- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The (Munster) Times. February 24, 2017

We can’t remain idle on youth suicide

It’s an excruciating pain no parent wants to experience and a preventable social sickness with an often unadministered cure.

The 2015 Youth Risk Behavior survey measured the risk factors of teen suicide rates in 37 states.

The survey, administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, concluded Indiana had the third-highest rate of high school students who have seriously contemplated suicide.

In fact, it found nearly 20 percent of Hoosier high school students surveyed had considered ending their own lives.

Indiana also had the 10th highest rate of high school students attempting suicide, according to the survey.

And Lake and Marion counties lead the state in the dubious category of highest suicide rates, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

The human face of this tragedy came into sharp focus Sunday in an article by Times reporter Carmen McCollum. It profiled the loss suffered by a Region family whose teen committed suicide and addressed efforts to respond to the larger problem.

Rather than just being disheartened or disgusted at the gravity of such tragic statistics and personal accounts, there are clear steps our state and its people can and should take to address the tragedy.

It goes beyond the obvious need of parents to remain engaged in their children’s lives and be weary of signs of depression.

Indiana House Rep. Julie Olthoff, R-Crown Point, is sponsoring a bill that would require school employees to attend two hours of youth-suicide awareness and prevention training every two years.

The bill passed the Indiana House last week and deserves a favorable vote in the Senate.

Families must be made aware of the plethora of Northwest Indiana agencies poised to help children who show signs of depression or other suicide risk factors.

Regional Mental Health in Merrillville, Edgewater Systems for Balanced Health in Gary and Porter-Starke Services in Valparaiso are just a few of those agencies.

“If you can catch folks that are suicidal and get them help, there is a high success rate” of survival, said Todd Willis, Porter-Starke Services director.

We cannot afford to sit idle on this issue and hope such problems improve on their own. Our youth, some of whom face high-pressure situations of bullying or other social or family anxieties, need our help, whether or not they seek or ask for it.

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The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin. February 23, 2017

Anti-abortion bill mixes social agenda, public policy

A woman, or for that matter any couple, facing abortion in Indiana must encounter legal hoops.

The parent of a minor must consent before an abortion is performed.

A woman must obtain an ultrasound, and the provider must offer her an opportunity to view the image.

A woman must also receive state-directed counseling that includes information to discourage her from her decision. Then she must wait 18 hours before undergoing the procedure.

Only first trimester abortions can be performed in outpatient clinics.

An abortion may be performed at 20 or more weeks only if the woman’s life or physical health is in danger.

That’s just the beginning of the standards to undergo a legal procedure. The decision to terminate a pregnancy lies with the woman, not society, and her health care provider who can discuss the risk of the procedure. That relationship has been recognized by the law since 1973.

But now there’s a bill in the Indiana General Assembly that adds another step, again for right-to-life advocates to have a third party push their agenda.

House Bill 1128 requires abortion providers to give women, prior to them receiving abortion drugs, information about a pill that can reverse the abortion process.

Abortion pill reversal is controversial. Proponents say the pill gives women a chance to stop a chemically induced abortion. Critics say there’s no scientific evidence to support the approach.

The bill’s provisions are an unnecessary addition to a series of laws that already ensures that both sides of the abortion issue are presented to women.

The House bill intentionally preys on women who have normal second doubts about abortion. The bill can add a traumatic tug-of-war to an already emotional decision.

More so, the bill strives to move a social agenda into public policy. That dangerous proposition would only set up yet another hurdle to a legal procedure and a private decision.

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South Bend Tribune. February 23, 2017

Public must push for redistricting reform

We should’ve known it would be too much to ask.

How could a legislative committee chair balk at an opportunity to do the right thing by establishing an independent commission to create state and congressional maps, ultimately removing politics from the redistricting process?

It’s easy when the political party in charge - Republican or Democrat - is intent on holding onto its power.

Both parties have taken advantage of a system that gives the legislature responsibility for drawing its own legislative and congressional districts. Those maps make it easy for incumbents to get re-elected and nearly impossible for challengers to be competitive.

The General Assembly has made progress. A special interim committee tasked with coming up with alternatives to the current process passed on to the legislature its idea to establish an independent commission responsible for redrawing state and congressional district maps following the census.

House Bill 1014, co-authored by Rep. Jerry Torr and House Speaker Brian Bosma, was assigned to the Committee on Elections and Apportionment, but its chair, Rep. Milo Smith, blocked a committee vote, saying the committee had insufficient time to prepare amendments to the proposal.

Translation: No thanks, we like things just the way they are.

It’s that kind of inaction that drives voters nuts, especially when people care enough to spend hours during hearings trying to persuade legislators that the system is broken and needs fixing.

Julia Vaughn, policy director of Common Cause Indiana, said there is strong public support for redistricting reform. “Outside the walls of the limestone people get it - yet it’s very different inside.”

Both Republicans and Democrats have acknowledged problems with the state’s current redistricting process. But left to their own devices, there’s little incentive for legislators to change. It will be up to voters to continue the push for reform and restore public faith in the electoral process. It’s a battle well worth fighting.

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(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star. February 24, 2017

The people deserve to be heard

Bucshon should make plans to hear concerns

Can we all agree that citizens who care about the direction of public policy in their country have a lot to talk about these days?

No matter where you fall on the partisanship spectrum, there sure is a lot going on that’s worth considering in these opening weeks of a new presidency. Immigration. Health care. Environmental regulation. Foreign policy. And that’s just for starters. Wherever you turn, issues abound.

Elected officials, especially those on the federal level who are closest to home, are finding themselves inundated by constituent communications. That means our district members of the U.S. House of Representatives, the people’s house. For us here in Indiana’s 8th District, that’s Rep. Larry Bucshon, a Newburgh Republican who put his career as a heart surgeon on hold in 2010 to pursue his dream to be a congressman. He used the tea party rebellion to help him win the open seat vacated that year by Democrat Brad Ellsworth, who tried but failed to win an open U.S. Senate seat.

Bucshon has held on to that seat ever since in what is viewed in political circles as a swing district. He is widely respected as a soft-spoken, friendly and inclusive congressman whose favorite topic in the realm of health-care policy is repeal of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and replacing it with something more aligned with his conservative ideological principles.

While anti-Obamacare sentiment has been strong in recent years, fueled in part by problems within the fledgling system and constant criticism from politicians on the right, public approval of the health insurance program has risen significantly. In fact, recent public opinion surveys show the public almost evenly divided and many people concerned that repeal of the law could have adverse, or even devastating effects on people’s ability to obtain health care across the country.

The controversy over Obamacare and other issues related to the rocky opening weeks of the Donald Trump presidency has sparked a loud and aggressive resistance to the new administration and some of its proposed policies. That resistance spilled over last week and this week into raucous town hall meetings conducted by members of Congress as they visited their districts during the current recess.

Citizens in the 8th District who wanted to tell Rep. Bucshon what they think about some of these simmering issues were disappointed to find out Bucshon is in Japan this week with a congressional delegation discussing economic partnerships between our two countries.

We’re pleased to see Bucshon participating in that trip. There are a number of Japanese companies doing business in the 8th District, and such a visit is a wise use of the congressman’s time.

But we also encourage Bucshon to give some attention to those in his district who have legitimate questions about the direction of the country under Republican Party leadership and his thoughts about some of the policies the new president has adopted.

We understand that Bucshon doesn’t want to be a part of a staged protest, but people with diverse viewpoints should have the opportunity to have his ear and get some answers in a public forum. There are ways to maintain decorum at such events, and we are certain the congressman can develop a town hall format that is beneficial for all involved.

Rep. Bucshon needs to meet with the citizens in a public forum soon, at very least the next time he is in the district during a congressional recess. His constituents deserve his undivided attention.

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