March 23, 2018

"Let all who are hungry come and eat"

Time is running out for WV Governor Jim Justice to veto HB 4001, a mean-spirited bill that would take away food from thousands of poor West Virginians, stress local charities, and take millions of dollars from our economy.

Lots has been said and written about this, but the one that moves me the most is this op-ed by Charleston Rabbi Victor Urecki in the Charleston Gazette-Mail. He reminds us that at the sacred Seder meal celebrating Passover, the original freedom holiday, it's customary to pray, "“Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are needy come and celebrate with us.”

The whole thing is well worth reading, but here's just a bit that moved me.

At every Passover Seder, my revered teacher of blessed memory taught me that, at the beginning of the meal, we break one matzah and take the larger piece and wrap it for the end of the meal; we eat only the smaller piece as the meal begins. This is done to remind ourselves of the needs of the poor. He taught me that those who do not know where their next meal will come from never eat a full “loaf”; they worry that, tomorrow, they may not have bread to eat.
People in poverty are always insecure without a safety net. I will cherish that lesson as a moral obligation to act. We who live with abundance should never forget what it is like to be worried about food and translate that custom into a call for action to end hunger in our communities.
May the doors of compassion be open in our state, and may we declare: May all who are hungry come and eat.
I hope his words move Governor Justice as well.

May all who are hungry come and eat.

March 21, 2018

Harm reduction

A hot topic in WV's capitol city these days is the needle exchange program offered by the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department. Charleston's city council earlier this week essentially voted to delay a vote on eliminating the program.

Charleston's mayor Danny Jones, many of the city's law enforcement officers and others support ending the program because they believe it leaves a lot of dirty needles in public places in its wake.

As I understand it, however, the evidence suggests that ending the program won't end the problem. It could, however increase the number of people using dirty needles. Further, the Centers for Disease Control reports that addicted people who used needle exchange programs are five times more likely to eventually seek treatment than those who don't.

Obviously, it would be great to make the opioid crisis go away. And people are working on that. One huge step forward has been WV's Medicaid expansion as authorized by then Governor Tomblin back in 2013. But while we're working on a long term solution, there's no substitute for harm reduction measures like these programs.