- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

The Jonesboro Sun. Sept. 15, 2019.

Finally gone are the days when folks experiencing a mental health breakdown in public get thrown into the county jail, charged with being drunk, insane or disorderly and forced to stay there until they can pay off their fine.

That’s the definition of insanity, not to mention how wrong-headed the barbaric practice was.

Craighead County has come a long way in the past few years in how it deals with folks suffering from mental health crises.



Firstly, we can thank Jonesboro attorney Mark Rees for taking on the drunken, insane or disorderly breakdown in our local judicial system. It was unlawful and chilling to think an educated society would fine and jail people suffering from mental illness - yet it happened.

This month’s opening of the Craighead County Regional Crisis Stabilization Unit was another huge step in the right direction.

We can thank Craighead County Sheriff Marty Boyd for helping to get the ball rolling on getting a crisis stabilization unit opened here.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Boyd said at the opening. “Four years ago, myself and several other sheriffs sat down with the governor in his office, and we talked about the mental health crisis that we saw in Arkansas.”

We can thank Gov. Asa Hutchinson for understanding how cruel it was to jail people with mental health issues and for providing funds to operate four crisis stabilization units across the state to protect our safety.

It’s imperative that funding continues.

“Without this, we cannot be successful in addressing the mental health needs of our society and keeping our society safe at the same time,” Hutchinson said at Tuesday’s opening. “The state is committed to this.”

We can thank Craighead County Quorum Court members and Judge Marvin Day for seeing to it that the $800,000 county-funded 16-bed unit was finally built and is now open to deal with those suffering mental health episodes.

“Thanks to our governor,” Day said, “some of our fellow Arkansans will now receive the appropriate assistance to help them overcome their obstacles.”

We can thank Mid-South Health Systems for stepping up to operate the unit, which is prepared to accommodate up to 100 admissions each month.

“We would not be here today were it not for the vision of our governor in recognizing the positive impact of jail diversion through coordination between law enforcement and community mental health,” said Allison Dover, executive director of Mid-South.

Officers who have completed 40 hours of crisis intervention training will admit patients on a voluntary basis. Nearly 100 officers in Northeast Arkansas have completed the training. Admittees will then stay for up to 96 hours and also receive customized treatment plans.

Yes, something incredible happened that Tuesday in Craighead County. People suffering from mental health breakdowns will no longer be put in jail like criminals. Instead, they will receive treatment in a facility designed to meet their health care needs.

Imagine that.

We thank all of those involved for making something truly remarkable happen. It’s something we should all be proud of.

___

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Sept. 17, 2019.

There was an indie film that came out in the early 1980s, “The Gods Must Be Crazy.” Featured in the film was a remote tribe in Africa that thought certain western folks might be gods, because they inhaled on a stick and blew smoke. Talk about fire in the belly. But there was no magic in these men. Just cigarette smoke.

Nowadays a body can even make smoke without cigarettes, and blow it into the wind, just like the old movie stars. This vaping stuff is all around. At high school football games. At the grocery store. At the park. There are stores dedicated to vaping. People, too. Dedicated, that is.

When this habit first made the rounds, some of us thought, fine. At least people aren’t smoking, and putting all those chemicals into their lungs. Now, however … .

Those who keep up with these things are finding more and more to dislike about vaping. Nobody can say for certain that it’s all that much better than cigarettes. After all, if you put nicotine into it, a vape pen might be some sort of gateway to smokes. And if you add flavors to vape pens, they can attract young people, which they most assuredly have.

There are just things about vaping that We the People and Public don’t know yet. Lest we forget, the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved vaping as a safe alternative to smoking. And might never.

What we do know: Last month, the feds released a report about the first death that “might” be related to vaping. And issued a warning to companies about advertising. Five other deaths and more than 450 cases of illnesses might be associated with these so-called “e-cigarettes.” Including six illnesses here in Arkansas. The president has commented on it. And so have a handful of concerned governors. Not to mention principals and parents and coaches. And doctors.

Hunter Field, a reporter over on the news side of this outfit, reported last week that the state legislature is considering bills to curb vaping in this state. A couple of legislative committees in Little Rock have already heard from doctors and other witnesses about the dangers of increased use.

Good. We’d like to hear more about this, too.

When it met in session earlier this year, the Ledge didn’t pass any bills aimed at vaping. There is still a lot of ignorance involved. Not ignorance as in dumb, but ignorance as in incomprehension. Not to blame them, but a lot of lawmakers simply didn’t want to start taxing and regulating things they knew so little about. That’s to be expected in a frontier state in a frontier country.

So why not learn more?

That appears to be the thought of a couple of lawmakers who told the press they’ve proposed a study on vaping, hopefully to be made public before the next legislative session. This might be one of those studies that actually produces something along the lines of information and understanding. Instead of empty reports. There is so little known about vaping that a lot of people, not just lawmakers, might learn from such an analysis. Let’s get to it.

When it comes to certain vaping techniques and habits, the feds might beat the states to the punch. Dispatches say the Trump administration has already called for restrictions on flavored e-cigarettes. In what can be described as an odd (and early) capitulation, the country’s biggest vaping concern, Juul, indicated it would go along: “We strongly agree with the need for aggressive category-wide action on flavored products,” Juul put out in a press release. “We will fully comply with the final FDA policy when effective.”

Of course, it might not have a choice but to comply with the FDA. And this might be a case of a company seeing bad public relations in the future, and maybe litigation. Used to be, Big Tobacco was untouchable, too. If Juul sees the writing on the wall, it might want to offer an opinion on what the writing says, eventually. We shall see.

There is no magic in the vapor pouring out of people at the park, the mall and the sidewalk. There is no witchcraft involved. Just chemicals and mankind’s insupportable and overwhelming desire to try new things, even if it means the death of him. Who, do you think, was the first person to wrap up a tobacco leaf, light it afire, and inhale? Doubtless he instantly regretted it. But the addictive ingredients had him coming back for more.

Native tribes on this continent started cultivating tobacco, oh, about 6,000 years ago. The surgeon general of the United States got around to linking it to cancer in 1964.

We can act with more speed these days. Let’s hope so, anyway.

___

Texarkana Gazette. Sept. 17, 2019.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It was on Sept. 17, 1787, that 39 American patriots signed the Constitution. That document has guided this nation through good times and bad, prosperity and depression, war and peace, for more than two centuries.

It’s a remarkable document, intended to set out the procedure and power of a government created from scratch and, make no mistake, the limits of that governmental power.

The Constitution as signed that day consisted of a preamble and seven articles. The first article concerned the Congress and legislative power. The second dealt with the executive branch. The third the judiciary.

Article Four laid out the states’ powers and their limits, as well as the obligations of the federal government. Article Five detailed how the Constitution could be amended. Article Six established the Constitution as the supreme law of the land and the seventh article explained the requirements for ratification of the Constitution.

Many think the Bill of Rights - the first 10 amendments to the Constitution - were part of the original document. They were not. Those 10 amendments were part of 12 proposed in 1789. The third through 12th proposed amendments became the First through 10th Amendments when ratified in 1791. The second proposed amendment, which dealt with how members of Congress are compensated, was not ratified until 200 years later. It became the 27th Amendment in 1992. The first proposed amendment of 1789 - dealing with how representatives are apportioned based on population - still has not been ratified.

Tuesday was Constitution Day, when we honor that document as the foundation of our nation and our liberty.

Surprisingly, Constitution Day is a recent federal holiday. From 1952 until 2005, Sept. 17 had been designated Citizenship Day.

But Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia thought that the Constitution should be celebrated and proposed the new name. He also included a provision that every federally funded educational institution be required to stress the history and meaning of the Constitution to students on this day.

Many schools and colleges have taken it a step further and declared “Constitution Week” to provide a more complete educational experience.

We like that idea. Taken to a national level, Constitution Week is something that could do our nation a lot of good.

Of course, it’s not just students who should look to the Constitution - all Americans should stand in awe of the extraordinary Founders who gave us this document. And all Americans should take the time and effort to read the Constitution and study its history for themselves.

Over the years, the people of the U.S. have squabbled over how the Constitution should be interpreted. That’s to be expected. But our Constitution has stood for 232 years and will stand for many generations yet to come. For that may we be truly thankful.

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