Limited access to health care is an issue related to poverty. If we can’t be healthy, we can’t have good lives.  When the legislature, under Governor Beebe, expanded access to Medicaid, it wasn’t because we deserve to have health care, it was because the state was going to go broke if we continued to do the things we were doing. Increasing access to Medicaid is keeping hospitals in rural areas of our state open. It is making sure we are offering good jobs in the health care industry and we can support the health care providers. Many don’t know that before the Affordable Care Act Universities and Colleges could provide medical services to their students but didn’t have a means to charge insurance companies for providing the service. Now Universities and Colleges can recoup their costs and provide better care.

Recently the Governor and Legislature won approval from the federal government to require recipients of the Medicaid expansion to meet work requirements. This move is nothing more than a political move. We should be finding real solutions to poverty instead of requiring people who probably can’t work to have a job. It makes no sense. We should go back to the original position of the expansion and cover people who fall below `130% of the poverty level regardless of employment status.

I recently saw a study by the National Conference of State Legislators on the impact of teen pregnancy on education and the economy.  Here are some startling facts from that research:

  • 16% of the 2008-2009 freshman class did not complete high school in four years.
  • 22% of black, Hispanic, and American Indian students of the 2008-2009 freshman class failed to complete high school in four years.
  • In 2011, 19% of young adults ages 18-24 were not in school or working and did not have a degree beyond high school.
  • About 20% of babies born to Arkansas teens are not the teen’s first. Having multiple children as a teen further impedes a young person’s ability to finish school and keep a job or escape poverty.

Poverty is both a cause and consequence of teen pregnancy.  We have to be preparing our children for the consequences of their actions and we have to face the reality that we are all human. More than a third of the teens who give birth live in poverty before the first year after giving birth – they become dependent on services provided by the state. We need to be stopping their mistakes before they make them and the only way we can do that is through comprehensive sex education. I am a firm believer that knowledge is the key to success.

I am a firm believer in a level playing field.  Many of our elected officials rely on their own beliefs to shape their legislative priorities—we need to make sure those beliefs cover everyone. School Choice is another way of saying that we should use public school dollars for private education—religious or secular private schools. I am opposed to using public tax dollars for private schools.

Charter schools may work but only if they are required to follow the same rules set out for all public schools. The issue is charter schools are used to segregate kids into groups for special attention and don’t take into effect the needs of all students.

I am going to continue to protect the rights of patients and their access to natural medicine. I have been working for the last 7 years to establish some form of access for patients who need and require the relief that cannabis offers. For too long we have had a dependency on opioids to relieve pain that can be relieved through a natural product. Opioids such as Hydrocodone, Percodan, Percocet, and OxyContin are the quick and easy options for doctors to prescribe. They make money for big Pharma.

It was my son’s 14-year addiction to opioids that opened my eyes. His father and I began researching alternative methods of controlling pain following his automobile accident when he was 16.  We found that the research, even seven years ago, clearly favored the non-habit forming benefits of cannabis. I pledged to work toward better access for patients and I haven’t stopped. Gary and I spent many days at the state capitol stopping bills that would end access or restrict access from becoming law. Patients deserve to have an alternative method of pain and anxiety control.

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