorally troubled children under 6. These actions are a matter of public record.

As an organization that had successfully emerged from a previous deficit by solid performance and careful financial management, the generation of modest surpluses and the use of those surpluses to pay down all of its debt (1998-2002), CMH entered the new DMH system in 2002 debt-free. Its lack of cash reserves were well-reviewed and acknowledged as CMH was moved under the newly created regulatory agency.

Yet, DMH’s delayed and erratic payments, together with multiple retroactive changes to policy and procedures, caused CMH to lose its financing; thus a downward spiral was initiated, from which CMH could not recover without significant help from the city.

In spite of numerous pleas to city officials at every level in government to come together and assist in fixing the problems (much as the city has done, for instance, for the Whitman-Walker Clinic, that received a $2.5 million public bailout together with significant additional private funds generated through the intervention of public officials in May and June 2005), a series of ill-founded rumors and innuendo and unsupported statements by government officials were put in motion concerning CMH.

They included: “The non-profit company cannot account for how it spent all of its funds because City investigators took possession of its financial records.” There has been no misuse of funds nor any evidence of misuse.

“The D.C. Medical Assistance Administration has uncovered evidence of improper billing by the organization,” and that CMH was billing for “services that were not medically necessary and therefore not reimbursable by Medicaid.” No audit was ever conducted with documentation of any evidence of services that were medically unnecessary. If such was done, it was not shared with CMH.

In fact, a statement was made by a DMH official concerning the services provided to children under 6, as follows: “Clearly the services are necessary, but we are unclear whether DMH should be paying for them.” Services to children under 6 were defunded with less than 72 hours notice and without a jointly developed plan between CMH and DMH to arrange for adequate alternate funding while offsetting the losses in revenues that would be anticipated.

It was CMH’s understanding that the $500,000 made available in August 2005 was to be used for paying down some of CMH’s back debt, given the series of unfortunate events outlined above. A larger funding package based on a workable plan (that CMH submitted) was absolutely essential to shifting the dire financial straits into which CMH had been placed.

In closing, it must be asked: How can an organization that was totally self-sustaining for nearly 40 years become insolvent within less than three years following its move under a new regulatory agency — in this case, the District’s Department of Mental Health?

DR. JOHANNA FERMAN

Former CEO and medical director

Center for Mental Health

Washington

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