- Associated Press - Thursday, October 8, 2015

Editors: Please note that The Associated Press welcomes editorial contributions from members for the weekly Editorial Roundup. Three editorials are selected every week. Contributions can be made by email at [email protected]

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Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, Oct. 3, 2015

Governor’s Medicaid expansion plan worth pursuing

Gov. Dennis Daugaard is pursuing a plan to expand Medicaid coverage to more than 48,000 South Dakotans.



Daugaard traveled to Washington, D.C. last week to meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and outline the expansion proposal.

Preliminary response from federal officials has been positive and we urge him and other officials to continue to work together to make the plan a reality.

Daugaard’s proposal would expand access to health care services that the federal government pays for - such as the Indian Health Service - freeing up more of the traditional state’s share of Medicaid matching funds to expand eligibility across the state.

Broadening the availability of and access to health care through Indian Health Service would mean fewer people would have to go to an outside health provider. The IHS services are fully funded by the federal government.

That frees up more state funds to help pay for Medicaid expansion, estimated to cost $30 to $33 million.

The plan would also expand coverage and improve access to care for Native Americans in the state, another clear benefit.

South Dakota is one of 20 states that refused to expand Medicaid coverage as part of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act.

Daugaard has said he would like to expand the coverage for more needy South Dakotans, but couldn’t justify the cost. An attempt by some legislators to fund the expansion failed in the last session.

Under the ACA provisions, the federal government would cover the cost of Medicaid expansion until the end of 2016. The federal payments would decline each year after until the state paid for 90 percent of the cost.

That would mean an estimated $100 million cost in 2020, state budget officials estimated.

It’s encouraging to see Daugaard taking the lead on this new effort.

True, there are still hurdles to jump - the measure has to be approved by the Indian Health Service, tribal and federal officials.

But we believe South Dakotans want to see the program expanded and health care coverage extended to more needy families.

In a 2014 Argus Leader-KELO TV poll, 45 percent of those surveyed said they approved of the expansion. Thirty-seven percent were opposed to the idea and 18 percent were undecided.

Daugaard is on the right track. Finding a way to expand Medicaid eligibility at an affordable cost will help us take a big step forward in helping the less fortunate.

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The Daily Republic, Mitchell, Oct. 1, 2015

Harrisburg shooting hits close to Mitchell

We’ve heard about the school shootings across the country, and they’re always heartbreaking.

Every time a student brings a gun to school and attempts to harm others - whether it’s students, teachers or administrators - we’re at a loss of words.

On Wednesday, Harrisburg High Principal Kevin Lein was shot by a student during school hours and lightly wounded in the arm.

Thursday, a 16-year-old student was charged as an adult with attempted murder in the shooting in Harrisburg. The same day, a much more tragic shooting occurred on a community college campus in Oregon, where at least 10 people were killed and 20 more were injured.

Again, we’re speechless. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to the families involved.

We’re thankful Lein - a former Dakota Wesleyan University basketball and softball coach - wasn’t injured worse than he was. In attempt to return to normalcy, Lein was back at school Thursday. We respect his drive to make the students feel safe by coming back to school so quickly.

But hearing of school shootings is never normal, and that’s especially the case in South Dakota.

The South Dakota Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday’s was the first school shooting in South Dakota since at least 2006. Sara Rabern, spokeswoman for the AG’s office, said she has not heard of a school shooting in South Dakota since 2006, the year Marty Jackley became the U.S. attorney for the district of South Dakota.

The news of the shooting in Harrisburg took a while to digest, but what we wonder is how parents reacted to the news. Lein, thankfully, was only wounded, and no students were harmed.

There must have been an array of emotions for parents of students who attend the school, and for parents all across South Dakota.

This doesn’t happen here, does it?

But it did happen, and we hope parents realize the importance of talking through the seriousness with their children. We hope school administrators across the state are reminding students the protocol if there is a threat, or even a hinge of thought there may be a gun in a school.

The best defense against school shootings is knowledge and communication.

Teachers and administrators need to know what to do in case something terrible happens, and students need to be smart enough to tell someone.

We hope nothing like this ever happens again in South Dakota, or anywhere in the country. When it happened less than 100 miles from Mitchell, it hit close to home and was more of a shock than other school shootings.

This instance is a good reminder these things can happen anywhere, and there are measures that should be taken to help prevent them.

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Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Oct. 8, 2015

Grants should help fight suicide epidemic

One boy was 14 when he decided to hang himself. A 15-year-old girl was found dead on Christmas Day after taking her life. Another was 13 and a member of the school’s basketball team when she killed herself.

These children are just three of the 19 youth from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation who have committed suicide since December 2014. In addition, 176 others attempted suicide from December to June 24, according to testimony by Oglala Sioux Tribe President John Yellowbird Steele before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

In response to this heart-breaking surge in youth suicide on the reservation, the Department of Health and Human Services recently announced the first of two $400,000 annual grants to the tribe to help respond to what is being called a “significant suicide cluster.”

According to the announcement by the Administration for Native Americans, the money is for youth empowerment opportunities, which includes establishing student youth councils, peer mentoring and promotion of cultural awareness activities.

Dr. Richard McKeon, chief of the federal Suicide Prevention Bureau, said the grants aim to help youth be “engaged in meaningful activity.” In addition, he said the federal government will monitor and make recommendations on how the money is spent.

The grants come as the tribe is taking its own steps to reverse the suicide epidemic. In the past few months, a skate park has been enlarged and improvements made to basketball courts and baseball fields on the reservation to give youth more positive recreational opportunities.

While the grants and other work alone will not reverse the consequences of decades of poverty on the reservation, they are important steps that send the right message to the youth of the Pine Ridge Reservation.

But much more needs to be done to change the outlook for young reservation residents. According to McKeon, it is not easy to stop what fuels a suicide cluster. Moving ahead, he said, the tribe and others need to identify who is most at risk and have systems in place to take action when needed.

We all need to do what we can to help children or young adults who may be contemplating suicide wherever they live. When so many die at their own hand, it represents a failure that must be addressed.

Let’s hope the momentum for change that has emerged in the midst of this crisis leads to lasting improvements on the reservation and creates a needed sense of hope for youth who are becoming far too disillusioned at a time when they should be looking forward to the future.

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