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To the Editor:

The Spinal Cord Injury Research Program (SCIRP) Act of 1998 is, as Elizabeth Knapp’s recent story relates, the achievement of former New York state trooper Paul Richter. [“Insult to Injury,” Newsfront, Jan. 28) It was also the crowning career achievement of former Assemblyman Edward Griffith.

For nearly 30 years, Griffith represented the people of the 40th Assembly District, the East New York section of Brooklyn. East New York was so plagued by drugs, poverty and gun violence that it was known as “the murder capital of New York City.” As a consequence of the crack epidemic of the closing decades of the 20th century, it has had way more than its share of innocent victims paralyzed by gunshot wounds.

Paul Richter sustained a spinal cord injury when he was shot by a man he had pulled over outside of Lake Placid who had just stolen a trunkload of handguns from a sporting goods store. Had Paul not stopped him, those guns would have ended up on the streets in criminal hands. What happened to him should remind us of the terrible cost of controlling commerce in illegal guns.

I had the good fortune of bringing Richter and Griffith together in the spring of 1998 when Griffith agreed to sponsor Richter’s bill. There was something compelling about this partnership between the state trooper who was gunned down on a country road in the Adirondacks and the politician who represented an inner city neighborhood where criminal gun violence was almost a daily occurrence. For both of them, and for all the people who will benefit in years to come as a result of the research program they created, this was a truly great achievement. I can only hope that Assemblyman Griffith’s colleagues in the Legislature, of which Governor David Paterson was one, will not allow his achievement to be undone in this year’s budget.

Terry O’Neill

The Constantine Institute


Who Will Care?

To the Editor:

Chet Hardin’s article on Michael Breslin’s vision for long term care in Albany County [Mr. Breslin’s Vision, Jan. 28] had some valid points about the benefits of home care, but does not take into consideration patients with Alzheimer’s.

My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 59. My mother was his primary caregiver, with some help from my husband and myself. For eight years he was not a candidate for a home health aide, assisted living, or a nursing home. Then, all of a sudden, although he functioned perfectly well at choir practice that one day, he could not remember how to sit in a chair, or use the toilet.

My mother was already having my father evaluated for assisted living, nursing home or home care. Now, “suddenly,” some home care agencies felt that my father had gone beyond their scope of practice. We looked at assisted living facilities with dementia units. We were told that they were based on a “social model” not a “medical model.” This translated to he didn’t qualify because he had a breathing machine to help with his sleep apnea and he couldn’t manage it himself. How is it possible to consider assisted living facilities a viable option for individuals with Alzheimer’s, if they are conditional on these individuals’ ability to operate complex medical equipment?

Now these criteria left us with a nursing home as the only option. My parents had long term care insurance and were thus able to consider private nursing homes. Unfortunately, none had room. No nursing home had room for my father and home care wouldn’t serve him! How would Mr. Breslin address this problem? He discusses private nursing homes picking up the slack met by a closed county facility, but is this realistic? In just a few months, my father had gone from “safe at home” to unable to do anything for himself. In his case it happened with astonishing speed.

Finally, on the day my mother had spent hours trying to get my father into the car to go to their support group meeting, the facilitator at the support group realized he “didn’t look right” and called an ambulance. Doctors at the hospital were dismissive and indicated my mother was wrong to bring in a “patient not in need of emergency care” until he had to go to the bathroom and it took a team of trained professionals to get him there. And then they were astounded that my mother had been caring for him by herself. Magically, he was immediately installed at the hospital for a couple of weeks until a bed opened at Daughters of Sarah. He died after a couple of weeks there.

I did not read anything in this article that addressed how individuals with Alzheimer’s would be better served by having one less nursing home to turn to.

Julie St. Amour Glass


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