New Hampshire Challenge Exclusive Interview with Governor John Lynch
By: John Krumm, The New Hampshire Challenge
The New Hampshire Challenge had the opportunity to interview Governor John Lynch in his capitol office on the 5th of September (picture to the right is courtesy of The Seacoast Press). The Governor and his press secretary Colin T. Manning warmly received me, and had warm remarks for the value of The Challenge and the service it provides to families who have members with disabilities. Governor Lynch had particularly warm remarks about the work of the founder of The Challenge, Janet Krumm and after offering his personal condolences, was very encouraged and happy to know Janet’s work would go on.
Stating that former Governor Craig Benson and his Health and Human Services Commissioner John Stephen’s “vision” of disability services could be best grasped by looking at what is happening in the North Country today, in the aftermath of the forced mergers, I asked Governor Lynch what his vision of disability issues would be in the next three years.
Governor Lynch lost no time in stating that what we need to do is to speak directly to the people involved and thus determine what they need. Nothing the Governor observed, can replace the direct person to person contact. Only direct meeting and conversation assures how to best spend state resources for the people they are intended for. As a state, the Governor observed, appropriations are provided to many people for many needs, in this case, the disability community.
The attitude that the people served are ‘lesser’ than the people serving them runs counter to Governor Lynch’s attitude. The Governor outlined that he has stressed to all his commissioners, that they serve the people… the people are the boss. Governor Lynch believes this mind set is now taking hold, throughout all the state agencies and now real progress can be made.
The Governor stated that he thought the forced consolidation in the North was too abrupt, “it should only have been done after much more study”. Governor Lynch observed that many good people are now caught in an ugly situation, a situation not of their own making because of the haste it was carried out with.
The Governor continued to outline his vision by stating he is committed to eliminate the DD Wait List. When he took over, the wait list was near 160 days waiting, and now it has been driven down to 120 days. Governor Lynch stated that even in a hard economic time, he still found an additional fifteen million ($15M) to add to the Waiting List, in a budget with a shortfall. “We will eliminate it” the Governor stated, in his next term. “I want no one waiting more than 90 days” for services.
“We need to focus on the needs of the DD community in a comprehensive way, wheelchair vans, access to public events; we need to look at parking, accessibility and employment.” The Governor stated his close consultation with Granite State Independent Living as testament to his commitment to consult directly with the people needing services. “I have emphasized to Commissioner Nick Toumpas our need to get out and talk directly with the people that matter. Too often we look at the budget as numbers only, we need to realize that people’s lives are directly affected by the decisions we make.”
Going back to the situation in the North Country, the Governor observed “it is wrong to think of one North Country, it is diverse. The situation in Conway is not the situation on the other side of the mountains. We must think of this diversity, and the distances we are asking people to travel for services.”
When asked if he would consider taking action in the North Country, and implementing a “Get Well Plan”, the Governor quickly stated “I am waiting for the results of the audit. We need to see what happened, when we know what the audit reveals then we may take action. I will be in the North Country in a few weeks, and intend to meet with the Area Agency and the Family Support Councils and get recommendations from them.” Governor Lynch again stated that this is not a situation of good and bad people, but “good people who have given their lives to service people with disabilities, caught in a bad situation not of their own making.”
The Challenge asked the Governor about the recent conversion of both sides of the aisles in the state legislature, and both parties being willing to provide resources to the disability budget would continue?
The Governor answered “I do think it will continue. We are starting to realize the mindset that we serve the people; the people do not serve us. I emphasize to all in my administration that they report to the people, the people do not report to us. When we make decisions, we need to make them with the people in mind.”
As the interview closed, Governor Lynch stated his tremendous respect for families in New Hampshire who have members with disabilities. Lynch observed that they go the extra mile for their family members, and sometimes that makes all the difference. He ended by stating his commitment to help: “I am committed to do all I can to assure full and complete lives are possible for New Hampshire citizens with disabilities.”