On the jump is an e-mail from DHS Director John Selig, apparently sent to all DHS employees, providing information about Gov. Mike Beebe's cigarette tax/health initiative.
He urges those who decide to lobby legislators for the plan to do so on their own time on non-state equipment.
I guess Selig's e-mail, strictly speaking, isn't lobbying, just informational. Since it was sent at 11 a.m., I think it's safe to say it was sent on state time. Impossible to say in the form I received it whether or not it was mailed from a state computer.
This is as good a time as any to reiterate that I'm still waiting for DHS explanations on what, if anything, was done by way of corrective action in the spate of deaths of children under state care last year. Also for information about that case in which a battered child reported to DHS was sent back to the abusive home -- where another DHS worker lived.
From: John Selig
Sent: Thursday, January 29, 2009 11:00 AM
To: DHS All
Subject: Governor Beebe's Health Initiative
As you know, Governor Beebe continues to tackle tough issues in our state to improve the lives of Arkansans. Along with economic development, child welfare and education, the health of Arkansans is a top priority. And right now, the stakes are high on Governor Beebe’s healthcare package to reduce smoking and improve the healthcare system.
Those who oppose the plan are pulling out all of the stops to convince legislators to vote against a tobacco tax increase of 56 cents per pack along with a smokeless tobacco tax. The healthcare proposal funded by this tax includes the establishment of a statewide trauma system that benefits all Arkansans and is especially targeted to the more rural parts of our state. Other components include new funding for community health centers, coordinated school health, an expanded flu shot campaign, hunger relief and a new medical school in northwest Arkansas.
Importantly, while this proposal will help all Arkansans, many of its components are specifically targeted to DHS priorities for our clients, including:
ü Expansion of the Arkids First program to 250% of the federal poverty level. This will give an additional 20,000 children an opportunity to have health coverage.
ü Adult Dental Care- By offering basic dental care i.e. cleanings, exams, and dentures, 128,000 Medicaid clients can get preventive and restorative treatment of conditions that could otherwise deteriorate into complex and costly medical problems.
ü Drug and alcohol treatment for Medicaid eligible pregnant women and children- 95% of Arkansans who need drug and alcohol treatment do not receive it.
ü Critical rate increases for personal care services and home delivered meals that help keep people in their homes and out of institutions.
ü Continuing Medicaid coverage to low and moderate income Arkansans battling Breast and/or Cervical Cancer.
ü New options for the growing number of children and their families living with Autism.
ü Additional support for ARHealthNetworks, a program that provides affordable health coverage to small businesses.
To assist you in educating your community about the impact of this plan, we have posted information on DHS Share that explains the entire package as well as the numbers of clients served by county. You can view all of this material at the following link: https://dhsshare.arkansas.gov/DO/OC/Shared%20Documents/Forms/AllItems.aspx
Not only would the tax generate funds for numerous public health needs for children and families, it will help curb youth smoking. Arkansas spends $812 million annually in direct health costs due to smoking-related diseases, and state taxpayers shoulder $619 million of the share. Neither our current tobacco tax nor this proposed increase begins to cover these costs.
If you feel strongly about the tax and the programs it will support, you, like other citizens, can call 501-682-6211 (House) and 501-682-2902 (Senate) to speak with your legislators. A listing of both House and Senate members is provided at the link noted above. Employees who participate in the process should do so during non-work hours, using non-state equipment.
John Selig, DHS Director