Hall of Horrors: Death is knocking in Portland
Bush's war on the world is draining social structures all across the nation. In Oregon people are dying because they are being denied much needed healthcare, medications and social services. This article was written to try to educate Oregonians about the connection between Bush's war and the deaths of Oregonians at home in the social services trenches.
Healthcare Fiasco.: Hall of Horrors: Death is knocking in Portland, Oregon. Real life stories from the social services trenches.
This information is being collected as part of a project to inform Oregon and the nation about how Bush's war on the world is affecting Oregonians. Please see our website at www.portlandsurvival.org
When this war is over Americans will crawl out from the death and destruction we've committed in Iraq, and we will see that crimes have also been perpetrated right here. Our social services are defunct and people are unemployed. Our right to a free public education is in jeopardy. The idea that this government is capable of creating democracy abroad, in Iraq, and providing food and healthcare to the people there is insane. The Bush administration has proven that they are unwilling to create jobs, provide health services, or educational opportunities here. To make matters worse, we are hated and targeted by much of the world because of our undemocratic, aggressive crusade for power. So, now our lives are dangerous in other ways.
Many people of the United States are deluded because their information comes through the corporate owned media which blots out dissenting views. It is important that we be vigilant and devote our activist energy to two fronts: (1) the antiwar movement and (2) local issues such as lack of adequate healthcare. These two issues are undeniably linked. It is fortunate that many talented and outraged individuals, some of whom are laid off from social services jobs, are working together to find solutions to these problems.
Jack Cox is an example of one who is suffering here in our own country. Jack is a 63-year-old HIV patient. In January he suffered through pneumonia , a congestive heart failure and subsequent surgery. The procedure was $100,000. He now needs $9000 in heart medication. His total drugs are $26,000 a year. He is living on Social Security which is $600 a month. He is typical of the many senior citizens in our country who suffer from poverty and illness. The state legislature, when preparing to make cuts, assumed that the drug companies would take care of the individuals with HIV and transplants. This was their solution to the cuts that were set to occur in February.
Many, many people testified and it came apparent that the drug companies were willing to take on a few cases for short periods of time, and on an individual basis. They certainly were not willing to take on the 100,000 people that would be left without. So the most vocal, 400 HIV and transplant patients were given assistance until June. Jack stated, "with a life threatening illness like HIV it is important to keep an attitude that says to the world, I am well".
This is your defense to falling prey to sickness or death. Medication is part of this scenario. Constantly having to fight for your right to have medical care puts stress on the immune system and Jack feels that it may result in what the Legislature seems to want, that these people will not be here to voice their opposition. The sick will be dead. He worries about what happened to the thousands of people that did not have their medication restored. He worries about the ongoing struggle to find medication as we move into the summer. Jack lamented, at the governor's conference Bush was asked for federal assistance. Every state is in this crisis, but Bush did not give any aid.
The hundreds of billions of dollars needed for war is taking priority. The sick here are collateral damage. The long term solution is universal health care, similar to what every post industrial state has. Without this form of health coverage, staying alive becomes a class issue.
It is also important to socialize people to live well and eat right, exercise. We must take care of the environment and stop polluting. The sad fact is that these sick people without a voice may simply disappear. Many people will die without medication, counseling, or methadone. This is already happening. It is important that we gather together with friends and neighbors to pressure our government to take care of those that cannot care for themselves. This is the very definition of a civilization. Jack and others have worked on Cover the Uninsured Week, and other lobbying activities to advocate for the medically needy. Many people are working together to take action to improve the current situation in healthcare. If you've been affected by these cuts, please get in touch at email@example.com. If you are a worker in the social services industry, there are socials being held at 6 to 8 p.m. at The Cafe (614 East Burnside) April 18th, May 2nd, 16th and 30th. ------------------------------
Death is Knocking Portland and it is becoming a hall of horrors - stories from the trenches
The health care system is in a serious state of disrepair due to a taxation policy that relies heavily on income taxes. Revenues from income are precarious when the economy is unstable, and the Oregon Legislature does not have a backup plan. We are further crippled by our leadership commitment to one of the lowest corporate taxes in the nation. Our social workers and health care workers are laid off or juggling caseloads that make it impossible to give proper care. This is where union memberships such as workers in IU650 Social Service Branch of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) and many outraged individuals and groups are pulling together to make changes necessary for a healthy community. Annie is a member of the IU650 Social Service Branch of the IWW. She is tenaciously working with many others including workers, patients, and agencies to find solutions to the decaying public safety net for the uninsured. Annie explained, "Right now social workers are increasingly concerned with the inability to provide proper care and resources for our clients. Working conditions to provide minimal care are difficult. We have come together working in coalition with other groups to get funding back without adding extra taxes on workers. People with full-time jobs cannot afford things like childcare. The Oregon Health Care Plan has been cut and more children and families are without."
Annie was laid off twice in the last two years from social service positions, and now works in a cafe. She states, "It's hard to find work in social services. Directors, case managers and social workers with masters degrees cannot find positions. I am bilingual and have several years experience and cannot get interviews.
Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare is one of the many health care providers in Portland that have been cut. Their first layoff was 1\3 of their staff, and now they have laid off more. The caseworkers went from 80 clients each to 150, and now they are considering getting rid of caseworkers all together. One county program is up to 650 families per caseworker. Many women cannot get services unless they're pregnant or have children. Annie, who says she can't hear these stories without crying, referred me to a woman named Roberta - a 51 year old military veteran whose health has been compromised by fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, periodontal disease, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
To supplement her Veteran's Association health coverage, Roberta has been accessing the Oregon Health Care Program for preventative dental care. On Feb. 1st of this year this service began requiring a co-pay that came at a time when her General Assistance was cut. She is now left in a situation without either service. Her caseworkers have dwindled from sixteen to six people. Roberta has applied for disability in the past, but was denied. She feels fortunate to still have her Section 8 housing and food stamps. Despite her own health woes, Roberta manages to advocate for others with similar conditions. She commiserates, "The game is to discourage and frustrate as many people as possible."
The web of paperwork and court hearings for assistance is overwhelming as Roberta found in her attempt to get disability checks. Her disability hearing was postponed three times in 2002. She has been waiting a total of five years and has one level, the federal level, left to appeal. That will take a year and half. For people who are sick and fatigued this waiting game of denial and red tape is insurmountable. Roberta's nine year military service to this country was based on economic need. She ran away from home when she was fifteen and joined the military because she needed financial stability. This is what is known as an economic recruit. She believes that some of her health concerns are due to a series of twenty vaccines received while in the service. Her current poverty and health make it difficult for her to leave her home, so she is essentially locked in. Roberta states, "I paid into that system my entire life, and went on general assistance in 2000." It seems that Roberta has been betrayed. Some services were restored temporarily to the most vocal. Transplant and HIV patients had their medications reinstated, but only until June. Others, including those with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and those being treated with methadone are overdosing, dying and/or finding themselves in hospital emergency rooms. Doctors are having to advise their patients which drugs will cause the least trauma when they are forced to do without. These are difficult decisions for caregivers and their patients. All of this is terribly inefficient.
Expensive emergency room care is replacing preventative measures. The state cuts are multiplied because the federal government matches state contributions two to one. So matching fund s are gone.
For every dollar we don't spend now, we will spend $7.00 in the future in emergency situations, police responses and jail time,said Annie . There are also macabre issues like lack of funding for burial. The sick are having to face their mortality prematurely. Annie stated, "Since methadone was cut, the number of overdoses has skyrocketed. People cannot go to counseling and don't have caseworkers. Mental Health patients do not have the medications needed to keep them safe. People are not able to get test strips for diabetes. People are dying slowly and painfully.
Suicides are increasing. The amount of pain people are feeling is terrible, it's so terrible. The faces and names of humans are lost in numbers and statistics. These are people, not numbers. It's hard to look at them and say, "Well, we gotta deal with the budget".
One answer is that public tax money can be found in the pockets of the Portland Business Alliance, PBA. This is the organization well known for the sit and lie ban, for discouraging city council from taking an antiwar stance, and for trying to influence negotiations between the Portland Teachers Association and the school district. The PBA is allocating public funds for such frivolous expenditures as Christmas lights and a proposed ice skating rink that will eliminate treasured public meeting space in Pioneer Square. Their board meetings are closed to the public, leaving the people in the dark about of how our public money is being spent. Oregon corporations, after the kicker tax revenues pay just under three percent of profits in state taxes. Through fancy Enron style practices, about 2/3 of Oregon's corporations pay the minimum depression era $10 tax fee.
Furthermore, corporations are actually paid to follow Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. This form of corporate welfare results in increasing numbers of uninsured becoming sickly and/or dying. Annie states, "The worst case scenario is what is already starting to happen. More families and individuals are forced into extreme conditions. Education is compromised. The youth are placed in dangerous situations, with the closing of many services that once existed to help them. Families are laid off work, and get into a system where they are trapped. If you don't put time and money into services, there will be a huge transient and homeless population, and no help to transition them off the streets. More demand and stress will be placed on a weakened system. Unemployment is at a ridiculous level, and many are not eligible for benefits. We should make sure good people are not forced to make desperate decisions.
Reallocating money to meet the needs of the poor and suffering is essential. Roberta laments that government is no longer by and for the people. She said, "Read the constitution. When the government no longer represents the will of the people they have a right to abolish the government. Nobody came and asked us about war, or if our tax money should go to war or corporate tax cuts. In the 1930's and 60's people forced the government to take care of the people. There should be an uproar when disabled people are thrown into the streets. Many people are working together to take action to improve the current situation in healthcare. If you've been affected by these cuts, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are a worker in the social services industry, there are socials being held at 6 to 8 p.m. at The Cafe (614 East Burnside) April 4th and 18th, May 2nd, 16th and 30th.
Written by Marianne Hall
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