Editorial Roundup: West Virginia

The Journal. April 5, 2022.

Editorial: Veto of H.B. 4020 was justified

Gov. Jim Justice appears to have done the right thing this week in vetoing a few bills for which lawmakers’ hearts may have been in the right place, but not enough homework was done. The devil is in the details, after all, and a bill for which the details were not all sorted can end up becoming bad law.

But in the case of House Bill 4020, Justice’s veto was about more than just dotting Is and crossing Ts. The bill, which would have separated the Department of Health and Human Resources into two departments, was a mess. And it was the definition of bureaucracy serving itself.

Remember, HB 4020 had already been gutted of the language that was intended to help our most vulnerable children and support the foster care system, among other things. What remained was nothing more than an attempt to create a two-headed monster, without addressing any of the concerns that made it problematic in the first place.

“There have been issues… within DHHR for decades, and some of those issues are likely the result of the sheer size and diverse scope of the agency,” Justice wrote. “The bill intends in just eight pages and by amending just two sections of Code, however, to divide this complex organization that manages over $7 billion dollars of state and federal funds and employs thousands of individuals across the state.”

It is unlikely any ordinary citizen who has dealt with the DHHR has said to themselves “What this agency needs is MORE red tape.” And Justice knows it. Careful stewardship of taxpayer dollars was not on the minds of those who passed the bill, though some of those folks just a few short years ago stood firmly on the platform of “right-sizing state government.”

“We will work to develop a plan to address any and all problems, which may very well require a full reorganization of the agency,” Justice said. “But we will do so in an effective and efficient way, so we can make sure there is no lapse in any vital support or services for the West Virginians who rely on the DHHR.”

King Bureaucracy despises efficiency.

But Mountain State children and families deserve better than to have to deal with a beast (or two) that feeds off taxpayer dollars with little thought to solving those “issues” Justice knows should be the priority.

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Parkersburg News and Sentinel. April 5, 2022.

Editorial: Mental Health: Resources needed for students, teachers

Teachers do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to guiding our children through more than just academics. As students feel the accumulated strain of two years under pandemic conditions, the effects are becoming more evident. Those who were already experiencing mental health issues are now struggling in a way that means teachers and other school staff must be on the alert.

Sharon Hoover, professor of child psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and co-director of the National Center for School Mental Health, says child abuse and neglect increased during the pandemic.

“We can’t assume that ‘OK we’re back in school, it’s been a few months and now everyone should be back to normal.’ That is not the case,” she said.

Meanwhile, teachers are reporting they also see a concerning increase in apathy — about grades, how students treat each other and themselves — and a lot less empathy.

“I have never seen kids be so mean to each other in my life,” said Terrin Musbach, who trains teachers in mental health awareness and other social-emotional programs at the Del Norte Unified School District, a high-poverty district in rural Northern California.

School districts across the country are reporting they need more psychologists and counselors. The Hopeful Futures Campaign, a coalition of national mental health organizations, last month published a report that found most states are struggling with mental health support in schools. According to the report, West Virginia is among the few states that require only one school psychologist for over 4,000 students.

That means mental health first aid training for teachers could be a valuable tool. Such a course would help distinguish typical adolescent ways of dealing with stress — slamming doors, crying, bursts of anger — from warning signs of mental distress, which can be blatant or subtle. It teaches the next step such as asking the student without pressuring or casting judgment and letting them know they are cared for and there is help.

In December, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy warned about “the urgent need to address the nation’s youth mental health crisis.”

Mountain State lawmakers and school boards should take a look at making such mental health resources available for teachers and students. Our kids are struggling. If we can give teachers another way to help, it could be the difference between life and death.

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The Intelligencer. April 5, 2022.

Editorial: Parks Important to W.Va.

It comes as no surprise that West Virginians support their parks — particularly now that the New River Gorge just celebrated its first anniversary as the nation’s newest national park.

Last week, the National Parks Conservation Association released the results of a survey done to determine just what West Virginians think of having a national park in the state. The poll found that a vast majority of West Virginians support continued funding and improvements for the National Parks Service, which manages the parks.

“From the thundering waterfalls at New River Gorge to the breathtaking panoramic views at Harpers Ferry, our West Virginia national parks are worth fighting for,” said Samantha Nygaard, West Virginia program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. “This polling makes it clear that West Virginians of all political stripes want their elected officials to do just that.”

The survey found that 85% of respondents said national parks are helping the economy; about a third of West Virginians surveyed said they had visited a national park in the past three years; and three-fourths of those surveyed said they would support additional tax dollars being spent to enhance and also preserve the national parks both as a recreational tool and also a way to help battle climate change.

West Virginia’s congressional delegation has been consistent in its support of national parks.

“Now, we are urging Congress to push for additional federal legislation that will fund our national parks, protect our communities and natural resources from climate change, and give West Virginians good jobs conserving our outdoor wonders,” Nygaard said.

The poll’s results are clear: West Virginians want our leaders to do more to support national parks.

It’s now up to the folks in Washington to ensure our nation’s true treasures — our national parks — are protected for generations to come.

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