LETTER: Showing up

Bess Bonewits

To the editor:

The first time I ever met Jeff Pittman was when he knocked on my door. He was campaigning for his first term as state representative. We’d lived there for more than 10 years and no one had ever knocked on my door to discuss their campaign. We talked about his platform but he listened too. I was immediately impressed.

After he was elected, I showed him around our small clinic that provides primary care to low-income, uninsured adults in Leavenworth County. He listened intently and asked questions. I felt he really heard and understood the plight of many individuals who had to make tough choices between keeping food on their table or maintaining their health or between paying for health insurance or putting gas in their car to get to work.

Then I ran into him again as he served our breakfast at the annual Leavenworth County Child Abuse Prevention breakfast. I watched him work hard and hustle to make sure people had drinks and clean tables.

He always makes time to support the local nonprofits in our area. He makes donations, writes checks and listens at the events. He actually shows up. And when the cameras stop rolling, he sticks around. He helps where he can, even with his busy schedule.

I’m so grateful to have someone who not only represents me but our entire community. And let’s face it. We need someone like him who really advocates for those who need it most. Here in Leavenworth County, the disparity between incomes is significant. If you don’t believe me, drive anywhere from the northeast side of the city of Leavenworth through the rest of the county. We have some serious issues that need to be addressed.

And while we’re at it, let’s start with health. The health inequity in our community is startling. The number of uninsured adults was starting to decline until the pandemic. The Urban Institute estimates that population will increase by 10% (or 2.9 million people) by the end of this year. These are nationwide numbers, but you don’t have to be a genius to understand that our community will feel this even more acutely.

Saint Luke’s Cushing Hospital closing leaves our community with a hole to fill. Medicaid expansion would greatly benefit our community through economic growth, protect access to medical facilities and provide insurance to adults who live in the gap (those who make too little to qualify for tax credits but too much to qualify for Medicaid coverage). These are the people who come to our clinic with nowhere else to turn. These patients have shared with me their harrowing stories of impossible choices when it came to their health.

Jeff Pittman represents the best of us. I’m proud to support him for his run as state senator. A vote for Jeff is a vote for us – our friends, our neighbors. Let’s vote Jeff in so he can continue what he’s started in the House.