Monday, January 11, 2010

What's wrong in Albany?

I had a sense that something is wrong. It seems like the governance of New York State is askew. So some of the staff at GCASA decided to talk with legislators and we have begun the process.

The findings have been shocking to me. One legislator had no idea what deficit funding is and didn't understand how services are financed in the state. Another legislator had no idea that State employees make twice as much and have much better benefits than their counterparts working in community based non-profits. This legislator had a staff person do some "fact checking" and were shocked that the information I had provided was correct. They seemed genuinely surprised and grateful for the information. Another legislator was very frustrated when he attempted to get a friend admitted to inpatient rehab for cocaine addiction and even with commercial health insurance the service was denied unless the person had three unsuccessful episodes of outpatient treatment.

As I drove to work this morning I reflected on my initial observations. I asked myself the following questions:

1. How do legislators govern systems that they have so little knowledge of?

2. What responsibility do I have and other people familiar with these systems to educate them?

3. How can citizens and consumers of services obtain satisfying services when they are regulated and governed by people who are ignorant of the very systems they are responsible for?

4. I take responsibilty for ASSUMING that our legislators know what they are doing. Do you remember the old cliche that to ASSUME makes an Ass Out Of You And Me.

5.I am struck again observing how much "noise" there is in the system. So much chatter that has little to do with anything. Wisdom comes not so much from the accumulation of more information and knowledge, but in knowing what matters.

6. Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment. There is pleny of bad judgment in State government. Here's hoping that our legislators, sworn to serve us, wake up to what matters.

7. After my children were killed in a DWI crash, my favorite button became, "Reality Is When It Happens To You." It is easy to overlook and ignore what matters so desparately to others until it happens to you as one legislator found out when care could not be obtained for a friend.

8. Substance abuse and addiction touches 80% of the families in New York State. It is easy to look down on these "druggies" and "alchoholics" until it is your father, your mother, your son or daughter, your brother or sister, you neice or nephew, maybe a cousin or a good friend. Then what? You will want help for them. You will want a place to turn. You cannot take this for granted especially when the ones calling the shots are often shooting in the dark.

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