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Lynch Speaks About Mental Health at Dartmouth Lecture

  • Former New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch spoke at Dartmouth College yesterday about the state of state government.(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Former New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch spoke at Dartmouth College yesterday about the state of state government.(Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Former New Hampshire congressman Charlie Bass introduces former New Hamsphire Gov. John Lynch to an audience at Dartmouth College yesterday. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Former New Hampshire congressman Charlie Bass introduces former New Hamsphire Gov. John Lynch to an audience at Dartmouth College yesterday. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Former New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch spoke at Dartmouth College yesterday about the state of state government.(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Former New Hampshire congressman Charlie Bass introduces former New Hamsphire Gov. John Lynch to an audience at Dartmouth College yesterday. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Hanover — Speaking at Dartmouth College yesterday, former New Hampshire Democratic Governor John Lynch heaped praise on the Granite State’s economic model of lower taxes and scaled-back spending in a lecture that focused largely on how his business experience had influenced his eight years in the corner office.

Lynch highlighted the state’s unemployment rate — 5.7 percent in December when he left office — and touted New Hampshire as the most business-friendly, safest and most “livable” state in the union.

“And we do it all without a sales tax or an income tax, a capital gains tax or an estate tax,” Lynch said. “Those of you who are living in Vermont, take notice.”

The coupling of low taxes and spending, along with prioritizing education and engaging with the business community, could be applied to other state governments throughout the nation, he said.

Before taking office, Lynch was the president and CEO of national furniture manufacturer Knoll, Inc., where he was credited with turning the company around when it was hemorrhaging $50 million a year.

Though Lynch no longer holds public office, he still faced some tough questions from the audience — a mix of Dartmouth students and Upper Valley residents. One audience member asked Lynch to explain how New Hampshire’s mental health system had “deteriorated” from being “the best in the country.”

Lynch responded that “our approach to mental health and mental illness is actually better today than it was 20 years ago, we’re much better at treating people holistically.”

He mentioned a shift from institution-based care to home-care and an increase of ideas exchanged between different medical disciplines as examples of that “holistic” approach.

“We can get back to where we’re really high-quality in terms of treating people with mental illness,” Lynch said. “I think there’s enough money there, it’s just not being spent the right way.”

But Lynch also mentioned the need for more competition between medical practices as a way to lower health care costs. Karen Schoenherr — a health care policy fellow at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice — said after Lynch's speech that she “took somewhat of an issue with that.”

“I understand the need for competition to be passed down, but I also think that the biggest issue in our system is that doctors don’t talk to each other and don’t work together,” she said. “So, in that sense, competition is not always the right thing.”

Sarah Kler, also a health care policy fellow at the institute, added that the notion of competition between practices didn’t jive with Lynch’s advocacy for a more holistic approach to bridge the divides between different medical disciplines.

“It’s actually harder to do that kind of holistic, collaborative work if there’s less emphasis on relationship-building between providers,” she said.

Both Kler and Schoenherr study accountable care organizations at the medical institute, a model that up-ends the traditional fee-for-service basis by tying provider payments to the quality of care and patient health.

And while Lynch expressed a desire in his lecture to “get away from fee-for-service,” Schoenherr said revenue, and in turn, taxes, are needed to fund health care reform. Kler pointed to OneCare Vermont, a statewide accountable care organization that works with Medicare enrollees.

Schoenherr, a Massachusetts native, went as far as to say, “I love taxes.”

“I think they’re great,” she said. “I think you need them to fund things. I’m a big fan of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, and I think taxes are the best way to do that.”

When Lynch was asked whether business experience should be a prerequisite for holding federal office, he responded with a not-so-subtle dig at former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

“There are business people who run for office — his name will not be mentioned — who don’t run things, they basically invest in things,” Lynch said. “They leverage companies up, they pull money out. Sometimes the companies make it, sometimes they don’t. That’s a very different business experience than what I had.

“What I had to do was a lot of what I did as governor. You’ve got to bring people together, you’ve got to work as a team. You’ve got to get them all motivated in the same direction, all working toward a common goal,” he added.

Lynch was also pinged by an audience member to explain the “extraordinary turnover” in the 2012 election, which saw the ousting of more than 115 Republican lawmakers in the New Hampshire House. The message from the people, he responded, was to govern from the center.

“It was clear in the House that the pendulum had veered way to the right, and that’s not what New Hampshire wants, they want us to be in the middle,” he said.

The lecture from Lynch was the first of a new series of lectures at the college’s Rockefeller Center for Public Policy named after Perkins Bass — a member of the class of 1934 and father of former Republican U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass. Bass is also a Dartmouth alumnus and introduced Lynch at the lecture as a “good friend.”

Bass, who described himself during the introduction of Lynch as “battle weary” and “exhausted” after his last term in Congress, said following the lecture that he had “no plans at this point” to run for office again.

“I ran for Congress in 2010 because I wanted to make big changes down there, and obviously that didn’t happen,” he said. “But I also said that if the people of the 2nd District decided that they wanted somebody else for any reason, I’d die a happy man, and that’s where I am today.”

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

CORRECTION

This article has been amended to correct an earlier error. The following correction appeared in the Thursday, Jan. 31 edition of the Valley News:

The late Perkins Bass, the father of former U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass, R-N.H., and himself a former congressman, graduated from Dartmouth College in 1934. An article in yesterday's Valley News inaccurately reported the graduation year.