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N.H. Senate Race Sees Clash of Policy Proposals

  • Martha Hennessey

  • Marie Lozito

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/21/2016 12:19:28 AM
Modified: 10/21/2016 12:19:39 AM

West Lebanon — Voters in New Hampshire’s Senate District 5 will be sending a longtime health-care professional in her 60s to Concord, regardless of who they elect.

And that’s pretty much where the resemblance ends between state Rep. Martha Hennessey, the Democrat, and Republican Marie Lozito, the Repulican, in the race to fill the seat that Lebanon Democrat David Pierce vacated after moving out of the district.

Take New Hampshire’s rising tide of overdoses from opioid painkillers, legal and otherwise, including the third-highest per capita death rate among the United States. While Hennessey, a 62-year-old psychologist from Hanover, and the 66-year-old Lozito, a registered nurse from Claremont, agree on the need for state government to further address the epidemic, they differ on how much money and effort to commit to which aspects of the problem.

“What we really, really need to go for is education and prevention,” said Lozito, who works at Mount Ascutney Hospital and maintains a practice in massage therapy. “Once you have the addiction, this is going to be a lifelong problem. It’s way better if we can get these people before they get addicted.”

As for addicts themselves, Lozito added that “they all need help with the counseling and support. It’s a really difficult situation” around which state government must nevertheless tread carefully.

“We have to stay within our financial availability,” Lozito concluded. “I don’t want to see our taxes increased. … Concord needs to be wise and careful.”

Hennessey, meanwhile, sees helping addicts as a long-term investment.

“The major focus needs to be on the mental-health aspect of it,” Hennessey said. “We need funding for treatment and education. … We don’t have enough beds. We don’t have enough treatment centers to meet this growing crisis. People are waiting in emergency rooms. It’s pretty horrendous. So many hospitals are having financial problems as it is, and the crisis is adding to them.”

As for paying for everyday health care, Lozito said that while she supports the existing expansion of Medicaid coverage to low-income residents of the state, “I think it has gone far enough. Should it be renewed (in 2018)? Let’s see how the agencies that are fronting the money feel when the time comes.”

For her part, Hennessey said that she hopes to see Medicaid expansion, which the Legislature and the governor approved for two years last spring, “become permanent. More than 50,000 people now have health care, greatly reducing the costs of uncompensated care in the state.

“We have a terrible shortage of hospital beds for those requiring mental-health services, including treatment for substance abuse,” Hennessey added. “People are waiting too long to find the support they need and insurance companies have routinely ignored the importance of covering mental health expenses.”

The health-care issue on which the candidates diverge most widely is on state funding of Planned Parenthood of New England. The New Hampshire Executive Council voted to restore a $549,000 contract last summer, after a year of controversy over the panel’s cutting the support over the agency’s offering of abortion services, even though the state money didn’t go toward the procedure.

“They provide health care coverage to thousands of women throughout New Hampshire,” Hennessey said of Planned Parenthood. “I continue to support a woman’s choice to make her own reproductive and health care decisions.”

Aside from her opposition to all forms of abortion, Lozito, who moved to New Hampshire from Long Island in 2008, contended that “Planned Parenthood does not provide care for anythng more than the gynecological problems and needs and does not provide even all of them. Patients would be much better off going to a practitioner that would care for the entire person instead of a fragment. The money that goes to Planned Parenthood would be better used to sponsor local clinics where patients can be cared for.”

Hennessey, a graduate of Dartmouth College who raised three children in Hanover while maintaining her psychology practice, recently completed a two-year term representing Hanover and Lyme in the New Hampshire House, where she served on the Children and Family Law Committee. She recalled that her first vote in the House in January 2015 was against a proposal by the new Republican majority to allow members to carry concealed weapons.

“It was a very strange feeling,” recalled Hennessey, who added that she remains committed to efforts “to eliminate automatic and assault weapons, close the gun-show loopholes and strengthen background checks for purchasing guns.”

Lozito, meanwhile, continues to stand by the Second Amendment right to bear arms. In announcing her candidacy in June, she said that if someone handy with weapons had been carrying the night earlier this year that a man killed 50 patrons of a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., “there would have been a lot of people who didn’t die.

“When you have a bad person with a gun, what you need is a good person with a gun to stop them,” she said.

On the state’s obligations to help school districts pay for what is deemed an “adequate” education, Lozito said that “I would like to see that money, whatever amount is set at, follow the child to whatever school the child attends. Homeschooling costs, too, and should be included in the options.”

Hennessey, in contrast, lamented that poorer school districts continue to lag behind those that can afford to spend more than twice as much per pupil. She opposes voucher programs, which she said “cost taxpayers more, reduce funds available to public school students, all without providing any documented improvement in student achievement.”

The district is comprised of the Upper Valley towns of Lyme, Hanover, Lebanon, Enfield, Canaan, Plainfield, Cornish, Claremont and Charlestown.

To learn more about Democratic candidate Martha Hennessey, visit uppervalleydemocrats.com/martha-hennessey. For more information about Republican candidate Marie Lozito, visit facebook.com/Lozito4Senate/.David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.


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