Welcome to our nightmare
The dismantling of government services in Oregon has become so stunning and horrifying that it deserves a weblog all to itself.
I can't bear to do it, and so I'm going to limit my posts on this subject to one a week.
Here is this week's.
Today we read in The Oregonian that the highly effective street detox program known to many as the "CHIERS van" will be lopping eight hours a day off its schedule. From now on, if there's a drunk or junkie strung out on the sidewalk in downtown Portland between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., he or she will lie there until the Portland Police Bureau gets around to scooping the poor soul up and taking him or her to jail or to a hospital. The Central City Concern folks, who run the Hooper Detox Center, have had to cut back their humanitarian, and livability-saving, efforts, because their government funding sources are drying up.
You folks out in the suburbs who oppose tax increases, remember that as your kids are stepping over these people on your way to the Rose Festival.
But even worse than that tale are the stories of the people who are dying because of the harsh budget cuts enacted at the state and local levels.
Actually. Literally. Dying. As in, today.
Friday's Oregonian carried a story about a 37-year-old patient at the Salem Hospital Psychiatric Medicine Center who smuggled in a handgun and killed himself, apparently distraught because he was losing his "meds," which had previously been supplied by the state. The dead man, Michael Shay, had his prescription drug benefits eliminated at the end of February. He killed himself March 5.
Then yesterday we read the heart-rending story of a 36-year-old seizure sufferer who lost his state-supplied anti-seizure medicine at the end of January. Eight days after his supply ran out, he suffered a massive seizure and was hospitalized. As of the weekend, Douglas Schmidt was unconscious and in critical condition at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland. A television story I saw last night said that his kidneys were failing, and that his family was preparing to end life support.
There's plenty of blame to go around for this. Right-wing members of the legislature who are determined to stick it to Portland -- they refuse to fund public services if it means a few hundred bucks a year from their backwoods constituents, who have lazily neglected to retool their own local economies. Their sage wisdom in this time of life-and-death crisis: "They stole our timber money." Also at fault are the cul-de-sac suburbanites from the outskirts of Portland who quietly support the same backward policies. And the governors, both new and old, who, when it has come to proposing a workable solution to these funding problems, have had nothing to offer.
To a large extent, all of us Oregonians are to blame. All of us. As Richard Harris of the Hooper Detox Center described it in today's paper, we have landed on Planet Stupid.
It's worse than that, Richard. We are living in shame.
What can be done? Let's leave that one for another day. For now, let me just say, Plenty. But it takes guts, which neither the politicians nor the voters of Portland and Oregon are showing any of.