Editorial roundup: Views from around Georgia

Brunswick News: Georgia legislators must address crisis

A question pondered as far back as the first century by Plutarch and other Greek philosophers – “Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?” – is driving debate among state legislators more than 20 centuries later. They are wrestling with the same dilemma in a genuine attempt to tackle the mental health crisis in this state.

This southeastern member of the United States ranks lowest among all states and the District of Columbia in mental health services offered to distressed citizens. Lawmakers are finally getting around to trying to actually do something concrete about the issue other than just tossing those displaying aberrant behavior behind bars.

One potential aid highlighted during discussions on improving services is the three-digit mental health crisis hotline scheduled to go online nationally this summer.

Great idea, legislators agree, except for one problem: Georgia lacks the resources, the professionals and other skilled personnel to handle any heavy caseloads that might materialize with the new service.

Of course, this is nothing new. Those in charge of making policy and laws in this state have known this for a long time. It is one of numerous reasons why so many citizens suffering mental health problems end with city and county jails. Plainly stated, there is nobody around to help them.

In fact, while the number of substance abuse and mental health issues have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of men and women with the education and experience in dealing with these problems has not.

Judy Fitzgerald, Georgia commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, reports a 24% increase in the number of contacts made to the state’s own mental health crisis line since the start of the pandemic. Combine that disturbing data with a 36% rise in drug overdose deaths and the loss of nearly 1,000 workers in the state’s five mental hospitals over the past year, and it is crystal clear that legislators have their work cut out for them.

More than a national hotline or lip service is needed. The state needs a plan to draw more mental health professionals and workers into its network.

If it’s competitive pay, so be it. Georgia has a revenue surplus. Use a chunk of it to help those who are unable to help themselves.

Rome News-Tribune: This Christmas let’s take the time to cherish those we’ve lost and celebrate what we have

Christmas is and has always been about family. This is the time when we get together with our loved ones and share that spirit of togetherness that keeps us going for another year.

As with all things human, it is what’s inside that really counts. Christmas has become a universal time of hope, peace and goodwill. Like any of this season’s beautifully wrapped gifts, you must pull off the bows and rip away the paper to find out what’s really inside.

In a sense, it has transcended its religious beginnings. It’s the spirit of the thing, the hopefulness and humanity espoused by Jesus Christ. It’s not the time for exclusion of other faiths, races or ethnicities. It’s a time to emulate what religion is in its best and purest form — goodwill for all people.

Let’s allow the divisiveness that has characterized so much of this year to fade and let this day be a call for what next year could potentially bring.

There are many who won’t get to see their loved ones this Christmas.

We are still in the midst of a pandemic; we’ve lost so many of those who strived to make our community what it is now that it’s disheartening at times.

While that’s the case, please put rhetoric aside even if just for a day. Christmas is a time for unity and peace.

Christmas has evolved into a time when we should do something to help those in need find a way to share in the universal warmth and good feelings of the holiday. We’ve seen that with numerous food drives, a massive Toys for Tots program and the Sheriff Santa program — all funded by locals to help out locals.

Christmas has become a time when one remembers loved ones and friends, near or far, with tokens of affection whether they be presents or greeting cards. It has become, more than any other time or any other celebration, a time when we are all one people — regardless of nationality, race, religion or ethnicity.

It is a time when the power is with us — the power of shared emotions, shared feelings, shared concerns, shared hopes, shared burdens, shared solutions, shared love. Christmas has come to stand for hope. It has come to magnify the importance of the betterment of the human condition.

This is the true gift of Christmas.

Remember what Christmas represents. A very long time ago, a tiny baby was born in rather humble surroundings. But he was, and continues to be, a symbol of redemption, forgiveness, love, peace, charity and hope.

While purists may lament its increasingly commercialized nature, there is a deep human need for Christmas. The religious meaning of Christmas, with its message of hope both on Earth and in the hereafter, must never be eclipsed by what the holiday has evolved into. Yet, there is a great and wonderful message to be learned from the independent presence of Santa Claus, Rudolph and all their assorted elves and trappings of the season.

Whatever your beliefs, we wish you and your family a most wonderful and joyous Christmas. And in the spirit of loving thy neighbor — ALL thy neighbors — we wish you what we would wish for ourselves. That is, health and hope, success and much happiness in the year to come.

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