Ramesh Bhatt: Air quality: Allow researcher to collect data
COVID-19 and the accumulating evidence of the effects of climate change underscore the necessity of science to protect our health and the environment. Unfortunately, at this critical time, there seems to be some disagreement between the University of Colorado Boulder and Dr. Detlev Helmig, the scientist who has published extensively on the effects of fracking on air quality in our region.
CU has fired Helmig. This firing, mysteriously announced first by the oil and gas industry news outlet Western Wire, led to the predictable attack from the industry about the veracity of Helmig’s research. However, Helmig’s peer-reviewed research has clearly established that fracking operations to the east and north of Boulder are polluting our air and compromising our health.
More general research by agencies like NASA, National Institute of Standards and Technology and major universities concur with Helmig’s research and find oil and gas operations are emitting pollutants like methane at a high rate, endangering health and contributing to climate change.
Even John Putnam, director of environmental programs of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, stated during the February meeting of the Air Quality Control Commission that Colorado agencies are underestimating emissions from oil and gas operations. It is clear fracking is highly polluting and endangering our health and our environment.
We also should remember that even if fracking can be conducted safely, which is nowhere near reality now, the use of the resulting fossil fuel products leads to pollution and climate change. We have learned that the effects of COVID-19 are more severe in polluted environments like ours.
Given all this and the dire need for good science, I hope CU does not put a roadblock in Helmig’s way, instead allowing him to build on his data collection and continue his path-breaking and potentially life-saving research.
Emily Wilson: Alzheimer’s: Legislature can prevent deepest budget cuts
Living with dementia is hard. I know because both my father and my father’s sister suffered from and ultimately passed because of early-onset Alzheimer’s, and my family cared for them in our home. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it that much more difficult — for those living with the disease as well as those caring for a loved one with it.
Many of the 76,000 Coloradans living with Alzheimer’s disease rely on state programs and services to make this daunting task easier. Services like respite, adult day programs, nutrition assistance and nursing homes can be critical during a family’s journey with dementia. However, because of COVID-19, Colorado has a $3.3 billion budget shortfall. Budget cuts of this magnitude threaten to reduce some of these critical programs and devastate others. Rather than relying solely on budget cuts to get us out of this crisis, the General Assembly should take advantage of another option.
Under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, more commonly referred to as TABOR, the Legislature has the power to generate revenue in the wake of a public health emergency declaration by creating a temporary tax. The revenue generated by this tax would offset some of these budget cuts.
Legislators can — and should — implement this TABOR solution in order to ensure we are supporting the 76,000 Coloradans living with Alzheimer’s and the 256,000 family members and friends providing unpaid care for them.
Alzheimer’s State Champion
Jennifer Leosz and Dixie Casford: Mental health: Thank behavioral health professionals
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a collective increase of anxiety, stress, financial and health concerns, grief and loss in many communities. As these mental health concerns impact more and more families and individuals, behavioral health professionals have stepped in to provide much needed compassionate and high-quality mental health and addiction recovery care, as well as educated communities about the importance of self-care and how to find valuable resources.
During the first critical weeks of the pandemic, their work helped divert individuals from emergency departments into more appropriate levels of care and their dedication continues to ensure individuals receive essential mental health and addiction recovery services uninterrupted.
In honor of these selfless actions, we want to express our profound gratitude for all behavioral health professionals. We acknowledge their dedication, compassion and expertise not only had a positive impact on lives during this crisis, but also make a difference every other day of the year.
We also are grateful to individuals with experience with a mental illness for stepping forward and sharing their stories. These stories are a source of hope for many in our communities as they reduce stigma and remind others they are not alone on their journey and are especially powerful during times of challenge and crisis.
It is clear the pandemic shone a light on the importance of mental well being. We are hopeful behavioral health will remain at the forefront of our lives with individuals and families choosing to integrate mental health more fully into their whole person care, support nonprofit behavioral health centers and prioritize self care.
It is through these actions we can all honor the work of behavioral professionals and support each other during this time, and whatever lies ahead.
Jennifer Leosz and Dixie Casford
co-CEOS, Mental Health Partners
Boulder and Longmont