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You Are Not Alone: Recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 12 May 2021
in Wisconsin

overdose depression Sen. Smith writes about the prevalence of mental illness in the U.S. so we can better support those who may be struggling and help them understand it’s okay to not be okay.

MADISON - You are not alone – you may hear this often, but especially during May and Mental Health Awareness Month. Historically, there have been stigmas attached to mental illness, preventing people from talking about it or even considering what it really is. As a society we can make tremendous differences if only we accept that the brain is like any other organ in our body. We need to take care of our mental health just as much as our physical health.

Over the last year, more Americans struggled with their mental health as a result of the pandemic. People experienced greater isolation and stress, which contributed to increased anxiety and depression. During Mental Health Awareness Month and beyond, it’s important that we have conversations about our mental health needs and fully understand it’s okay to not be okay. Many Americans struggle with mental health, but there are people and resources available to help and provide support.

Mental health is prevalent within the United States and disproportionately impacts certain populations. NAMI reports that one in five adults each year will experience some form of mental illness each year while less than half will seek treatment.

It’s worth noting that 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14 and 75% by age 24. This statistic certainly illuminates the need to treat symptoms as early as possible. Sadly, the average length of time between the onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years. This gives some indication as to how difficult it can be to diagnose mental illness at such a young age and work with affected parties on early intervention strategies.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the 10 to 34 year age group, and the tenth leading cause overall. This is a tragedy families should never have to endure; we can reduce those numbers dramatically with greater mental health awareness and support.

Members of the LGBTQ community experience societal prejudice and discrimination, which contribute to higher rates of mental illness. Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth. Even more shocking is the fact that transgender adults are twelve times more likely to attempt suicide. With those statistics on our conscience, it would be wise for politicians to stop ostracizing the LGBTQ community and develop policies inclusive of all identities.

homeless-winterAdditional statistics show just how prevalent mental health illness is in our communities. More than 20% of citizens experiencing homelessness, 37% of incarcerated adults and 70.4% of youth in the juvenile justice system suffer from a diagnosed mental illness. Forty-one percent of Veterans Health Administration patients suffer from a mental health disorder or drug addiction.

There is often a connection between a drug abuse disorder and mental illness, with stigmas attached to both. For too long, our society has blamed the victims of drug addiction and mental illness for their disease. With this mindset, there was rarely any compassion or services for people who needed help.

jeff-smithMental health diagnosis and treatment continue to be inaccessible for many Americans. Today 55% of U.S. counties still don’t have a single practicing psychiatrist. Even if mental health treatment is nearby, affordability of care is a major concern. Fortunately, laws have been in place and amended over time to ensure that patients with mental illness are not discriminated against. But, there’s still more we can do to improve accessibility and affordability and remove barriers for Americans seeking support.

Much has been learned about mental health illness and treatment needs, but we still have a lot to learn. We risk paying a high cost if we don’t accept that mental health illness exists. Though May is Mental Health Awareness Month, the weight of a mental illness impacts those who suffer all year long. Be understanding and compassionate as you would with anyone who suffers any other illness. And for those who suffer: you are not alone.

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Community Immunity

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 05 May 2021
in Wisconsin

covid-19-vaccinationSen. Smith writes about the importance of getting vaccinated to protect our neighbors and families. Like other past health crises, COVID-19 vaccines will get us closer to reaching herd immunity and putting the pandemic behind us.

MADISON - At every stage of the pandemic, we’ve done what’s best to keep our communities safe. We stayed home, socially-distanced and started wearing masks all to protect our neighbors and families. The pandemic isn’t over just yet – we still need to work together to put the pandemic behind us. Everyone will need to pitch in by getting vaccinated so we can reach herd immunity.

From the very beginning of the pandemic we heard the goal was to reach herd immunity. I don’t ever recall knowing anything about herd immunity before, but then again we never faced anything like this in our lifetime. So, what is herd immunity?

An easy way to think of herd immunity is “community immunity.” Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person-to-person less likely. We can reach herd immunity when a proportion of the population that is immune is greater than the population susceptible to contracting the disease. Herd immunity is reached when enough people have developed protective antibodies to the disease. There are two ways this can happen, either through infection or inoculation.

Scientists and healthcare professionals developed and delivered the COVID-19 vaccine at a rapid pace without risking an individual’s health and safety. Like during wartimes, the urgency of the moment brought out the best in our scientists and medical minds. In just a matter of months we had multiple vaccines available and distributed to every state. Wisconsin remains a national leader in getting shots in arms, thanks to the diligent work of Governor Tony Evers’ Administration.

The pace at which scientists developed a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, compared to that of other well-documented vaccines is mind blowing. In the late 1940s polio outbreaks were frequent, disabling more than 35,000 people a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It took years of research and trials before the polio vaccine was widely distributed. After the polio vaccines were introduced in 1955 and 1963, cases fell to less than 100 per year in the 1960s and less than 10 in the 1970s. Since 1979, no cases of polio have originated in the United States. But it takes just one traveler with polio to bring it into the U.S. if we aren’t vigilant and our communities aren’t immunized.

jeff-smithThere have been more than 31 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. since the beginning of 2020. At the time this column was published, approximately 103 million Americans were fully vaccinated, or 31% of the population. In Wisconsin nearly 2 million people have been fully vaccinated, which accounts for almost 35% of our population.

It’s a good start, but not where we need to be. Like most major achievements, it only gets harder as we get closer to the finish line. But, if we work together we can improve our chances of stopping the spread and eradicating COVID-19.

If you or someone you know is hesitant, please consider the community around you. Professionals are available to answer your questions and share the facts about the COVID-19 vaccine.

If you’re still doing your research, it’s important to know that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC have detailed the vaccines’ safety and efficacy.

Additionally, the COVID-19 vaccines cannot give you the virus. According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. This may cause you to have some side effects, but that’s normal.

You should also know that COVID-19 vaccines are FREE. There are many options where you can get vaccinated, including your local health department, pharmacies, community-based vaccination clinics, on-site vaccination clinics and your doctor or healthcare provider.

You can find a vaccine provider by visiting and inserting your zip code. It is free, simple and safe. Getting vaccinated is the right thing to do for yourself, your family and your neighbors to reach community immunity.

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War Always Costs More Than Peace

Posted by Buzz Davis, Army Veteran & Activist
Buzz Davis, Army Veteran & Activist
Buzz Davis, formerly of Stoughton, WI now of Tucson, is a long time progressive
User is currently offline
on Sunday, 02 May 2021
in Wisconsin

vets-coming-homeTUCSON, AZ - Hello All! Buzz Davis here in sunny Tucson.

I hope each of you and your families have been safe from COVID!

It is good that there is much discussion of war and peace.

Discussions are one thing - actions to create peace are another and very hard to do for the leaders of all nations.

The psychological damages of war live on in the minds of all in war.

Those psychological damages are transferred to future generations by the actions of the parents and those other adults who interact with the children born after the wars.

The image is: Both veterans and civilians who are fighting the wars in their heads for decades can intentionally, or unintentionally, take out frustrations, fears or hatreds on their sons and daughters.

Through this, the kids may be psychologically damaged. And during their lives they may or may not recover.

The impacts of a person's physical damages from wars can be transferred to the children.

The impacts of the person's physical injuries, such as loss of limbs, mobility, internal organs, parts of the brain, etc. can lead to constant physical pain or emotional pain and that person's resultant actions, or inability to take actions, or emotional coldness can damage the children.

Environmental chemicals or nuclear radiation or depleted uranium may damage both the persons living during the wars, the children living after the wars and the environment for decades or longer.

From our collective actions in Vietnam and SE Asia, all of the "damages" of war are being transferred from generation to generation in Asia and in the homes of all the "outsiders" who lived or fought in SE Asia.

To save our democracy and way of life for our children and all children we must: o Educate! o Agitate! o And Activate Ourselves and Others!

Below is a very good essay by a Vietnamese person who is trying to help Americans understand what we and our government have done and must now do.

After reading her essay please consider ACTIVATING YOURSELF!

Step 1: To contact your US House member go to this site:

Step 2: Then type in your ZIP code and hit enter.

Step 3: Then you will see a picture of your House rep. Click on that picture

Step 4. On your Reps site, you will have to type in your ZIP code with the 4 number extension.

If you do not know that, you will have to click on the link to get the extension. Then go back to your Reps site and insert ZIP and extension. Follow the prompts until you get to the blank message you wish to send.

Step 5: Then copy and past the below essay into the message area.

Step 6: You may wish to type in your message at the top something like this:

Dear Representative:

I would like you and Congress to work harder to create peace than you do to create wars. Etc. etc.

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Every Worker Deserves a Safe Workplace

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 28 April 2021
in Wisconsin

electrical-workersSen. Smith writes about the steps our country has taken to protect workers and create safe workplaces. We observe Workers’ Memorial Day annually on April 28th to remember workers who have been killed or injured on the job.

MADISON - It has always fascinated me that American workers accomplished so much even when the technology and machinery that we take for granted now wasn’t yet available back then. Consider the New York skyscrapers, for instance. We’ve seen photos of workers walking on narrow beams hundreds of feet above the ground or the iconic photos of workers eating their lunch sitting on a steel beam overlooking the city. It’s hard to imagine the risks these workers took to construct those enormous structures.

We only see pictures of these moments when things were going right. The unfortunate reality is, it’s likely that you would’ve known someone who died or got seriously injured on this type of job if you lived a century ago. All it might take is a gust of wind or a momentary loss of balance. Indoor workplaces had their own risks with dangerous chemicals in enclosed spaces or crowded, fire-hazard warehouses.

We observe Workers’ Memorial Day annually on April 28th to remember workers who have been killed or injured on the job. Fifty years ago, on April 28, 1971, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) went into effect. OSHA provides protections for workers guaranteeing safe and healthy workplaces.  On this historic anniversary of OSHA, we reflect on how far we’ve come to protect workers, and we remain committed to supporting future generations of American workers.

There have many workplace tragedies documented in our country’s history. When officials first began documenting workplace incidents, the National Council for Industrial Safety estimated that between 18,000 and 21,000 people lost their lives to workplace injuries in 1912 alone.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 killed 146 workers. In Lawrence, Massachusetts, the Pemberton Mill collapsed in 1860, killing 145 workers. The Monongah mining explosion killed 362 in Virginia in 1907. A molasses tank ruptured in Boston in 1919, releasing a rush of molasses down the street at 35 mph killing twenty-one and injuring another 150 people.

Terrible disasters like these compelled changes in the workplace, making it less likely to occur in the future. Workers and government leaders worked together to establish many of the workplace safety measures we have today. Some businesses aren’t always ready to invest in safety measures until they absolutely have to. Much like citizens rising up against monarchies or dictators for their freedom and self-governance, workers had to organize and demand safe conditions. Unions representing various workplaces negotiated changes that eventually saved lives.

There were instances when employers recognized the need to protect their workers, including the inspiring story of the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in the 1930s. At the time, many expected such an undertaking to have a cost of one death per one million dollars spent. But the chief engineer of the Golden Gate project would not stand for that. He commissioned a rope safety net under the floor of the bridge, which saved 19 lives during construction. He also required workers to wear hard hats, safety lines and respirators, which was considered revolutionary at the time.

jeff-smithWe can always improve what we know and do. That’s why Governor Evers’ budget proposal includes provisions to support Wisconsin workers in a number of ways. If passed, the budget makes the unemployment insurance system less burdensome for unemployed workers.

The budget would allow state and local front-line workers to negotiate together. The budget also enhances worker compensation by requiring state and local public works projects to pay workers the hourly wage and benefits paid to the majority of workers in the project's area. The Governor also proposed repealing certain prohibitions that limit worker freedoms. The Republican-led Joint Finance Committee has the ability to keep these proposals in the budget – in the interest of Wisconsin’s current and future workforce, let’s hope they do.

As we pass through each day without fear of terrible workplace disasters, remember those who were not so fortunate. We can support every worker in every workplace to earn a living wage in a safe environment.

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How the Budget Connects Our Community

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 21 April 2021
in Wisconsin

door-county-peopleSen. Smith reflects on the budget listening session he hosted last week. The conversation was a reminder of how the budget connects us to one another and will help us build stronger communities.

MADISON - I had an amazing conversation with a number of constituents who attended my budget listening session last week. The attendees, who were strangers to each other, shared personal and heartfelt stories. They made it clear that the decisions made by their legislators truly do affect them and their communities.

We discussed the importance of mental health treatment and appropriate intervention for those experiencing a mental health crisis. Community members shared their support for investing in our public schools and our rural roads. We also hit on ways to strengthen our economy, create jobs and expand broadband access. When community members come together, we open up about our shared values and the ways public policies impact our everyday life.

Governor Tony Evers encourages us to think of the budget as connecting the dots – how one investment can connect and address more than one issue. The budget also shows how we’re all connected and rely on one another. If you succeed, the community succeeds. When the community succeeds, everyone is better off. When the tide rises, all ships are raised. We all do better when we all do better.

It starts with our children and investing in opportunities for them to succeed. Even before the pandemic struck, Wisconsin faced a childcare crisis. Parents need affordable, reliable and convenient childcare. Children need a safe environment that provides developmental support. Most business leaders agree and support initiatives to keep local childcare centers open and staffed by professional providers. Employees are more likely to be productive and stay in their roles knowing their children are in good hands and close by.

When children have early support and a healthy start, they’re better prepared for the educational experience in front of them. But we must invest in our public schools so every student has the same opportunities to succeed.

Governor Evers often says that every dollar invested in our kids is an investment in our state’s future. The Governor backs this up by restoring the state’s two-thirds funding commitment for public schools and proposing significant investments in mental health support, special education funding and sparsity aid for our rural schools. Education prepares the next generation of innovators and workers.

Education investments today prepare children for life’s future challenges and saves our state from an overly expensive correctional system down the road. When we invest in education, we’re investing in safer communities and a reduced incarceration rate. That’s why I’m glad to see the Governor’s budget invest more dollars in the UW System than the Department of Corrections. We need less prisons when we provide more educational opportunities for all Wisconsinites.

The opportunity to learn is easier in today’s world when every household has access to fast, reliable broadband. We must make bold investments in broadband infrastructure now, just like our leaders did with electricity generations before us. The Governor’s broadband plan would invest up to $200 million from the American Rescue Plan Act in addition to the $200 million he proposed in his budget.

jeff-smithWhen we invest in broadband infrastructure and affordability we open up a world of possibilities. We create more opportunities to learn, improve healthcare access and encourage local economic development. Broadband access will be a catalyst for Wisconsin’s future growth and success.

Healthcare access is critical to the success of any family, community and state. That is why the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was important for so many when enacted eleven years ago. Unfortunately, the Republican Majority has stubbornly allowed political ideology to get in the way of expanding Medicaid – a key component of the ACA. For the overall health and wellbeing of our families and communities, Wisconsin must expand Medicaid. In doing so, we could save $2.1 billion in taxpayer funding and offer healthcare coverage to more Wisconsinites.

It’s so clear how the budget is not only a document where one issue is connected to another – it’s necessary that we tie all these proposals together for our individual success and the social fabric of our communities.

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