O

ur summer was brutally shattered last week when two mass murders in El Paso and Dayton claimed 31 victims. These unspeakable tragedies seem to confirm an epidemic of violent murders preceded by manifestos posted online by young men. This type of tragedy has become an all-too-frequent reality of American society. 

Perhaps there are multiple reasons for why, and we’re all seeking understanding, but at its core, these incidents speak of the fragmentation and dysfunction of the family and of young men for whom traditional institutions have evaporated-without a sense of community, without a church, and without friends. 

Replacing those pillars with the toxicity of hate-filled violent messaging on the internet leads many down a dangerous and destructive path.

Frighteningly, American society is seeing an emotional and psychological breakdown more frequently than in other developed nations and boys and young men are feeling the brunt of it. 

These painful realities are yielding the worst in us—dehumanization, alternate-realities and hateful ideologies. I urge all my fellow-legislators and others to read the book “Boys Adrift,” by Leonard Sax for further insight into the problems affecting young men in our society. 

In other news, earlier this year, the non-partisan Legislative Auditor (OLA) detailed troubling fraud, waste and abuse in the state’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). 

In addition to that, the report described a “serious rift” in the Department of Human Services (DHS), which reached a breaking point when the three top officials at DHS all resigned in July.

The three officials were DHS Commissioner Tony Lourey who resigned on July 15 and Deputy Commissioners Chuck Johnson and Claire Wilson who had both resigned without explanation the week prior. 

More puzzling, the two deputy commissioners both rescinded their resignations and have since returned to the department once it became clear that Lourey would be leaving DHS.  

Health and human services (HHS) represents Minnesota’s largest agency at 30% of the state’s spending - nearly $17 billion over two years and Minnesotans deserve to know the nature of the internal conflicts within DHS and the underlying issues at DHS for which legislators have oversight.  To date, Minnesotans have received no clear explanation.

Shortly after news of escalating personnel issues came out, news broke that nearly $25 million in overpayments were made by DHS to two tribes for Medicaid services, Leech Lake and White Earth tribes.

Republicans have been sounding the alarm about a stream of waste, fraud and abuse incidents across DHS for years, but this is an agency that seems to have a blatant disregard for taxpayer dollars.  It’s simply not doing enough to stop activity that is costing taxpayers hundreds of millions each year.

To date, House Democrats have done little to address the problem. It’s time for House Democrats to stop ignoring the turmoil at DHS, hold hearings and get answers to the questions we all have about Minnesota’s largest state agency.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me concerning any state issue.  I can be reached at 651-296-2907 or via email at rep.linda.runbeck@house.mn. It’s an honor serving you and your family.

 

Rep. Linda Runbeck represents District 38A in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

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