Valley News Forum for June 5, 2023: Hotline story arrives too late, too early

Published: 06-05-2023 6:05 AM

Hotline story runs too late, too early

Running the recent article on adding the Eating Disorders Hotline to New Hampshire school ID cards (“Student takes interest in eating disorder aid,” by New Hampshire Bulletin, May 27) was tardy and premature at the same time.

It was tardy in that the real news — that a young student had initiated the idea and that the bill had been renamed the “Matthew Brown Act” in his honor — happened way back in February. It was premature in that the National Eating Disorders Hotline shut down as of June 1.

Those of us on the New Hampshire House Education Committee who didn’t support the bill did so for two main reasons. First, because the trend in hotlines has been to go to easier-to-remember three-digit numbers instead of 10-digit ones. For example, 988 was rolled out in 2020 as a suicide prevention hotline and in 2022 added mental health and substance use crisis service to its resources. Second, a cursory look at the eating disorders hotline showed that it had limited daytime-only hours and no weekend hours, while 988 is available 24/7.

This past week, the entire staff of the eating disorders hotline was fired and replaced by a chatbot, which is not a crisis bot, but is described as a totally different service. The website advises those in crisis to call 988, which, fortunately, is already printed on New Hampshire student IDs. In an ironic twist, the chatbot was shut down after it provided harmful advice to people seeking help.

This letter isn’t written to disparage the well-spoken young man who testified in front of our committee or anyone who voted in good faith for a bill to help those in need. It is meant to recognize that it is important to appraise carefully what information we promote as a state and, more importantly, to let people know of the change in the hotline.

N.H. Rep. Margaret Drye

Sullivan District 7:
Plainfield, Cornish, Newport, Unity and Charlestown

The wrong kind of magnet

Recent legislation passed in Vermont with Gov. Phil Scott’s support (S.37 and H.89) would make Vermont a “magnet state” for out-of-staters seeking certain types of what’s loosely classified as “health care” — “medical tourism” that could eventually give the Green Mountain State an unenviable reputation as a place to get an abortion, to get “gender-affirming” care (aka sex-alteration procedures), or to die.

In the wake of the SCOTUS Dobbs decision almost exactly one year ago, there were concerted efforts by many states, especially Vermont, to reconstitute and perpetuate Roe v. Wade. Not only was a state constitutional amendment rushed to voters and overwhelmingly passed, but the Democratic supermajority rammed through several pro-abortion bills, content for which was spoonfed by Planned Parenthood. Perhaps the most egregious was subjecting “crisis pregnancy centers” to unprecedented scrutiny under a spurious assertion that they engaged in “fraudulent activities” by offering pregnant women alternatives to abortion. That simply couldn’t be allowed in a state with perhaps the most liberal abortion laws in America.

“Shield laws” have been passed during the just-ended legislative session to protect professionals, not all of whom are physicians, from any consequences of offering abortions, “gender-affirming” care, and assisted suicide to out-of-state residents from New England and beyond. One aspect of the legislation would prohibit malpractice insurers from raising rates for practitioners engaging in one of those types of medical tourism. Insurers may just decide to red-line the state and no longer offer malpractice insurance. Would the state then take that over?

Obviously the possibility of someone visiting Vermont for life-ending drugs and being found dead in a hotel room wasn’t well-thought-out, putting a new twist on the slogan for the Roach Motel: “They check in, then they really check out.” A practitioner in Middlebury eagerly looked forward to offering assisted suicide to residents of nearby New York. A woman interviewed in an article that ran in this newspaper lauded the availability of assisted suicide to nonresidents as “life-changing.” But is this the kind of “change” Vermont wants to be known for? Soliciting these types of “medical tourism” doesn’t lend Vermont a flattering image.

William A. Wittik


A great summer show — why not winter too?

“Fluids” was phenomenal and ephemeral. On June 1 in 90-degree weather, Dartmouth senior art history students created a beautiful, smooth, ice-cold four-walled 2.5m x 9m x 3m sculpture or happening on the Green. The ice was clear and the sky was blue. The teams of smiling young students and older pros with electric chain saws muscled the heavy ice higher and higher. A crowd gathered to watch the performance. Art Professor Katie Hornstein challenged her class to reinvent the immersive work of Alan Kaprow (1927-2006) a conceptional artist. They succeeded.

The college and community came together for this ephemeral ice creation. We watched it grow and then go. Due to the hot sun in the south, it did not “fluid” away but tumbled and then melted like the homecoming fires fall and burn. Thank you to the art students, Professor Hornstein and the Wicked Good Ice pros.

Why not do it again in the cold? Both Hanover’s and Dartmouth’s spirits and economies would benefit from a winter boost. Ottawa and Quebec City proudly draw big crowds for their carnivals. A “Winter Green” in Hanover would do the same. I am encouraging planners to work together on activities to benefit students, townies, visitors and businesses. The south end of the green is a perfect location. An ice castle-like “happening” similar to “Fluids” but lasting a month is very doable. A sizable winter carnival-style snow sculpture similar to those at professional competitions is very doable. What else: sugar-on-snow, ice carving, snow snakes, marshmallows, curling, sleigh rides? We can build on the decades of Dartmouth Winter Carnivals, 25 Occom Pond Parties, the artistic expertise of Professor Hornstein plus the winter building skills of Thayer School and Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory. Now, with the temperature 90 degrees, is a great time for Dartmouth and Hanover to be planning for cool winter fun.

William Young