Trees Lost in Snellville due to Tropical Storm Irma

IMG_2487.JPG

A tree in my neighborhood lost to Tropical Storm Irma, Snellville, Georgia, September 12, 2017

After the Carribean, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Florida were hard-hit by Hurricane Irma, its effects were felt here in Snellville, Georgia after it traveled up the west coast of Florida early last week.

We lost power for almost 1.5 days in Tropical Storm Irma that came through this area.  Traditional schools were closed for three days, and online schools closed for one day.  If what we experienced was a tropical storm, I’ve definitely never seen a rain and wind storm whip around the trees as it did.  Its amazing that more trees did not fall than actually did.

IMG_2485.JPG

Another tree down in my neighborhood. Snellville, Georgia, September 12, 2017

In my neighborhood, alone, I counted six trees that fell after driving through my area, including a huge oak. With the heavy winds and the ground being saturated, trees with surface roots or those that were rotten fell easily.

IMG_2496.JPG

A fallen tree in my neighborhood. Snellville, Georgia, September 12, 2017

Just yesterday, in a nearby area, I observed power lines that were laying on the ground. Now, six days after the storm passed through, there are still people in my area who do not have electrical power.

IMG_2491.JPG

A couple of limbs that were ripped off of a tree in my neighborhood. Snellville, Georgia, September 12, 2017

Seeing the news on TV and the Internet of the damage that Irma did, my heart and prayers go out to everyone who weathered it.  May those who lost their lives rest in peace.  May those who are cleaning up and rebuilding get the help and support they need, quickly.

Mother Nature has shown that a category five hurricane is definitely something to take extremely seriously.

Poorest People Still Left Behind in American Healthcare Coverage, Including Medicaid (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

I am a person who is an advocate for universal healthcare coverage in the United States.  When President Barack Obama persistently pushed for the achievement of universal healthcare in the United States, I was definitely a supporter.  I think it is wonderful that people who so desperately need healthcare coverage in the United States are now able to receive it, in many areas of the country.

I, however, still do not have healthcare coverage.  Why?  My income falls below the federal government’s poverty level guidelines for who is eligible to receive universal healthcare.  And, my state, Georgia, has not expanded Medicaid for individuals and/or families who would otherwise be eligible to receive Medicaid due to income guidelines.

So, while there is universal healthcare coverage that is available in the United States, it is not available to me.  I have not had healthcare insurance coverage for about 4.5 years since becoming divorced.  Prior to that, I had healthcare coverage either through my employer and/or my spouse.  In 2009, I was employed with a company that guaranteed healthcare insurance coverage after working for several months; I was laid off before that time came.

For the past 4.5 years, I have paid out-of-pocket for all of my medical and healthcare-related expenses.  I have paid out-of-pocket for visits to my regular doctor, gynecologist, dentist, and optometrist.  I have also paid out-of-pocket for all of my prescriptions, laboratory work, and all other healthcare-related services and appointments.

Last year, after going five years without having an eye exam, I finally had one and got new glasses, with monies withdrawn from my retirement account.  This year, I have noticed further changes in my eyesight, but cannot afford to get my eyes checked, or get new glasses again, with having to pay out-of-pocket.

Typically, my gynecologist and dentist appointments cost me much more than any of my regular doctor appointments.  It has been several years since I went to my OBGYN, and my last mammogram was about five years ago.

Thankfully, most medical practitioners provide some sort of discount for people who pay out-of-pocket.  Such a discount is helpful, though there is a wide range in discount percentages, usually 5%-20%, as I’ve experienced.

When I lived in New York State, from the time I graduated from the University at Buffalo (December 1992), and was removed from my parents’ coverage, until I became employed full-time as a teacher in Georgia (August 2000), I did not have healthcare coverage.  Either my employers did not offer healthcare coverage, or they required at least one’s year’s employment with them before they provided it.  In the places in which I worked part-time, and/or left employment to obtain other employment within one year (typically, for a higher salary and the opportunity for better benefits), I did not have healthcare coverage.

To date, that makes a total of 12.5 years of my life that I have not had healthcare coverage.  After reading a newspaper article related to a lack of healthcare coverage in Georgia for individuals who do not qualify for Medicaid, I realized that I am not alone.  Misty Williams wrote “Ga.’s Medicaid call affects thousands,” being published in the April 6, 2014 issue of The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

In her article, Williams stated, “Statewide, more than 400,000 of Georgia’s poorest, most vulnerable citizens have been left behind by the health care law that was supposed to benefit them the most.”  Because Georgia has not expanded Medicaid (and has, therefore, caused me to be ineligible for coverage, unless I am pregnant), all of these people are still without healthcare coverage.

Throughout the United States, there are 5.7 million people without healthcare coverage – because their states have not expanded Medicaid.  All of the seven states in the Deep South are included in the 24 (nearly half of the US!) states that have not expanded Medicaid.  A WhiteHouse.gov website put’s Georgia’s number of people without coverage at 478,000 – ranked third behind only Texas and Florida – for all those without healthcare coverage due to Medicaid not being expanded to cover them.

If I was younger and perhaps had more faith that an issue such as this would change, I would likely be highly upset about it.  But, now that I am older and somewhat wiser, it really comes as no surprise to me, and is actually a disappointment that people such as myself, who are in the greatest need of healthcare coverage, still do not have it – because they are too poor!

When I am driving on the road, I hope and pray that I am not involved in a serious vehicle collision that causes me bodily harm.  I hope and pray, and do my best to stay healthy, so that I do not acquire a serious illness or disease.  I am cautious and careful about what I eat and who I date, as well as about cleanliness and personal hygiene.

I try to stay as healthy and as well as possible in order to avoid being hospitalized for some situation or condition that could cause bankruptcy.  Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, situations cannot be avoided, and so, I continue to be aware, healthy, and do the best I can.  What I would really like is gainful, stable, and enjoyable full-time employment so that I can obtain and maintain healthcare coverage.

Lawmakers in Georgia – and in other states that have not expanded Medicaid – have truly let down those people such as myself who are so poor that they do not qualify for universal healthcare coverage, including Medicaid.  I thought that the idea behind establishing universal healthcare coverage was so that it would be universal.  Unfortunately, in states such as Georgia, I have seen that it is really not universal.

The Affordable Care Act has, therefore, made absolutely no positive difference in my life to date – because my state has not expanded Medicaid and I am too poor to be eligible to receive Medicaid.  I continue to pay out-of-pocket and do not have any healthcare coverage.  When the poorest of the poor are overlooked and ineligible for even the most minimal healthcare coverage that is supposed to be provided to those who are poor – Medicaid – there is definitely something very wrong with this situation. 😦

References:

24 states are refusing to expand Medicaid (April 3, 2014). Here’s what that means for their residents. WhiteHouse.gov.  Washington, DC: The White House. Retrieved on April 18, 2014 from http://www.whitehouse.gov/share/medicaid-map?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_content=110613p1&utm_campaign=healthcare

Is my state expanding Medicaid coverage? (2014).  Healthcare.gov.  Baltimore, MD: U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  Retrieved on April 18, 2014 from https://www.healthcare.gov/what-if-my-state-is-not-expanding-medicaid/

Williams, Misty (April 6, 2014).  Ga.’s Medicaid call affects thousands.  Atlanta, Georgia: The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Vol. 66, No. 96.

“Southerners Insist on Challenging Treacherous Weather Conditions” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Snow and Ice Melting on my Street, Snellville, Georgia, January 29, 2014

Snow and Ice Melting on my Street, Snellville, Georgia, January 29, 2014

Here we go again.  Here in the South, we are seeing yet another repeat of situations that have occurred in past winters in which there were treacherous icy and snowy conditions outside.  A couple of years ago, there was a snow storm that came through the South, leaving the Atlanta, Georgia area, where I live, shut down for one entire week.  Yesterday and today, we are, again, experiencing icy and snowy conditions that have caused numerous vehicle collisions and stranded 1,000s of motorists.

Obviously, folks have not learned from past experiences, is all I can think of.  When there is two inches of snow that covers wet roads that have turned icy, that is a good enough reason for me to stay put.  I don’t understand why other folks don’t do the same, unnecessarily risking life and limb to challenge Mother Nature, and often, losing in doing so.

My Son Having Fun Sledding, Snellville, Georgia, January 29, 2014

My Son Having Fun Sledding, Snellville, Georgia, January 29, 2014

Two years ago, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution about this same type of situation.  While my letter was right on topic and publishable, it was declined because there were already other letters on this issue that had been published, as I was informed by a newspaper staff member.  That’s fine, but I would like to make my point, again, that plows with salters and sanders are necessary in Georgia, and in other places throughout the South, for that matter.

Snowy Trees in Georgia, January 29, 2014

Snowy Trees in Georgia, January 29, 2014

The argument against such plows about which I read in media in the past is solely due to cost.  However, I believe that it is better to be safe than sorry.  To me, it would be worthwhile for state departments of transportation to invest in some plows with salters and sanders, and to plow at least main roads and highways when weather conditions become as treacherous as they are now.

I have heard and read blame directed toward the state transportation authorities for not ensuring these measures.  I have also observed and read in the media in the past that counties and municipalities in Georgia, particularly in and around the Atlanta metro area, have taken it upon themselves to invest in plows and to do plowing in weather conditions in which it is needed.  In light of all considerations and observations of which I am aware, I believe this is a smart move.  In the long run, these measures will have prevented innumerable vehicle accidents from occurring as well as having maintained the safety of those folks who insist on being out on the roads in such treacherous icy and snowy conditions.

Snowy Bushes in Georgia, January 29, 2014

Snowy Bushes in Georgia, January 29, 2014

Really, the best place to be when experiencing snow and ice in the South is indoors.  Emergency responders and the National Guard are over-extended when situations such as this occur, and people do not simply stay indoors.  Because there is such a lack of investment in snow removal machines and equipment in the South, folks here are forced to wait it out until the snow melts and safer road conditions return, or they can continue to try to challenge these type of conditions, and lose.

In places where there is little to no snow removal equipment used, why insist on challenging treacherous weather conditions?  In dealing with such treacherous icy and snowy weather conditions, it is better to be safe than sorry.    I believe that is the best philosophy in situations such as these.   On the other hand, however, life in the South should not come to a halt due to snow and ice.  People and the economy are placed at risk, and both suffer unnecessarily because of the lack of resources to effectively deal with the effects of winter weather.  Positive and progressive change are necessary in this area.

References:

Crary, D. (January 29, 2014).  “Snow and ice send South’s flagship city reeling.”  MSN.com.  Retrieved on January 29, 2014 from http://news.msn.com/us/after-storm-helicopters-search-for-stranded-drivers

Henry, R., & Bynum, R. (January 29, 2014).  “1 day after storm, Atlanta highways still gridlocked.”  MSN.com.  Retrieved on January 29, 2014 from http://news.msn.com/us/snowstorm-slams-the-south-leaves-drivers-stranded

Sen, C. (January 29, 2014).  “How 2 inches of snow created a traffic nightmare in Atlanta.”  MSN.com.  Retrieved on January 29, 2014 from http://news.msn.com/us/how-2-inches-of-snow-created-a-traffic-nightmare-in-atlanta

“Children Need Advocacy and Support, not Ignorance and Punishment” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Not a day goes by that I am amazed and disappointed by the lack of insight and support that many people have regarding children.  Even in regard to people who one might believe are trained in child development and education may be completely oblivious to realizing that their words and behaviors are unsupportive of, and in many cases, detrimental toward children.  What children in our world need – especially those who may have special considerations, including disabilities – is advocacy, understanding, and support rather than ignorance, misunderstanding, and punishment.

When people in child development, education, and other fields are rigid and unbelieving about the needs of children – and who, in fact, do not have an understanding of children that is in the child’s best interests – children suffer in many ways and can be placed at great risk in many cases.  In medical and healthcare fields, individuals are supposed to do their best to ‘do no harm’ and adhere to the Hippocratic Oath.  While the medical field, however, often practices from a perspective of illness, the counseling field strives to recognize people from a view of wellness.  An illness or disease is not the person; but rather, it is the person who must be supported in a view of wellness in order to improve or recover from illness.

Educators, child care specialists, and others – including parents – need to have a wider view of what is best for children.  In cases of highly contentious and adversarial divorces, for example, psychological evaluations and/or assessments of the parties involved, may be ordered by a judge.  In such cases, by today’s standards, these reports, typically made by an unbiased psychologist, provide judges and attorneys with a more clear perspective of family relationships and parenting.  Thus, people in the legal field recognize that they may not have the training needed to make such unbiased evaluations.  They rely on psychologists to ethically and professionally perform them so that the best interests of the child are maintained.

Unfortunately, and to the detriment of children, not everyone recognizes that they do not have the insight or training needed to work in and make decisions that are in the best interests of children.  From my knowledge and experiences regarding many schools, particularly those in the South, individuals in education are quick to punish, including for minor issues, and may not realize that they do not have the insight necessary to best support children and do what is best for children.  Exercise as punishment (such as being made to walk or run laps outside, including in high temperatures) and lengthy detentions (including 30-60 minute lunch/recess detentions), particularly for insignificant issues, and issued toward children, do not resolve, but compound issues, making children potentially distrustful, disrespecting of, and hopeless about school officials.  (I know of at least four schools in my immediate area where these are practices.) 

These situations are compounded and worsened regarding children who have special needs.  Sometimes, it appears to be the children and/or parents who are blamed in situations in which school officials promise support and accommodation to such children, however they may just be going through the motions and not adequately or effectively be meeting such needs.  And, punishments toward children have been shown in research to be ineffective; truly, they may only serve to increase distrust and resentment in children toward adults who are supposed to have their best interests in mind, but who, in fact, do not.

In some situations, an array of psychological evaluations and assessments may be provided to educators that address children’s special needs – and parents may inform school teachers and leaders about what is best for their child – however, for whatever reasons, school teachers and officials may simply be ignorant about such needs, may not follow the suggestions of professional evaluations or parent recommendations, and may completely misjudge the situations.  Doing this places some children with special needs in greater danger and at higher risk for worse outcomes and situations at school.  Through the school officials’ own lack of insight – and in some cases – lack of compassion and motivation to learn, grow, and develop – children are, in fact, harmed by their ignorance and lack of support, and in some cases, are blamed and punished due to it – the pitfall of blaming the victim.

When children with special needs are not sufficiently, nor positively accommodated in schools, great risk and danger may be imposed upon them due to others’ ignorance.  To some people, what is clear and obvious in certain situations goes completely unrecognized – and therefore, not at all addressed – in others.  What is worse in these situations is when people who are ignorant about these situations categorically deny that they have occurred and escalate already tense situations that may involve high emotions.  Such lack of insight and understanding reflects not only their ignorance, but their rigidity, inflexibility, and absolute refusal toward even having an interest at gaining any increased understanding about the issues or situations.  

Even those most highly-trained in supporting children may sometimes miss critical pieces of information, however this should be an indication to others that as much training and information is needed to enlighten themselves to children’s needs and what is in children’s best interests.  Additionally, because there is often the tendency in people to desire to perceive issues and situations in an optimistic manner, there should be an awareness of this so that critical issues about others are not missed and do not turn potentially tragic. 

In short, particularly when it comes to educating children, it is not acceptable to be clueless about and not practice what is in their best interests.  And, situations that are detrimental and potentially tragic to children that occur out of the ignorance of educators and school officials should not be escalated – but diffused – in the best interests of children. 

In my book, perhaps schools in which ignorance and a lack of support prevails toward children may be performing okay with some students, but they may also be harming those students who are most at risk.  Such characteristics, policies, and/or the lack of policies of schools become dangerous to children when people in education do not even realize that what is occurring is creating a potentially harmful or tragic situation for children.  Parents must be acutely aware of and insightful about such circumstances in order to advocate for and protect their children as much as possible, particularly in schools where everyone may not be on the same page about what is best for children.