Martin O’Malley’s Choice?


governor-martin-omalley-and-first-lady-katie-omalley.jpgMaryland Governor Martin O’Malley is a favorite of mine among the nation’s governors.
He is serious about policy and curious about both domestic and international matters. I have had an opportunity to participate in one “policy salon” that he hosted at the Governor’s Mansion in Annapolis and was impressed with O’Malley’s grasp of detail about climate policy issues. On another occasion, O’Malley took a meeting with my then colleague and friend Nir Rosen to learn more about what was happening at dirt level in Iraq.
Governor O’Malley used to be an advance man during the presidential campaign of former Senator Gary Hart — and remains close to Hart. He’s also pals with Greta van Susteren, who ought to have her Democratic governor friend on her show Fox’s On the Record to ask O’Malley why he won’t stop by a community-valued mental health center scheduled for closure but will be stopping by a ritzy fundraiser at a colonial era town-centerpiece mansion in colonial era Chestertown, Maryland — Widehall.
That’s just a bad visual — and may be a bad choice for the Governor.
I’m in Chestertown, Maryland today — sitting at Play It Again Sam coffee shop in the center of town — and there are signs everywhere in the windows of business establishments about this mental health center. People are talking about it. I’ve just asked seven different folks — independent of one another — if they have any views on the closure of the Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center, and everyone — Republican and Democrat — opposes its closure. But beyond that, folks are blaming O’Malley personally.
The front page of the Kent County News, above the fold, has run a line: “Governor has not yet responded to invitation to tour the facility but will be in Kent for fundraiser.” (Kent refers to Kent County).
Frankly, I don’t know whether the health center should remain open or close. I have no idea how its patient load and impact compare with other institutions and don’t know how the State of Maryland might address the community’s health needs through other institutions.
But I can say that the political temperature here is pretty hot. Republicans and Democrats don’t often agree on much in Chestertown and when they do, that’s not good for incumbents — though Frank Kratovil, the Member in the House, may become the casualty ultimately despite the anger brewing here at the Governor.
widehall chestertown.jpgMartin O’Malley may need to support his State’s decision to close the mental health facility no matter the local uproar.
But he should seriously consider visiting the facility and demonstrating that he is aware of the hard choices that government has to make in this time and that these choices needed to be weighed against other important community equities.
Even if he has to go to the mental health center in a tux, he should stop in and show that he’s interested and informed no matter the eventual fate of the institution.
Then he can hit the ritzy fundraiser at the Widehall Mansion in Chestertown.
— Steve Clemons
Update: Craig O’Donnell of the Kent County News reports that Governor O’Malley will stop in at the Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center on Saturday when he is in Chestertown, Maryland attending the $1,000/ticket fundraiser at real estate developer Roy Kirby‘s Widehall mansion.
This is the right move by the Governor.
— Steve Clemons


6 comments on “Martin O’Malley’s Choice?

  1. PrahaPartizan says:

    Steve, I would opine that O’Malley decided to close this facility as payback for the voting pattern in that stretch of the state. Aren’t they the whack jobs who vote like 110% birther/deather/tenther in Maryland. A facility like that also represents substantial employment and O’Malley may simply be confirming that people who vote against government spending should be offered the chance to participate in its reduction. Payback is a bitch.


  2. ... says:

    this is a sad story and happening all too often… here in bc the gov’t wanted to get rid of these institutions ( the building in vancouver area – essondale looks just like this building in the pic) and what basically happened is the same people suffering from mental health problems were forced onto the streets.. if you go to vancouver around the main and hastings area, you will see them their leading a life of hardship and struggle.. we can thank downsizing right wing politicians for this…
    steve, this guy you like is a first rate flake if he doesn’t get involved in this…it isn’t about outer optics, but about finding someone with some soul..


  3. A2 back in the USA says:

    As usual, another great article Steve. I read your blog before I read the news. Thanks again.


  4. brigid says:

    Greta Von Susteren??? You’ve got to be kidding.
    The mental health facilities of our time are state, federal, and local prisons. This is so because there’s always a constituency for prison construction, and virtually none for funding of community based mental health. With 30 plus years career as a mental health clinician I can tell you that the only political support for mental health funding comes from those few family members who haven’t cut loose from their loves ones after the ravages of major mental illness. Prevention and rehabilitation based mental health services on the outpatient community level are much less expensive, but so easy to cut when no one cares about them.


  5. DonS says:

    . . . ‘staff’ buy in.


  6. DonS says:

    Good of you to highlight this Steve. I just retired after 29 years in the trenches of a rural Virginia mental Health organization. If Maryland is like Virginia, there is greater push to emulate private care models, which makes for some pretty ruthless and skewed decisions.
    I will say though that some MH bureaucracies can be as bloated and wasteful as any other. In our agency, a new exec was brought in after the founding exec retired after 25 years or so. The new man had great ideas for delivering services, thinking outside the box, getting stay buy in to structural changes, all of which ruffled some of our entrenched higher admin types. Too much change for some! Suffice to say that some admin type (in the admin division) ginned up an excuse against the new exec (harrassment or some such), got the board to rubber stamp it, and forced him out within one year.
    Sad story. Other sad stories are the distortions brought about by the overall trend to reduce public hospital beds, budget tightness, and putting money into medicaid reimbursable services rather than finding ways to fairly fund all needed service — including traditional outpatient counseling. And of course, the usual underfunding of mental health needs at the federal level (vs wars, of course).
    One factor in the Maryland decision may be the percentage of monetary support that is contributed by local political entities vs the state. If it’s really a low percentage, the locals might have very little to say about it, although usually local influence exceeds their monetary support — generalizing from my own experience..


Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *