Friday, March 25, 2005

Topic: Sex and Dating in the Berkshires.

Your feedback:

14 Comments:

Blogger pfennell said...

I wish

Wednesday, March 30, 2005 3:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing that really bugs me about living here is that if I have a friend stay over, EVERYBODY seems to know about it the next day because they've seen a car, not mine, parked in the driveway or out front. It's gotten to the point now where I ask visitors to park a distance away. There's just no privacy otherwise.

Sunday, April 03, 2005 5:33:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Sex and dating are never easy subjects to write about. These are issues of respect, and both men and women need to have respect in these areas. There are a lot of fragile people out there. Just be nice!

Friday, May 13, 2005 9:05:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

One in four Berkshire moms not getting prenatal care

By Anthony Fyden - February, 23 2006

In stark contrast to other Massachusetts communities, fewer than 75 percent of Berkshire mothers received adequate prenatal care in 2004, according to a new statewide report. That means that at least one in every four pregnant women failed to get the care needed to safely deliver healthy babies.

From a statewide perspective, the Massachusetts Births 2004 report, released on Wednesday, held some good news, including that the state's teen birth rate reached an all-time low. In fact, the teen birth rate of 22.2 births per 1,000 women ages 15-19 was 46 percent lower than the national rate. (The teen birth rate for Berkshire County was 25.8 percent).

Also, smoking rates during pregnancy reached an all time low statewide, 7.4 percent, 28 percent below the national rate. And in 2004, Massachusetts had the second lowest Infant Mortality Rate in its history: 4.7 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

But the report raised some startling red flags for Berkshire County, particularly in the area of prenatal care. The report noted "less than 75 percent of mothers received adequate prenatal care in the Community Health Network of Berkshire County.”

In contrast, over 90 percent of mothers living within the Beverly/Gloucester health network received adequate prenatal care.

In Pittsfield, only 69.4 percent of mothers received adequate prenatal care, compared to over 90 percent of mothers living in Brookline and Arlington.

Pittsfield's Berkshire Medical Center (64.6 percent) was among facilities with the lowest reported rate of adequacy of prenatal care among mothers delivering in 2004. Other hospitals in this category were Boston Medical Center (53.9 percent), Tobey Hospital (62.8 percent), Lowell General Hospital (64.5 percent).

The hospitals with the highest rates of prenatal care included Beverly Hospital (93.3 percent), Saint Vincent Hospital (94.8 percent), Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (95.1 percent), and Brigham and Women's Hospital (98.1 percent).

According to a summary issued to the press, other key findings of the report include:

"In 2004, there was a 2 percent decrease in the number of births statewide. The number of births has decreased by 15 percent from 92,461 births in 1990 to 78,460 in 2004.

"The percentage of low birth weight infants (LBW) (less than 2,500 grams or 5.5 pounds) was 7.8 percent, the highest rate ever, although it is 4 percent below the national rate. Two important factors that account for this increase are the ages of mothers giving birth and the increase in multiple births.

"Older women are more likely to deliver LBW infants. The average age of a woman giving birth in Massachusetts is increasing. In 1980, about 1 in 4 births was to a woman aged 30 or older. In 2004, 56 percent of women giving birth were 30 years or older.

"Multiple births accounted for more than one half of the increase of low birth weight since 1990. The percentage of multiple births remained high in 2004. In 2004, 1 out of 21 births was a multiple birth. In 1990 1 out of 38 births was a multiple birth.

"Teen birth rates were highest in Lawrence (79.4 per 1,000 women ages 15- 19), Holyoke (76.0) and Springfield (70.9).

"Disparities in birth outcomes continue. The Black non-Hispanic IMR is 3 times that of white non-Hispanics (11.4 verses 3.8).

"The report in its entirety is available at www.mass.gov/dph/pubstats.htm . The data is also available through MassCHIP at www.masschip.state.ma.us ."

Monday, February 27, 2006 8:05:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Teen births

BERKSHIRE County

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Pittsfield's teen birth rate nearly doubles the statewide figure. The following numbers reflect the amount of teen pregnancies for every thousand girls in 2004:

Massachusetts 22

Lawrence 79

Fitchburg 46

Pittsfield 43

Boston 26

Source: Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 4:48:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear The Women's Times, BERKSHIRE BLOGGERS, The People, Pols, & the News Media,

I am a man who grew up in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and I can say with 100% certainty that the City of Pittsfield encourages the exploitation of Berkshire area girls and women to have teen pregnancies and the like because it perversely receives on an annual basis tens of millions of dollars from state administered (via federally appropriated and mandated) dollars towards social service programs, public education, and the like. The City of Pittsfield then takes those dollars to meet the minimum regulatory requirements of providing substandard social services and uses the lion's share of the rest to complement its annual budget and keep the tax rate artificially low. North Street is the banality of social injustice because it was planned, implemented and now operated around exploiting needy citizens under the pretense of providing them with social services in order to collect the tens of millions of dollars in state administered welfare dollars. Moreover, this model of perverse economic incentives has been perfected by North Adams Mayor John Barrett III for well over two decades now. The bottom line is that in Berkshire County: Women and Girls are being exploited by the City of Pittsfield in order for them to receive tens of millions of state administered dollars in social service and education monies every fiscal year.

Reduce Teen Pregnancies in Pittsfield and North Adams NOW!

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

-----

Teen pregnancy up in Pittsfield
By Jack Dew, Berkshire Eagle Staff

Thursday, January 25, 2007

PITTSFIELD — The teen pregnancy rate rose in Pittsfield in 2005, even as the state and national numbers declined.

The state Department of Public Health conducts an annual survey of all births in Massachusetts. Its report for 2005, released on Tuesday, shows that Pittsfield continues to buck the state and national trend of slowing teen pregnancies.

There were 67 babies born to mothers aged 15 to 19 in Pittsfield in 2005. That equates to a rate of 52.7 babies for every 1,000 girls in that age group, the seventh-highest in the state.

That is an increase of nearly 14 percent over 2004, when there were 59 teen births, or 46.4 per 1,000 in Pittsfield.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts has watched its teen pregnancy rate decline steadily for the past 15 years: In 2005, there were 21.7 teen mothers per 1,000 teen girls, versus roughly 35 in 1990.

'Growing Up Fast'

The Pittsfield numbers perpetuate a worrisome trend in the city, which has been under scrutiny since 2003, when a book, "Growing Up Fast," and a companion documentary movie focused attention on teen pregnancy in the city.

The book and movie concentrated on six teen mothers, telling their stories as they struggled with their young families.

The new numbers show that, while Pittsfield's rate may fluctuate from one year to the next, it has stayed stubbornly high.

And over the five-year period from 2000 to 2005, teen pregnancies increased by almost 24 percent.

The Pittsfield trend sticks out in a state that has a teen birth rate that is 46 percent below the national average of 40.4 births per 1,000 teens.

In fact, Massachusetts is seeing the average age of its mothers increase, with the majority waiting until they are between the ages of 30 and 34 to have children, according to the Department of Public Health report.

Nationally, the majority of women having children fall into the 25 to 29 age range.

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» Teen pregnancy

Teen births in Pittsfield per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19:

2000 — 42.6
2001 — 36
2002 — 44.8
2003 — 52.9
2004 — 46.4*
2005 — 52.7

*The DPH revised this number this year to take into account a change in Pittsfield's estimated population. The number published in 2006 was 43.4.

Teen births in Massachusetts per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19:

2000 — 25.8
2001 — 24.3
2002 — 22.6
2003 — 22.6
2004 — 22.2
2005 — 21.7

Teen births in the United States per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19:

2000 — 48.5
2001 — 45.8
2002 — 42.9
2003 — 41.7
2004 — 41.2
2005 — 40.4

Source: The Massachusetts Department of Public Health

Thursday, January 25, 2007 8:20:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

NEWS ARTICLE:

No easy answers for teen problem

Youth pregnancies persist in Pittsfield

By Jack Dew, Berkshire Eagle Staff

Monday, January 29, 2007

PITTSFIELD — The number refuses to go down.

After years of focused efforts to combat teen pregnancy, Pittsfield still faces a rate that is far higher than the Massachusetts average. And while the state and nation are seeing a steady decline in births to teens, Pittsfield has watched its number rise.

In 2005, there were 52.7 babies born in Pittsfield for every 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 years old, according to statistics released last week by the state Department of Public Health. That was a 13.6 percent increase from the year before, when the rate was 46.4 per 1,000.

Statewide, the pregnancy rate was 21.7 per 1,000, a decline of 2.25 percent from the year before.

Why is Pittsfield's pregnancy rate so stubborn? Social workers, charitable organizations and educators say the problem is stuck in a complex web of socioeconomic factors that are resistant to prevention programs and educational efforts.

And the frustration is showing in some quarters. Former state Rep. Peter J. Larkin, D-Pittsfield, kept a steady flow of funding to the city's prevention programs while on Beacon Hill. Even as budgets were being cut statewide from 2000 to 2003, Pittsfield's total remained steady; one year, the city received 20 percent of the entire state spending on pregnancy prevention.

"I have watched this now for 15 years, and I couldn't be more disappointed in the results," Larkin said. "This should mobilize a community, and it isn't a matter of money, it isn't a matter of someone getting paid to do it, it is a matter of identifying young girls at risk."

Larkin said publicly what some officials have long said privately: Many teen girls are being victimized by drug dealers who move to the city and set up house with a local girl. Once a baby enters the picture, so does state-financed housing, allowing dealers a place to base their operation.

These "drug cliques" are targeting young girls, Larkin said, "which is not something that extending some after-school hours is going to solve, but that is what the (Coalition to Prevent Teen Pregnancy) is doing. It takes more than that."

The Coalition to Prevent Teen Pregnancy was designed to be a multiagency approach to the problem. Run by the Berkshire Area Health Education Center, or AHEC, it received $400,000 from the state this year, most of which is being spent in Pittsfield by the public schools and the Red Cross, and in North Adams by the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition.

AHEC executive director Timothy Diehl said the social service agencies and schools are not standing still. They are embarking on a countywide effort to improve conditions for youth, hoping to ease teen pregnancy and a host of other problems.

"The hard part is that, for a lot of teens, getting pregnant actually makes sense for them," Diehl said. "It is the one thing they can do that they can have control over and develop a life of their own and be in a relationship where there is affection. The community has to tell them that there is a better way."

Social workers, educators and leaders of charitable organizations say the culture must change. Rather than looking at teen pregnancy as a stand-alone issue, it must be seen amid the totality of youth problems — substance abuse, violence and anti-social behavior.

"This isn't just about teen pregnancy, it isn't just about substance abuse or illegal firearms," said Jim Cieslar, president of the Berkshire United Way. "This is about youth development. If we can get kids to bond with their community and develop properly, all these problems are going to go down."

Cieslar and others liken this to the movement to encourage seat belt use or to reduce smoking: Both were successful because they became cultural phenomena that made wearing a seat belt or not smoking the norm.

Berkshire social service agencies recently unveiled an initiative to improve youth development throughout the county. Armed with a survey of 2,800 middle- and high-school students, they have identified what they believe are the risk factors that cause problems, and the so-called protective factors that could prevent them.

A risk factor might be exposure to violence from a parent, a tolerant attitude toward drugs among one's friends or poor academic performance.

A protective factor is something positive — opportunities to be involved in a community or afterschool activity, a sense that participation in those activities will be rewarded, and a belief in right and wrong, for example.

The survey found that Berkshire County youth are exposed to too many risk factors and not enough protective factors. Al Bashevkin, the head of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, said the answer is to make a better community for young people.

"Why are kids getting pregnant? That's what we have to think about," Bashevkin said. "They say we are not being seen, we are not being acknowledged, and we are not being supported for the good efforts that we make."

But others say there is still little work being done to determine why teen girls are having babies and what would have helped them make a different choice. The survey of 2,800 children was given to middle- and high-school students at the mainstream public schools, not to the moms attending the special Teen Parent Program or to those who have dropped out to raise their children.

"Our school-system policies toward at-risk children have not changed," said Judy Williamson, who ran the Teen Parent Program for four years. "Their efforts are to improve test scores, and they are very outcome-driven. But this problem is so endemic that it really bears looking at."

The Pittsfield schools are now trying to tackle teen pregnancy with a revised health curriculum for the eighth and 10th grades called "Making Proud Choices." It is being funded largely with a $120,000 grant administered by AHEC.

Williamson suggested it will take more than a changed health curriculum to combat teen pregnancy, and that the prevention agencies and the schools must pay closer attention to the girls who are obviously at risk.

"Every girl that came into my program hated school. They were not unintelligent, but many had significant gaps in their education," she said. "If school is not a place where girls are getting their needs met, they are going to look elsewhere."

Monday, January 29, 2007 5:59:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Re: Are you kidding Eagle & Globe Editors?

Dear Editors of The Berkshire Eagle & The Boston Globe, respectively:

The issues of TEEN PREGNANCIES and HEALTH INSURANCE are very much connected.

First, for The Eagle to credit Peter J. Larkin with advocating for the poor girls and young women in Pittsfield is utterly absurd. In his political life, Larkin advocated and codified "abstinence only" educational programs due to his strict Catholic faith -- the same faith that is negligent in reforming the pedophile Priests who victimized and sexually molested, raped and abused young children for too many decades to count. Larkin imposed his religion on all of the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts without even public hearings and disclosures -- as he used secret budget riders to pass his asinine laws to attempt to reduce teen pregnancies. Moreover, when it came time for the state Legislature to bail out the City of Springfield in the Summer of 2003, Peter J. Larkin used a parliamentary method to be the lone vote to block the bail out effort. The aftermath of Peter J. Larkin's move to further bankrupt Springfield are deficient public schools, unsafe streets, and more poverty that strickens mostly young single girls and women and their respective babies and/or children. In his personal life, Peter J. Larkin did not marry a woman for love or charity, but rather he married a medical doctor and they own a +$500,000 home together at their primary residence in a Worcester suburb. ARE YOU KIDDING, EAGLE EDITORS?

Second, the real culprit for ever rising teen pregnancy numbers in Pittsfield (& North Adams) is the City of Pittsfield (& the City of North Adams)! Pittsfield encourages welfare via teen pregnancies because the city government annually receives tens of millions of federal dollars via state administered agencies and grant programs to "regulate the poor." Without the sexual deviance and naivety in Pittsfield and North Adams, all of those public dollars would not be flowing into these municipalities. Pittsfield, et al, then uses these public dollars to meet the minimal regulatory standards for providing welfare and public educational services and then uses the rest of the cut to complement its annual FY municipal budget thereby keeping the tax rate artificially lower than it would otherwise be without all of the exploited girls and young women on welfare. In short, Pittsfield, like all other governments, uses PERVERSE ECONOMIC INCENTIVES, to encourage the political business of POVERTY!

Third, BOSTON GLOBE: I am going to keep it real short and sweet for you Editorial Idiots today. Here it is in one sentence: Neither the Massachusetts nor the proposed Bush Administration health plans have any realistic funding mechanisms; Ergo, both health plans SUCK ASS! ARE YOU KIDDING, GLOBE EDITORS?

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

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Persistent problem of teen pregnancy

Editorial
The Berkshire Eagle

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

While the rest of the state is celebrating modest progress in the effort to combat teen pregnancy, the problem only grows worse in Pittsfield. This is as puzzling as it is disappointing. Pittsfield is not unique in the socioeconomic programs that lead to a high teen pregnancy rate. There is no giving up, but if current strategies aren't working, what can be done?

According to the state Department of Public Health, the teen pregnancy rate declined 2.25 percent to 21.7 per 1,000 in 2005, while the rate skyrocketed 13.6 percent to 46.4 per 1,000 in Pittsfield. The city's prevention programs and agencies were kept well-funded through the advocacy of former state Representative Peter Larkin, and there is no reason to believe agency personnel are not capable and hard working. If, however, teens don't see having babies as a problem, or if they even see it as a benefit, no amount of money or hard work will make a difference.

Mr. Larkin suggests that part of the problem is drug dealers taking up housekeeping with local girls and winning state-financed housing when a baby comes along, providing the dealers with a base of operations. If this is the case, it is difficult to cut funding for the drug dealer without putting the teen and her child out on the street. It would, however, be just one more reason for law enforcement agencies to clean the city and county of drug-dealing parasites.

In exploring the lives of several Pittsfield teen mothers, author and film-maker Joanna Lipper ("Growing Up Fast") found that the teens in general believed that having babies would boost their self-esteem and give meaning to otherwise empty lives. In reality, becoming a teen mom usually means an end to higher education and a lifetime of poverty. The DPH results suggest that nothing has changed in Pittsfield since Ms. Lipper's revealing book was published in the fall of 2003, and an unrealistic attitude toward having babies by teens will frustrate well-intentioned, well-funded prevention efforts.

The coalition of community groups and social service agencies that sponsored the recently released Berkshire Youth Development Project survey are convinced many youth problems, from pregnancy to alcohol to drugs, can be attributed in part to a lost connection with community, which should provide a sense of right and wrong, as well as outlets like after school activities that build esteem and keep young people occupied. That connection must be restored, and teens, boys and girls, must be more responsible. It isn't enough to throw money at the problem of teen pregnancy.

-----

[The Boston] GLOBE EDITORIAL
Leading on health isn't easy
January 29, 2007

WHILE President Bush floats a controversial proposal to erode employer-based health insurance, Massachusetts is offering new kinds of coverage to people who now do without this important protection. There will be many challenges ahead, and more federal assistance would be welcome. But so far, the Massachusetts authority in charge of the new insurance is performing its complex task well.

The Massachusetts Health Insurance Connector Authority expects that, by the end of the week, 45,000 people below the federal poverty line ($9,800 for a single person) will be enrolled in its Commonwealth Care program. Medicaid does not cover these people, though it should. People below the poverty line will not pay any premiums.

Now the connector has extended Commonwealth Care insurance to people earning up to 300 percent of the poverty limit, who will be expected to pay part of the cost. The creation of Commonwealth Care is a significant achievement in and of itself.

The connector is also seeking bids from private insurers for its Commonwealth Choice policies, which will be offered without subsidies to people earning more than 300 percent of poverty. The bids are confidential, but at least one of them was for $380 a month -- too high. Connector leaders last week properly told the insurers to do better.

At the same time, the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization released a survey suggesting that many people making up to 500 percent of the poverty limit ($49,000 for an individual, $83,000 for a family of three) would have trouble paying for the new policies. The group proposes exempting these people from the law's mandate that everyone in the state get health insurance.

GBIO is doing good work by reminding the connector of the affordability problem. But it is premature to call for suspension of the individual mandate, the first of its kind in the nation, which will not have much impact until 2008. The connector needs time to work this problem out.

It would be helpful if the federal government provided money to close the gap. Bush made an offer in that direction last week with a proposed tax reduction to encourage individuals to buy insurance. But he structured the plan to erode the employer-based system and to benefit people with higher incomes.

The nation may eventually move beyond employer-based insurance, but it still provides coverage for 59 percent of the population, and the wealthy don't need a tax break for their health insurance. The president's proposal should be rejected by Congress.

A federal tax credit targeted to people making less than $50,000 or $60,000 would be a more appropriate incentive. Massachusetts, with the connector in the vanguard, would welcome the help as it strives to provide every resident with the security of health insurance.
------

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 2:38:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Fighting teen pregnancy

Letters

The Berkshire Eagle

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:

The article "No easy answers for teen problem" (Jan. 29) offers a glimpse into the very complicated social issue of teen pregnancy. Those that weighed in on the subject have their perspective based on their own morals, values, life experience and interests.

As the coordinator of the Berkshire Coalition to Prevent Teen Pregnancy for the past five years, I would like to provide some perspective based on studying the issue, reading many articles by national experts on teen pregnancy and on conversations with individuals who work directly with teen parents.

First, let's get away from trying to blame one group for the problem or looking to one group for the solution. This is not a school problem as suggested in the article, nor is it solely a result of "victimization of girls by drug dealers." If we are to change a community norm the entire community must be involved. Schools, parents, teens, their partners and their peers all play a role in a teens' life and send varying messages regarding teen sexuality and teen pregnancy.

Second, while it is a youth development issue it is not quite in the same category as substance abuse or violence when it comes to thinking about teen behavior relative to teen pregnancy. To have an open conversation about teen pregnancy we must acknowledge and discuss the sexual behavior of teens, a subject that most adults would like to avoid.

It has been suggested that it is a "matter of identifying young girls at risk." Young men play an equal role in the responsibility of teen pregnancy. Yet, when teen pregnancy is talked about, in many arenas only the behavior of the young woman is discussed. I wonder when our conversations about this issue will include and promote male responsibility.

Many readers are likely asking "so what can we do to address the issue of teen pregnancy?" The answer depends on who you are. Schools can offer medically accurate, age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education, inspire educational aspirations among their students and offer assistance to low-achieving students. Parents can develop close relationships with their children that include open honest discussions about sex and relationships. Monitoring and supervising teens' activities, getting to know teens' friends, and understanding the media environment of teens are additional ways that parents can help their teens make responsible decisions.

Teens can offer each other peer support for abstinence and contraceptive use and if involved in a sexual relationship partner support for condom and contraceptive use. Community-based organizations can implement research-based programs that have outcomes for teen pregnancy.

Finally, the community can address issues such as substance use, violence, poverty and unemployment so that young people growing up in Pittsfield and other Berkshire communities have greater perceived opportunities for the future.

LISA FLETCHER-UDEL

Pittsfield, Feb. 6, 2007

The writer is director of Collaborations and Prevention Activities Berkshire Area Health Education Center.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

RE: Berkshire County needs Women Politicians!

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, Politicians, and the People:

Berkshire County's politicians -- especially in Pittsfield and North Adams -- are NOT serving the needs of their local women and children residents. On the state and federal level, Berkshire County has ALL men politicians: President Bush 2, Sens. Kennedy & Kerry, Rep. Olver, State Sens. Rosenberg & Downing, and State Reps. Bosley, Pignatelli, Guyer & Speranzo. On the local level, most of the political positions -- especially in Pittsfield and North Adams -- are controlled by men politicians, too.

On the federal level, Berkshire County's delegates to Capitol Hill and The White House in Washington, D.C. MARGINALIZE the common citizen. As a former native, lifelong Berkshire County resident until I was over 28.5-years of age, I made it a point to always write my political concerns to the president, 2 U.S. Senators, and Congressman, and I was rarely, if ever, listened to because I am NOT part of the corporate elite that gives them money for power. Even Congressman John Olver responded to my many concerns with coldness, despite his Pittsfield district office helping me with my nearly 6-year old claim before the Board of Veterans Appeals in Washington, D.C. Although, everytime he came to the Berkshires, I would talk to him, and he probably became a little irritated with me for voicing so many of my concerns to him. BUT, that is the way it is supposed to be. Moreover, I remember one time waiving to John Kerry in the 1996 North Adams Fall Foliage Parade, wanting to shake his hand, and his response was to clench his fists and give me an arrogant look. Now, I realize that John Forbes Kerry was born into a trust fund larger than Bill Weld's $80 million, and his maternal ancestors included Massachusetts' first Governor, John Winthrop, but he certainly could have shaken my hand instead of mocking me and passing me by. In 2004, Sen. Kerry's aide, Mike Vito, made a put down against me when I talked to him in Pittsfield. Lastly, Sen. Kennedy only comes to the Berkshires for corporate elite business interests and also entertainment. NONE OF THE FEDERAL DELEGATES TO THE WHITE HOUSE & CAPITOL HILL CARE ABOUT THE COMMON INTERESTS IN BERKSHIRE COUNTY!

On the state level, all Berkshire County gets are mostly incompetent -- save one: Dan Bosley -- delegates to Beacon Hill's State House. Denis Guyer is beyond stupid! Ben Downing is a Good Old Boy! Smitty Pignatelli is a minion to the special interests! Chris Speranzo has potential, but won't buck the power brokers! I hope Chris Speranzo becomes the next Silvio O. Conte as John Olver's future successor to U.S. Congress. Western and Central Massachusetts could not do any better than Chris Speranzo. And, despite Dan Bosley's high level of intelligence, all he gives the Berkshires is state lottery tickets that redistribute the low-incomes of the "have nots" to the wealthy corporate elite or "haves." Bosley is the biggest disappointment because he could really change the system, but chooses to profit off of it instead. Moreover, Governor Deval Patrick is so unfocused on his +$4 billion in new spending initiatives, while the state faces a $1.3 billion FY08 state budget deficit (and an even larger forecasted liability gap in FY09), that he is not going to be able to even begin to restore the drastic state aid funding cuts from FY02-FY04 to municipal governments. NONE OF THE BERKSHIRE DELEGATES TO THE STATE HOUSE REALLY CARES ABOUT THE COMMON INTERESTS IN BERKSHIRE COUNTY!

On the local level, you have Mayor Jimmy Ruberto running the City of Pittsfield for the benefit of a very narrow community focused on the small-minded interests of the Good Old Boy Network. Ruberto equals special interests! Moreover, you have Mayor John Barrett III running the city of North Adams in a manner that mirrors a dictator controlling his subjects through intimidation, poverty and little opportunity to move up that social divisions or climb over the artificial but real wall of class and status. In short, Ruberto likes to see poor people buy state lottery tickets, and Barrett ensures the state's lottery, or inequitable business of regressive taxation, stays alive and well. Both Pittsfield and North Adams make many millions of dollars of pure profit from Berkshire County's myriad of social problems through their respective city's use of perverse incentives by complementing social service and education federally funded, state administered revenues to their municipal tax and other forms of revenue base. The perverse incentive is for a Mayor to complement social service and education funds to their tax base in order to keep their property tax and fee structural rates artificially lower than it should really be, thereby keeping themselves in office. Only a marginal amount of the millions of dollars Pittsfield and North Adams receives ever goes to solving the many social problems and other issues of social injustice there. Ruberto and Barrett administer municipal systems that have been labeled, "BANAL", by many different observers over the years. Pittsfield and North Adams are ran by men politicians who see social problems and other issues of social injustice as a perverse means to increase public revenues into their respective cities, thereby perversely incentivizing the never-ending cycles of poverty and social injustice. Because these men politicians choose to profit off of social injustice and social problems, their cities have become known as "BANAL" and no rational parents would ever subject their innocent children to such exploitation. Ergo, the long-term trend in population -- especially by middle class families -- has been to bolt from both Pittsfield and North Adams. That is also why BERKSHIRE COUNTY IS THE NUMBER ONE REGION IN THE COMMONWEALTH FOR JOB LOSSES!

The bottom line is, that while I am a man who chooses to always participate in politics, none of the political elite and politically connected federal, state and local men politicians, currently serving in political office, representing Berkshire County care about the common interests of Berkshire County. On every "federal" level of government, Berkshire County is only represented by men politicians, which compounds these social problems. The corporate elite is well served by the federal and state all men Berkshire delegates. The special interests and Good Old Boy Network is well served by the predominantly local men politicians. However, the entire system is NOT serving the COMMON citizen, which includes the social and economic need of Berkshire County's women and children. The answer is that Berkshire County needs Women Politicians!

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

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[Berkshire] County health lacking

In most categories, the Berkshires trail the rest of the state in care.

By Jack Dew, Berkshire Eagle Staff

Thursday, June 14, 2007

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire County is lagging behind the state in many crucial health categories, including prenatal care, obesity, diabetes and tobacco use.

John Auerbach, the new commissioner of the Department of Public Health, unveiled a thick book of statistics last night showing that the health of Berkshire residents is not keeping up with the state. He presented the findings during a public meeting attended by three dozen public health workers, physicians and medical personnel, one of eight such meetings he is convening around the state as the DPH looks to deepen its understanding of the health problems that each region faces.

"We need you to help us understand the health issues in your communities," he said.

Several members of the audience said the county's rural makeup creates unique challenges. With just 2 percent of the state's population but 15 percent of its land, the Berkshires are the state's most sparsely populated region. That means longer trips to a hospital or doctor's office and a harder time delivering a public health message to the community, they said.

In almost every major category, Berkshire County is doing worse than the state. The numbers were particularly stark in many major birth indicators, considered by many to be a yardstick for the overall health of a region.
Led by Pittsfield and North Adams, Berkshire County has a higher teen birth rate than the state average. Meanwhile, 8.6 percent of all babies born to Berkshire mothers have low birth weight, compared with 7.9 percent statewide.

And only 72.5 percent of Berkshire mothers received adequate prenatal care versus 84 percent statewide. Pittsfield was even lower, with only 61 percent of mothers making sufficient doctors visits during their pregnancy, a statistic that Auerbach called "about the lowest" he had seen. "This is a very troubling indicator."

Berkshire mothers also have high smoking rates, with 20.7 percent saying they smoked during pregnancy, almost three times the state average of 7.1. Auerbach called that spike "relatively astounding."

And the Berkshires also have a higher percentage — 45.7 percent — of pregnant women covered by public insurance programs such as Medicaid versus 32.6 percent in Massachusetts. Pittsfield leads the way in this category, with 53 percent of mothers.

Fewer women — 66.8 percent — breast-feed their children than the Massachusetts average of 79.3 percent. "I don't know what that is," Auerbach said. "Is that about health education? Is that about access to care?"

Other important indicators were equally worrisome. More adults smoke in Berkshire County than in the state; there are more obese adults; and there are more hospitalizations for diabetes.

More Berkshire residents go to the emergency room after suffering a fall than the state average, and more are hospitalized for car accidents; in Pittsfield, the motor vehicle injury rate was twice the state average.

The Berkshires' cancer statistics are roughly in line with the state average, with slightly higher rates of lung cancer, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer, and a slightly lower rate of breast cancer.

On the positive side, Berkshire County had lower rates of hypertension hospitalizations, lower admission rates for heroin abuse, lower HIV/AIDS statistics and fewer visits to the emergency room for firearm-related injuries.

Edward Perlak, vice president of Berkshire Medical Center's Hillcrest campus, told Auerbach that the state needs to recognize the dilemmas faced in a rural setting and not just target public health campaigns on large population centers.

"When you consider health disparities, you really need to consider rural as a disparity," he said. "Our population is small, but it is spread out. And when you look at fixed costs (for providing care), our fixed costs are higher."

Tricia Farley-Bouvier, a Pittsfield city councilor at large, called the Berkshire situation a "crisis" and asked Auerbach to provide a DPH staff member to oversee public health efforts in Berkshire County.

Auerbach asked Farley-Bouvier and others which model works best: spreading grant dollars around the region to fund targeted health initiatives or having a Department of Public Health employee focusing on the area.

Whatever the answer, it could come over the next several months. Auerbach said the DPH is working to reshape the department based on data and community input and is trying to strengthen ties with local-level health agencies.

Thursday, June 14, 2007 9:54:00 AM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Berkshires' unique health care issues

A Berkshire Eagle Editorial

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The dispiriting state of health care in the Berkshires as revealed last week by John Auerbach, the new commissioner of the state Department of Public Health, testifies to the unique and deep-rooted health issues that face a sparsely populated rural area confronted with economic difficulties. There are no easy solutions to be had, but a start can be made if the DPH focuses more specifically on Berkshire health issues that are dramatically different from those in Boston or other large cities in the commonwealth.

Boston and its surrounding communities dominate Massachusetts economically, culturally and politically, and the Berkshires have far more in common with Vermont to the north than the urban eastern end of Massachusetts. The Berkshires' primary care physicians are severely taxed and will be more so as residents enroll for health insurance under the new law designed to provide insurance to all. Many low-income residents in small, economically struggling Berkshire towns don't have health insurance yet, and even when they get it they will still confront long drives to doctor's offices and hospitals. People who can't make ends meet, and there are many in the beautiful Berkshires who cannot, will often let medical treatment slide because of its high cost.

The high teen birth rate in Pittsfield and North Adams is hardly news, as this stubborn problem has defied resolution even though many state and local agencies confront it head-on. Teens with little interest in school and less hope of advancing in a competitive job market too often end up as single parents, perhaps because they see this as a way to build self-esteem or a stable family life. This ties in to the economic struggles of the Berkshires, where low-income families have few opportunities to advance and middle-income families struggle to maintain that status.

The Berkshires' leadership in rate of adult smoking in the state and the high rate of obesity are deeply troubling. There is no disputing the dangers of smoking and obesity — has that message not made its way west or don't Berkshire residents care? The low rate of firearm injuries and instances of heroin abuse do speak to the advantages of rural living, though the latter has emerged as an issue.

Mr. Auerbach's appearance in Pittsfield was welcome and his interest in the region's specific health issues genuine. As City Councilor Tricia Farley-Bouvier proposed, designating a DPH staffer to focus health efforts in the Berkshires may be the best way to make a dent in these complex problems.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Wednesday, 20 June, 2007

Political Joke...

BIRTHDAY REMEMBRANCE

This week we celebrate a special birthday. Monica Lewinsky turned 31.

Can you believe it? It seems like only yesterday she was crawling around the White House on her hands and knees, and putting everything in her mouth.

They grow up so fast, don't they?

Thursday, June 21, 2007 7:48:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

What would you call it if Barack Obama is elected President?...An "Obama-Nation".

Thursday, June 21, 2007 7:55:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

7/20/2007, 2:56 P.M.

Re: I got to shake Barack Obama's hand this afternoon

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, Pols, & the People:

I attended a speech by presidential candidate Barack Obama this afternoon. He spoke about ending the War in Iraq, reforming Military discharges, reforming the VA, Universal Healthcare, and Energy initiatives that will create market based solutions to our environmental issues. During the speech, a young woman fainted about 10 feet in front of me. People ran to help her, and I ran to the nearest police officer so that an ambulance was promptly called. After the speech, I went inside the building to thank the police officer for responding to my call for help for the young woman who fainted before me during the Obama speech. Then, Barack Obama walked by the police officer and I, and he shook my hand. I told the police officer the condition of the young woman -- she was still on the ground, the paramedics put an IV in her arm, and she was having trouble breathing -- and the police officer told me that she will be O.K. The police officer thanked me for helping out with the situation. I called my mom after I got home and told her that I shook Barack Obama's hand this afternoon and helped assist a young woman who fainted in front of me during his speech. My mother was happy that I got to meet a candidate for president and that I helped with a medical emergency, too.

In Truth,
Jonathan A. Melle

Friday, July 20, 2007 2:56:00 PM  

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