Testifying this morning to JFAC, Shaun Tobler spoke of the reality that is facing those who rely on the mental health services provided by Medicaid by saying that last year in Pocatello there were ten deaths among the mentally ill, ten deaths that had they been murders would have been a catalyst for outrage on the part of the public. Tobler, an employee of Bear Lake Memorial Hospital, said that because the ten deaths were "people with disabilities, because they're people with mental illness, we don't pay attention. Please pay attention."
Speaking on behalf of his client, Robert Dietrich, a member of the staff of Southeastern Idaho Developmental Center noted that many members of the developmentally disabled and mentally ill community like Robert understand what cuts to Health & Welfare and Medicaid programs will amount to in their lives. They are, as the SEIDC staff member noted, "frightened" and "afraid." Of each of the 82 testimonies I listened to this morning, the letter from Mr. Deitrich resonated the most with me. Why? Because I know Robert. I know his friends, I know his family, I know the company that offers his developmental therapy services because I was once employed by them, and I have coached Robert in Special Olympics. Robert's letter grabbed my attention in a way that the previous hours of testimony hadn't.
I hope that other Idahoans are paying attention now, too.