Dist. 37 House, Se­nate can­di­dates par­tic­i­pate in fo­rum

Dorchester Star - - NEWS - By JACK RODGERS jrodgers@ches­pub.com

CAM­BRIDGE — Mem­bers of the Dorch­ester and Sal­is­bury cham­bers of com­merce hosted a fo­rum with District 37 can­di­dates for the state Se­nate and House of Del­e­gates Thurs­day, Oct. 4, at the Del­marva Com­mu­nity Ser­vices build­ing.

In­cum­bent Repub­li­can Sen. Ad­die Eckardt, R-37-Mid­Shore, an­swered ques­tions along­side Demo­cratic chal­lenger Holly Wright. In­cum­bent Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B-Tal­bot, and Del. Christo­pher Adams, R-37B-Wi­comico, faced Demo­cratic can­di­date Dan O’Hare, along with Del. Sheree Sam­ple-Hughes, D-37A-Wi­comico, who coun­tered points of Repub­li­can can­di­date Frank Cooke.

The ma­jor­ity of the ques­tions posed to can­di­dates were writ­ten by the cham­ber or­ga­ni­za­tions. Can­di­dates had seen the ques­tions prior to the fo­rum, and each re­sponded in­di­vid­u­ally.

One ques­tion asked can­di­dates their po­si­tions on health care and how they would guar­an­tee care to cit­i­zens while low­er­ing the cost of pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tion.

Cooke said he does not sup­port the sin­gle-payer sys­tem for health care and also is against the es­tab­lish­ment of a state board to set pre­scrip­tion drug prices.

“I’m in fa­vor of re­tain­ing pri­vate in­sur­ance sys­tem,” Cooke said. “I’m also in fa­vor of en­abling the fill­ing of pre­scrip­tions across the Cana­dian bor­der.”

Sam­ple-Hughes said her time spent serv­ing on the Health and Gov­ern­ment Op­er­a­tions Board has given her per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence on the is­sue of health care ac­cess. The state can sup­port com­mu­nity col­leges who train health care pro­fes­sion­als, while tack­ling ris­ing pre­scrip­tion costs to pro­vide more ac­ces­si­ble health care, she said.

“Peo­ple, they’ve served their time, they’ve re­tired, and they should be en­ti­tled to qual­ity health care re­sources,” Sam­ple-Hughes said.

Eckardt, a former psy­chi­atric-men­tal health clin­i­cal nurse, said nurs­ing home ex­pen­di­tures, which are an­other con­cern for Mid-Shore se­niors, can cost more than $72,000 a year. The district is lack­ing in ac­cess for med­i­cal adult day­care, which al­lows peo­ple to age in place. The Del­marva Com­mu­nity Ser­vices build­ing also would be an out­let for these ser­vices, she said.

“We also need ex­pan­sion for very com­plex care as more and more peo­ple are di­ag­nosed with de­men­tia,” Eckardt said.

Wright said the is­sue of health care ac­ces­si­bil­ity, and its so­lu­tion, is much big­ger than sim­ply of­fer­ing blended ser­vice ar­eas. The East­ern Shore has the fewest num­ber of physi­cians avail­able for pa­tients, she said.

“In terms of pre­scrip­tion drug prices, it’s not OK when you go to the Wal­mart phar­macy sec­tion and you see peo­ple leav­ing their med­i­ca­tions on the counter,” Wright said. “That is a big prob­lem. That is some­thing we can do in the Gen­eral Assem­bly by es­tab­lish­ing a drug price con­trol com­mis­sion. We can­not be con­sumers of med­i­ca­tion.”

Can­di­dates also were asked what they would do to en­sure ev­ery child had ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion within the district. All can­di­dates agreed ac­ces­si­ble and af­ford­able early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion ben­e­fit a child’s fu­ture de­vel­op­ment.

O’Hare said an­other com­po­nent to ed­u­ca­tion is in­ter­net ac­cess. The del­e­ga­tion needs to fo­cus on bring­ing uni­ver­sal broad­band to the en­tire state, he said.

“It needs to be­come a pub­lic util­ity,” O’Hare said. “It can’t be done on a county by county level or a mu­nic­i­pal­ity by mu­nic­i­pal­ity level . ... This is an ed­u­ca­tion is­sue. If kids don’t have ac­cess to broad­band, if kids don’t have ac­cess to the in­ter­net the way that other kids do, they’re los­ing com­pet­i­tive­ness in their school, they’re los­ing the abil­ity to keep up and learn.”

O’Hare also said ac­cess to broad­band will ben­e­fit health care providers and pa­tients, through the use of FaceTime. Some physi­cians in Wi­comico County al­ready are us­ing this ser­vice, he said.

Men­tal health pa­tients also ben­e­fit from this ser­vice by FaceTim­ing coun­selors and psy­chi­a­trists to feel more com­fort­able in ther­apy, he said.

Mautz said fund­ing uni­ver­sal Pre-K would be a chal­lenge, but it is the di­rec­tion the state is mov­ing in. Schools are mov­ing in a dif­fer­ent ed­u­ca­tional di­rec­tion then they have be­fore, he said.

Mautz also said he is not in fa­vor of mov­ing ap­proval of school con­struc­tion projects out of the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Board of Pub­lic Works.

“Our schools are tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity of our chil­dren at the age of 2 or 3, and car­ry­ing them to the age of 18,” Mautz said. “Most of our schools are free and re­duced meals, break­fast, lunch.”

Adams said with his wife be­ing a pub­lic school teacher and his daugh­ter pur­su­ing a de­gree in ed­u­ca­tion, the is­sue is per­sonal for him. Adams said the Repub­li­can party did not get enough credit for sup­port­ing ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tives.

Adams said teach­ers don’t want to teach to a test, and by fa­cil­i­tat­ing uni­ver­sal prek, teach­ers could fo­cus on teach­ing im­por­tant com­mu­ni­ca­tion and prob­lem solv­ing skills.

“And so, pre-K means this: it’s not ABCs, it’s not one, two, threes; it’s be­ing able to com­mu­ni­cate with one an­other, it’s be­ing able to make friends, deal with con­flict res­o­lu­tion,” Adams said. “Those aren’t ed­u­ca­tional as­pi­ra­tions that you can test; it’s about help­ing young peo­ple, for what­ever rea­son in this gen­er­a­tion, learn­ing how to work well to­gether.”

PHOTO BY JACK RODGERS

From left, Del. Chris Adams, R-37B-Wi­comico, Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B-Tal­bot, and Demo­cratic can­di­date Dan O’Hare talk amongst them­selves Thurs­day, Oct. 4, dur­ing the District 37 can­di­date fo­rum at the Del­marva Com­mu­nity Ser­vices build­ing in Cam­bridge.

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