It is admirable that the Star Tribune writes frequently about some of our society's most challenging social problems. Less admirable is the frequent implication that complex problems have simple solutions.
The Dec. 31 article "Sober homes: A risky last resort for addicts" describes the risks of housing adults addicted to various substances in unlicensed settings and goes on to shock readers with the news that sober homes are "unregulated" (and "unlicensed"). It castigates sober homes for providing residents with minimal supervision, minimal therapy, no assistance in managing prescribed medications, and evicting residents with minimal notice for using drugs.
The article is right — living in an unlicensed sober home is "risky," as is most any option available to a poor person addicted to alcohol, opioids or other dangerous drugs. Sober homes are indeed a bad option for such individuals. But unlicensed, unregulated and unstaffed, as they are, sober homes are also a low-cost-to-taxpayers option.
As recently as Dec. 7, the Star Tribune wrote in "Costly isolation: Families decry system that spends $1.5B a year on group homes" of the risks and failures of housing adults with intellectual disabilities in licensed homes, with 24/7 staffing, at a cost to Minnesota taxpayers — mostly spent on group-home staffing and regulation by the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS).
In this earlier article, the Star Tribune reports that despite this huge outlay, records show that DHS rarely conducts inspections to ensure that these facilities are delivering the individualized care and activities they promise. Often these facilities are so short-staffed that residents experience numbing boredom and loneliness and are rarely allowed to venture outside, eliminating the opportunity for a normal social life.
But if $1.5 billion a year is not enough to provide decent care for adults with intellectual disabilities, is it realistic to think that Minnesota is going to spend even more to provide decent care for adults with addictions? I can't see it happening.
John K. Trepp, Minneapolis
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I feel that I should respond to the criticism being levied at sober homes. I manage a sober home in north Minneapolis. Our mission is to provide a safe, clean, supportive environment to allow our residents to succeed. While I feel sorrow for Thomas McCue and others who suffer his fate, I do not believe a sober home is to blame. Addiction is a cunning, dangerous disease that has taken many lives.
I suffer from this disease myself, and I know how insidious it is. I give my time and energy to my sober house, and I've seen many people come through the house and reclaim their lives as I have. Relapse unfortunately can be a part of recovery.
I wonder, was Mr. McCue in an aftercare program, was he attending Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or other meetings? Did he have a sponsor? It is easy to place blame wherever. But ultimately the individual is responsible for his or her actions.
Pete Craig, Minneapolis
Can women get on the sports cover?
In the Sunday issue of the Star Tribune on the front page of the sports section was a headline and article about the Gopher men's basketball team beating a team from Florida ("U sophomores big when it counts"). The Gopher men have a record of 7 wins and 5 losses. Finally, on page C5, I found the quite-a-bit-smaller article about the Gopher women's basketball team ("U wins Big Ten opener on fast start"). They currently have a record of 11 wins and one loss. They actually have won 11 straight games, and it was their Big Ten opener. It's fine that the article about the men was on the front page, but the women's article could and should have been there also. It would have been such an easy fix to have spaced out the articles side by side with a headline for each team right on the front page of the sports section.
Once again, I shake my head over the missed opportunity to highlight each team equally. I have followed all Minnesota sports teams, win or lose, for 50-plus years. We have some fun teams to follow. One of these years, if we have a men's and women's team no matter the sport, can they both be on the section front page together?
Kathy Garman, Fridley
Visible drivers make a difference
As a new resident of downtown Minneapolis, I am also a new rider on the Metro Transit buses and want to respond to share an alternative view regarding passenger safety ("Bus use is declining due to safety," Readers Write, Dec. 27). Unlike the light rail, which I also use, where the driver is invisible to all passengers, it is the Metro bus driver who sets the tone for safety and hospitality, and they do a darn good job at it. I have witnessed one driver make an extra stop to alert a blind rider to the arrival of his bus pulling up behind him. Another driver took the time to educate me about how to get to my destination by the fastest route. And yet another made sure that a rider got on the right bus, giving him directions with patience and respect.
It was Bert, however, driving the No. 14, who has stood out the most. Bert greets each and every passenger, adding ma'am or sir to every one. Bert laughs with his passengers and keeps a sunny disposition no matter the circumstances. Our bus met the fender of a car that tried to make the light and turned in error in front of us. Bert's first question was, "Is everyone all right?"
The riders on the Metro bus system reflect every walk of life. They bring their stories, their stress, their worries and their joys onto the bus, most often sitting in silence just aiming to get home or to work or to school on time. Sometimes a rider acts out or is rude or intends to do harm to other passengers. But because of Bert and his fellow drivers, who clearly care about their riders' well-being and engage with customers in a courteous and respectful way, no matter what their life stories, I feel safe and welcome. To the Metro bus drivers, thank you for doing your best to get us where we need to go and for brightening your passengers' days with friendly greetings and helpful assistance, despite the challenging situations you face day in and day out.
Sheila Delaney Moroney, Minneapolis
We start our days right — with Sack
We love Steve Sack's cartoons ("Made some mad, made one cry," Readers Write, Dec. 31). In fact, the first thing we do when the paper arrives is to go to the editorial page to see his cartoon of the day, to start the day on the right foot, in the right frame of mind. He makes us laugh, he makes us think, he goes straight to the issue of the day, and his artistic skills are unparalleled compared with so many other cartoonists. We feel blessed that we live in a city where the newspaper doesn't kowtow to the opinion of close-minded readers and has the courage of publishing images and texts of opinions that might cause it to lose readership.
So we say to the Star Tribune "bravo" and to Steve Sack "bravo." Continue to tickle our funny bones; we need it to brighten our day when so much of the news is distressing. To those who object, we say get over it, there are plenty of outlets to satisfy your own opinions, in print or oral communication.
Yvonne Herzog-Weisberg, Minneapolis
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