Timber disputes, boy stuck in ER, student loan forgiveness

Timber disputes, boy stuck in ER, student loan forgiveness

Opinion editor’s note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from readers online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.


My grandfather was in the timber business and removed the white pine trees from thousands of acres throughout Minnesota in the late 1800s. The Oct. 23 Sports article “Timber turbulence” described the wildlife management areas, the Sustainable Timber Harvest initiative, the Minnesota Forest Producers, the Minnesota Timber Producers, and other interested organizations at the state and federal levels. What was not mentioned is that the specific area described in the Cloquet Valley State Forest is home for the 200-year “old growth” trees.

According to a Minnesota historian, these 40 acres of trees were missed on the original maps used for obtaining the profitable white pine trees. This is the reason these trees were left and not cleared. It is now a tourist attraction, which I was planning on viewing in the spring.

My grandfather was one of the timber barons in the late 1800s. I can’t bring back the trees which he cut down, but I hope that my letter may stimulate more interest in saving these last trees of historical significance — the old white pine not seen anywhere else in Minnesota.

Tim Diegel, Edina


I was saddened, but not surprised, to read about the boy stuck in the ER for months (front page, Oct. 23). It is becoming an all too familiar story here and across the country. Children who have a diagnosis in addition to a mental illness — such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, or an Intellectual Disability — and children with serious aggression, simply cannot find appropriate care.

It’s important to note that children end up in crisis when parents are totally exhausted and have not been able to access more intensive levels of care or hire staff to provide in-home services. And once the child gets to the ER in crisis, there is nowhere for them to go — in-patient may not be appropriate, and there is nowhere for them to be discharged to. What’s even worse is that if a family simply cannot take their child home from the ER because they have no supports and cannot keep the child or other family members safe, they are charged with abandonment and neglect. And the child ends up in child protection. But it’s clear the parents are not neglecting their child, the system is.

We have been working with the Children’s Cabinet, the Department of Health and Human Services, hospitals, counties, and providers to develop solutions for the next session. Fund access to regularly scheduled respite care so that families can “recharge their batteries.” Streamline the process of accessing additional in-home staffing and greatly increase the wages of staff to work with children with serious aggression. Require our commercial health plans to cover treatment provided in psychiatric residential treatment facilities. Plans currently do not cover this level of care, and it is a higher level of care than is currently provided in children’s residential facilities.

It’s difficult for providers to come forward to build new programs when the only funding is through Medicaid. Fast-track applications for Medicaid for families who need intensive in-home services offered only through Medicaid. It can take four to six months for an application to be processed through the county and the state — which is too long to avert a crisis. Last, build a small crisis facility for these children that has a sensory calming environment, high staffing and psychiatric services.

This will all take additional state funds. But these are steps we must take to support these children and their families.

Sue Abderholden, St. Paul

The writer is executive director of NAMI Minnesota.


The Star Tribune Editorial Board omitted several major considerations in its treatment of President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness order (“Four worries about student loan plan,” editorial, Oct. 23).

I went to the University of California in the early 1960s, when tuition and fees cost $120 a semester. State support for public higher education began declining long before the last 20 years mentioned in the editorial. Federally insured and federal direct student loans were poor substitutes for state support. The $2,500 burden on the average taxpayer from Biden’s partial loan forgiveness program, spread over 30 years, is peanuts ($83.33 a year). And does the Editorial Board also begrudge the doubled forgiveness for the students from families poor enough to merit a Pell Grant? Perhaps that’s just another unmentionable, though the board does complain about helping graduate students, some of whom had to borrow enough to buy a modest house.

And why is it that I never read anything about “moral hazard” when corporations declare bankruptcy and pay their creditors some fraction of what is owed? Did the board even consider the almost nonexistent bankruptcy provisions for student loans? And how about those unaccredited private colleges, making promises that were lies, leading to unaccepted credentials and nontransferable course credits?

With $1.6 trillion owed (compared with only $930 billion in credit card debt), haven’t we shafted our young people enough to warrant an emergency action by the president, invoking a 2003 law? What if we add to the foregoing that we now have an economic system producing an ever-increasing share of wealth for the richest 1%, and a declining middle class? And the young inheriting a globally warming planet because we did far too little about the problem or suckered for corporate and partisan lies about it?

And, by the way, one-seventh (14.3%) is a rather large hunk of the population, not “just” 1 in 7. For comparison, all of us over 65 only total about 17% of the population.

Jeffrey W. Koon, St. Paul

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