Florida editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:
Miami Herald on the dangers of rising seas to Florida and Caribbean islands:
In South Florida, thanks to the foresight of local leaders, sea-level rise and climate change are being tackled regionally — Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties formed the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact a decade ago to share wisdom and best practices toward a common goal: Stop rising seas from invading and destroying our way of life.
But it seems that a major component is being overlooked. When we think regionally, we seldom think of the water-logged Caribbean islands just miles away from us, and that are the real front lines of this region’s climate-change manifestations.
Consider this: If the Bahamas, Jamaica, Aruba, the Virgin Islands are inundated by rising oceans, water heated by climate change, where will all those residents flee to seek shelter? South Florida, most likely.
Nov. 11 marks the launch of a smart major campaign by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, which has adopted the idea — with added urgency — of helping create a climate change survival blueprint for the Caribbean.
The effort is being led by Inga Rhonda King, president of the council who hails from the islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. ...
King says the Caribbean islands near Florida have yet to unite, organize and act as one in dealing with climate change. There is no pact in place for the string of islands, which rely heavily on tourism to survive.
“Either we sink together or build climate resilience. There is no other option,” King said. “The time to talk is over, the time to act is now.” She’s right.
King wants to ring the bell loudly with this campaign — and she has hard numbers to allude to the looming devastation. Last year, climate-related worldwide disasters caused $320 billion in damage, wiping out decades of development gains in some places. For the Caribbean, the island chains’ very existence is at stake.
Economically, it has long been a tourism magnet and source of revenue. ...
King told the Miami Herald Editorial Board that the Caribbean needs to catch up to neighbors like Florida — or else.
Even though King and the Caribbean nations have not asked, maybe South Florida can volunteer to help. The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact should consider inviting the Caribbean islands to join in the effort. After all, we all face being overwhelmed by the same Atlantic waters.
When that Compact was created, the first thing members did was work out a common set of numbers projecting how much sea-level rise to expect: 6 to 10 inches by 2030; up to 5 feet by 2100. They worked out a regional vulnerability assessment.
The Caribbean needs to create a similar action plan. For the islands of the region, the possibility of turning into the lost land of Atlantis is no myth.
Tampa Bay Times on state efforts to reduce wrong-way driving:
Three crashes caused by impaired drivers going the wrong way on Tampa Bay highways have added to the region’s grim toll from these senseless tragedies. While the Florida Department of Transportation is rightly ramping up efforts to reduce these collisions using technology to detect wrong-way drivers, the recent loss of life is a reminder of the perils of impaired driving in a region where the roadways are perpetually under construction and increasingly congested.
In the stretch of just two weeks this fall, a suspected drunk driver made a U-turn and drove the wrong way on the Howard Frankland bridge, dying when he crashed head-on into a van, critically injuring a St. Petersburg man. Days later, a similar collision on the bridge critically injured a woman. Then a suspected drunk driver going the wrong way on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway killed 68-year-old Bamnet Narongchai, a mechanic on his way home from a late shift.
Yet wrong-way driving — while it defies common sense — is actually quite common, a 2014 Tampa Bay Times analysis found. There were 70 incidents of drivers entering highways going the wrong way over the course of eight years in Tampa Bay, and nearly 700 wrong-way driving incidents on local roads in 2014, according to Florida Highway Patrol records. It’s a problem that deserves the state’s attention for changes to infrastructure that would help reduce the number of serious crashes due to wrong-way drivers.
The Department of Transportation first began to tackle the problem after a wrong-way driver killed himself and four University of South Florida fraternity members on Interstate 275 near campus in 2014, the first of six wrong-way collisions that year. After examining crash data, the department put up red flashing warning signs with radar detection at select ramps to deter wrong-way drivers. Once triggered, an alert is immediately sent to law enforcement officials, and a wrong-way driver alert is broadcast on the electronic message boards along the interstate, according to FDOT spokeswoman Kristen Carson. FDOT has also increased wrong-way signage, roadway reflectors and large painted pavement markings to help make direction of lanes and ramps even clearer. She said the data shows those measures may be working. Numbers dropped from 18 wrong-way driving crashes in the Tampa Bay area in 2016 to seven in 2017.
But the recent crashes on Howard Frankland bridge illuminate a different problem. Two wrong-way drivers recently made a U-turn in the middle of the bridge. That prompted FDOT to test new video analytics software with its cameras on the bridge to send alerts to the Traffic Management Center, dispatching troopers when there’s a wrong-way driver.
These are worthwhile changes that can make Tampa Bay highways safer. But law enforcement officials are quick to point out that wrong-way driving is not an engineering issue. It’s a drunk driving issue. In all but one of Tampa Bay’s deadly wrong-way crashes in the last few years, the driver going the wrong way was impaired. With the availability of ride-sharing services and taxis, there’s never an excuse for driving drunk — and texting while driving is just as dangerous. Only responsible driving will fix this problem. Meanwhile, FDOT’s efforts are a step in the right direction to minimizing the damage wrong-way drivers cause.
The Florida Times-Union on mental illness awareness:
The Epilepsy Foundation of Florida is trying to combat the lack of knowledge about epilepsy in order to raise awareness, support funding and help those with the disease.
Epilepsy Florida CEO Karen Basha Agozi recently visited the Times-Union Editorial Board to point out this stark reality: while a great deal of work has been done toward treating illnesses like Alzheimer’s and mental illness, epilepsy has too often escaped our focus.
In contrast to Alzheimer’s, brain surgery sometimes can successfully treat epilepsy.
WORLD MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS
A recently released report by a commission of mental health researchers — put together by the Lancet medical journal — declared mental illness to be a “global health crisis.”
According to the report, too many people around the world do not seek treatment or receive poor care for mental illness; in numerous countries, people with mental illnesses are abused, imprisoned or living on the streets.
In all, according to the report, an estimated 13.5 million people worldwide die needlessly from mental illness each year.
While we in the United States consider our nation to be an empathetic one, the uncomfortable fact is treatment for mental illness has been historically underfunded in our country.
Just look at Florida, which traditionally ranks among the worst states in per capita funding for mental health care. And the situation is only being exacerbated by Florida’s refusal to accept billions in federal dollars for Medicaid expansion.
DEMENTIA AND GUNS
When should doctors raise the issue of guns with those who may be confronting dementia?
Since 2012 about 100 Americans with dementia have killed themselves or others with guns, according to an investigation by Kaiser Health News and PBS Newshour.
The shooters were afflicted by paranoia, delusion, confusion or aggression — and they often shot spouses, children or caregivers.
In Florida, it was once unlawful for physicians to ask about guns; thankfully, several court decisions have led to the elimination of such gag orders.
Unfortunately, the investigation revealed that many physicians still don’t ask dementia patients about their potential access to firearms.
There are now tools that physicians can use to guide those conversations: a toolkit titled “What You Can Do” was developed by the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California-Davis.
Meanwhile, both the Veterans Administration and the Alzheimer’s Association recommend asking about firearms as part of a safety screening for patients who may be suffering from dementia.
The National Rifle Association offers tips on how to store guns safely by using trigger locks and gun safes. But this may not be enough for some patients — dementia often involves a decline in judgment as well as memory.