Hey, Pete. What’s up?
Should I address you more formally? Well you know, Pete, I believe respect must be earned, not expected. So to me right now, you’re not Mr. Ricketts or Governor Ricketts. To me, you’re Pete. And I’m Bailey; because I haven’t earned your respect yet either. It goes both ways.
So I’d like to extend you an invitation, Pete, to meet my family and I so we can talk respect.
Oh but there are a few things you should know before you meet my husband, children, and I. Where should I begin? How about education? It’s easy for many to respect education. Well, Pete, I’m almost finished with my Doctor of Education Degree in Special Education and my husband is just beginning his Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. You’re likely already beginning to see why we are passionate about services for mental health, individuals with disabilities, and those in need of help for behavior or addiction issues. So yes, we’re educated. Does that make it easier to read what I have to say?
But you see, Pete, the only reason I went this far with my education was to get people like you to listen to me when I speak. God made me a fighter and gave me a passion for standing up for those who can’t easily stand up for themselves. And after hearing about your proposed budget, I believe it’s time for me to stand up.
So that’s likely the end of our story, right? Wrong. You may be wondering why my husband, Jeremy, and I have worked so hard to further our education. If you’re not wondering, I’d like to tell you anyway.
You see, Pete, my husband is a five-time suicide attempt survivor. He’s a fighter, but he needed help to be. And a mental health facility, Richard Young Hospital in Kearney to be exact, is where my husband was kept safe and learned life-saving coping skills during his three times in which he stayed there inpatient. Those services kept Jeremy alive. Those services are why our children still have their dad.
You’re probably going to say, “Yes, but those services will still be there.” Will they, Pete? Will they?
Because I should also mention that for 2 1/2 years, I had to leave my job as a public school special education teacher in order to not leave my husband alone because his suicidal thoughts were so strong. I had to give up our family’s insurance, since my husband is a self-employed business owner, and rely on government assistance while I worked on my doctoral degree from home and supported my husband in his quest to learn how to live, not just stay alive. The government assistance saved our lives…literally. And we could not be more thankful for it; we are not alone. When we needed it most, it was there.
While there are some who take advantage of government assistance, please understand that those with mental illness, addiction, or disabilities are NOT in the business of stealing from the government. They just need help.
With your budget cuts, I imagine another family who walks up to the doors of a mental health hospital as we have many times…terrified and finally ready to accept help…will be turned away. Learning to accept help for mental illness isn’t easy. There’s a bit of a stigma, in case you didn’t know. I imagine that this family, because of a lack of money, insurance, options, etc., will be told that they can’t stay. I imagine this family will not even try to accept help again, will not learn coping skills, will not get the medications needed, will not be offered counseling services, will not be kept safe…I imagine this family will be ripped apart because of a mental illness they had no part in choosing.
I could go on and on about how terrifying these budget cuts are for people suffering from a mental illness, living with a disability, or trying to understand how to get away from a debilitating addiction, but I’d rather just invite you to meet my family.
I’d like you to look my husband, two boys (ages 10 and 8), and I in the eyes and tell us these budget cuts won’t negatively affect our family or anybody we fight for. I’d like you to explain to me why you believe taking funds away from arguably the most vulnerable population makes you a good leader. Because right now, Pete, I don’t see it.
I’d like you to attend one of our support groups. Did I mention we run a support group for individuals suffering from mental illness or supporting a loved one every Sunday evening? I’d love for you to meet with some of these beautiful people we have the pleasure of speaking with weekly. I’d like to invite you to spend some time with the incredible staff at Richard Young Hospital in Kearney, the people who kept my husband safe and taught him coping skills while he was in their care, who care for countless individuals suffering from mental illness and do the absolute best they can with little resources…soon to be less. You see, my husband still sees his doctor there monthly for his follow-up appointments so we know the staff well. I can’t imagine the heartache knowing that these budget cuts could cost some of these people their jobs. Jeremy learned how to live because he learned how to accept help. And because the help was there.
Please don’t take away the option to receive help from those who need it the most. Please reconsider your budget. Please take a step away from what politics has become and remember who you are and why you likely wanted to get into this position in the first place. Are you taking care of your family? So am I.