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Talk of the town

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — NM urgently needs dental therapists

IN 1999, a statewide task force report on Senate Joint Memorial 21 recommended that New Mexico consider adopting a “mid-level” dental health provider to address the shortage of oral health professionals in the state. Two statewide summits held in the early 2000s also focused on the lack of oral health services available to rural and underserved New Mexicans. A number of positive oral health initiatives arose out of SJM 21, but we have not yet adopted a mid-level dental therapist.

I bet (Dr.) Joe Valles (“NM families need dentists, not therapists,” Oct. 24) has never met a dental therapist, much less seen one in action. If he had, he would know that they are highly trained professionals who provide top-quality dental care to people who otherwise would have a hard time getting it.

Dental therapists, the “mid-levels,” practice among many countries throughout the world.

New Mexico does need dental therapists. Our state simply doesn’t have enough dentists to serve everyone, nor are we soon to increase the numbers of them, even as many dentists enter the retirement ages.

Even if you’re lucky enough to live in an area where there are enough dentists, it is difficult to find one that accepts your insurance, operates at hours convenient for working people or provided sliding scale fees, which is why 37 percent of third-graders have untreated decay.

Dental therapists work with dentists as part of a “complete dental team,” to use Dr. Valles’ words, to provide routine and preventive services to people in underserved communities. This frees up supervising dentists to focus their time and energy on more complex procedures – such as root canals or complicated extractions – that only a dentist can provide. With the changes in our health care system occurring today, New Mexicans need to expect that health professionals practice at the top of their disciplines, including dentists.

Dental therapists provide quality care. Alaska has had a wonderful experience over 10 years with dental therapists, as had Minnesota more recently. Other states are actively exploring dental therapists as a way to help solve their oral health problems.

The bottom line is New Mexico’s current dental system leaves too many New Mexicans with bad oral health.



Don’t judge us all on one person’s act

I HOPE THE Journal will provide responses to Craig Cahill and other Tasmanians who may have expressed their opinions regarding the killing of Jasper the Tasmanian devil at our zoo.

Cahill, rest assured that the vast majority of New Mexicans share your horror at the senseless killing of Jasper, on loan to the Albuquerque BioPark as part of an effort to return this species from the brink of extinction. A sizeable cash reward fund, as well as other offers of compensation, has been established for info leading to the conviction of the obviously deranged person or persons responsible. However, the fact that the Tasmanian devil as a species faces extinction is not the fault of any New Mexican or any other citizen of “the Americas.” Please consider that fact before passing judgment on our citizenry.



A devil valued more than NM citizens?

THE BOUNTY FOR the capture of the man who recently killed Jasper the Tasmanian devil at the BioPark has gone up to $10,000. Now, I applaud Laurel Westman for donating this extra reward money; she did something that we all should learn to do. When she saw something wrong, she did something about it.

But I’m concerned that Jasper’s killer is in for a lynching. The mayor called for “all hands on deck” to investigate and prosecute this crime. People are obviously mad at the perpetrator for his cruel action. But if this person is caught or comes forward, is he going to receive a fair trial or is the call for his head going to ring from Four Hills to the West Side?

I think it’s monstrous for the mayor to call for such drastic action to find justice for an animal’s death when each day in our city those responsible for violence against children are released with just a slap on the wrist. We want Jasper’s killer in jail, but what about rapists? Is Albuquerque more merciful to pedophiles and rapists than a man who dropped a rock on an animal?

I ask the people of Albuquerque, is the life of a marsupial that much more valuable than our women and children?



Where is the security at ABQ BioPark?

IT’S WONDERFUL that various individuals and community organizations are donating money to the reward pot for finding the individual(s) who recently killed one of the rare Tasmanian devils at the Albuquerque BioPark Zoo.

What I’m wondering is how in the world our city administrators and zoo managers could install an exhibit of rare or unusual animals without adequate security safeguards. One could rightly suppose that the city – and taxpayers – have made significant investments in obtaining most of the zoo’s animals, their housing and upkeep, training for the animal caretakers, etc. A prudent person would want to protect the animals, the investments they represent, and avoid the harm to the city’s reputation that results from an incident like this.

When considering that this latest problem comes on the heels of other recent security breaches at the zoo, a legitimate question is: Why aren’t there more effective security measures in place at the zoo?



It’s time to appoint a surgeon general

AMY GOODMAN (“Ebola czar? We need a surgeon general,” Oct. 25) stated that the likely reason the Senate has not confirmed Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general is his view that guns are a public health issue. Considering that 30,000 Americans die from gun violence every year, this does not seem out of line to me. The leadership of the NRA has even intimidated the Senate Democratic leadership into silence, in spite of bipartisan committee support for Dr. Murthy.

The latest school shooting … in Washington state could perhaps have been avoided if only Congress had, many years ago, passed reasonable legislation regarding background checks on gun sales, gun locks, military weapon restrictions, etc. Data on mass shootings show that they have been increasing exponentially in recent years.

Television, movies, videos and games all have a great influence on young minds. The increase in “entertainment” violence is not healthy, especially considering that adolescents have not yet developed the frontal cortex judgment and restraint levels found in more mature brains.

Gun violence – 250 Americans killed or wounded daily – is growing and could indeed be classified as an epidemic. A surgeon general in place could lead responses to this problem, as well as provide sensible leadership in cases like the Ebola outbreak and other health issues. It’s time for the Senate and Congress to step up!



Mascots should be local and ferocious!

IT APPEARS that Pistol Pete (the NMSU Aggies mascot) is an inbred with rickets from the hinterlands of New Mexico. Should this group be offended by this cartoonish portrayal? To boot, Pete solves his problems with weapons.

Meanwhile, the Redskins mascot continues to get a lot of press. Many indigenous Americans see the icon as merely a fierce warrior and the discussion for what it is: a manufactured distraction. Protest for profit for some, but especially useful to the politicians who snicker as the populace squabbles about a logo, while the important issues – jobs, health and safety – take a back seat to the circus.

If a mascot is meant to be local and ferocious, then why doesn’t Washington put a pot-bellied lobbyist in a shiny suit on their helmets?

For New Mexico, I suggest a hybrid bribester – that would be a narco-bureaucrat. Or how ’bout a belligerent bottle-wielding drunk subsidized by welfare. Iconic.


Santa Fe

Kudos to UNMH for a careful diagnosis

THERE ARE probably lots of things to complain about if you are a patient in the University of New Mexico system, but I want to tell of one experience I had.

Eighteen months ago, I went to my doctor feeling quite ill. My temperature was high and I had chills. She was so alarmed that she called an ambulance and sent me down to the Trauma Center at UNM Hospital. They were oh, so careful with me. Not one but several nurses and doctors asked me if I had been out of the country recently or had I been in contact with anyone who had recently returned from a tropical climate.

The answer to those questions was negative but they kept me in the ER bed and unit for many hours before diagnosing a blood infection that had entered either through dental work or an open ulcer in my esophagus. Only then was I given a bed in a room with another patient.

There was no Ebola scare back then, but I was amazed at how careful they all were not to do anything until they diagnosed what I had wrong with me.

Kudos to the UNM Hospital staff for the great treatment and care. Maybe if the patient who died of Ebola had gone to a state-supported hospital and been without insurance, they would not have been so anxious to get him out the door fast.



Thank you to a very selfless Burqueno!

LAST MONTH, MY wife and I came to Old Town as part of a bus excursion from Illinois. While others shopped, we took a walk and became hopelessly lost in the area near (Reginald) Chavez (Elementary) School.

I flagged down a motorist in an SUV, and asked her where we were and how we could make it back before our 3 p.m. transportation left without us. The young woman in the car gave us instructions and we – two people in our mid-60s – hustled off to our original port of call.

Minutes later, when we were walking like crazy and fearing we wouldn’t make it, we were only too elated when the same lady pulled up alongside us and offered a ride to Old Town. She had picked up her daughter from school and was on the way home when she made the day for us Region of Reagan natives.

God bless this selfless lady and her child for helping strangers who were lost. We’ll always remember these kind and gracious Albuquerque residents.


New Lenox, Ill.

Belief in climate change is too political

IN HIS LETTER of Oct. 14, John Schinkle makes the argument that we should not be so worried about carbon dioxide because it is essential for life on this planet. Just because CO2 is needed for life does not mean we cannot have too much of it. The reason I am so concerned about climate change is that we are deliberately, without any controls, taking carbon that has been buried for 300 million years and now placing it in our atmosphere at an ever-increasing rate. This is something that has never been done in the history of humans on this planet.

I challenge Schinkle and all my fellow readers to think of anything that industrial humankind has done that has not been detrimental to the environment. If something as innocuous as a parking lot is harmful to the environment, what is placing billions of tons of ancient carbon into our atmosphere doing? Even if the deniers can claim that we cannot prove that CO2 is harmful, we should be very concerned that we are doing something to our planet that has not been done before.

It is a life-threatening tragedy that belief in climate change has become so political. It is strange that, when it comes to social and political issues, conservatives accuse us liberals of changing the tried and proven but, when it comes to the environment that supports life itself, conservatives are willing to see everything changed.



Middle East: Tend your own yard!

FOR YEARS, we have been pumping military aid into Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, yet none of those countries, including our NATO “ally” Turkey, feels the ISIS threat is serious enough to put boots on the ground.

This is their back yard. It is up to them to cut the grass.