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2/13/2013 4:56:00 PM
Much to be done in Salem
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The Oregon Capitol
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The Oregon Capitol

If one accepts the premise that government exists, in part, to take care of those who cannot care for themselves, then you should support state Sen. Peter Courtney’s call for a “game changing investment in mental health programs.”

Heaven knows where the Salem Democrat and his allies will find the hundreds of millions he says is needed over the next two years to pay for community mental health programs.

He argues that the only way to pay for this much-needed help would be through a dedicated source of revenue, say, an increase in beer and wine taxes to cover some of the costs.

Already opponents of government spending and taxes are mobilizing to defeat Courtney’s bold vision. That is how our democracy is supposed to work. It is messy stuff. Given the antipathy between the two camps it is a wonder that our society works as well as it does.

Over the years, Senate President Courtney, the longest-serving legislator in Salem, has been stalwart in his support for people who are mentally ill. Even with his patronage, Oregon has an embarrassing reputation as a state where one does not want to be dependent on government for help with mental health issues. The infrastructure is embarrassingly fragile.

Evidence of this abounds. The poor souls are everywhere, walking around the Skid Road neighborhood of Old Town Portland, living on sidewalks under highway bridges, picking through garbage containers for scraps of food. It is hard stuff to see, particularly given the almost sinful attention devoted in the media to Portland’s beautiful people and their lavish surroundings.

We have known the prickly Courtney for 40 years or so and salute him for his heroic vision.

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