by:  L.E. BASKOW, Tim Funk, who has dealt with disease, addiction and homelessness, now hopes to get back into the work force after completing Central City Concern’s Recuperation Care Program.

It's no secret that many people who live on the streets know that hospital emergency rooms are legally bound to respond to their medical complaints - to treat them, admit them into the hospital (if necessary) and devise discharge plans for them that take into account their basic needs of health and safety (The $471,000 man, March 28).

It's also common knowledge that some people take advantage of this wrinkle in the law. Social workers call them 'high utilizers,' and they are the bane of the emergency response system.

It's a given that where a sociological ill exists, a program will be devised to address it. And so it is with high utilizers. It turns out that a Portland-based program will provide housing for high utilizers for just $3,600 per client each month. It's called Central City Concern's Recuperation Care Program.

The article maintains that approximately 400 individuals are wandering Portland's streets, living from crisis to crisis, costing taxpayers more than anyone bothers to keep track of. That $3,600 certainly is less than the cost of a month in a hospital, which is way less appalling than the $471,000 in medical bills run up by Tim Funk between 2005 and 2007.

More to the point, who can say that diverting Funk to this program ultimately reduced the number of high utilizers? Are there now just 399 of them in Portland?

There is nothing wrong with trying to help people in need; the Recuperation Care Program should be funded for purely humanitarian reasons. Still, it is good to remember that demand for a social service always expands to just a bit more than any system can possibly provide.

Frank Driscoll

Southwest Portland

TriMet ridership's hardly impressive

It is interesting how Fred Hansen, TriMet's general manager, can put a positive spin on a troubling situation in 'TriMet stays innovative' (My View, April 1).

He states, 'Our bus ridership continues to grow - up nearly 4 percent in February compared to the same month in 2007, climbing to nearly 215,000 trips on an average weekday,' but what he failed to mention is that that is fewer trips than were taken in February 2004 and 2005.

Since 2004, annual bus ridership has declined by 1.7 million trips, or 2.7 percent.

What's more troubling is that total TriMet ridership, bus and rail, has only grown by 2.7 percent, less than 1 percent a year, over the same time period in spite of skyrocketing gas prices and a booming (until recently) economy.

Jim Howell

Northeast Portland

Energy, environment are defining issues

As we approach November, we are more likely to hear candidates call these elections 'the most important of our lifetime,' or some kind of variation.

But for the first time in a long time, that will be no exaggeration. This election will be the most important of this generation because we face key choices on energy and the environment that will define the future of our economy, culture and health.

For seven years, the Bush administration's misguided energy policies have produced record high oil and gasoline prices, delivered historic profits for the big oil companies, and kept us dependent on foreign sources of oil.

Most important, the administration's failure to lead has set us back in the effort to curtail the effects of global climate change.

This election could change that trend, but we must first demand that every candidate in this election take a stand on this issue and show the kind of leadership they bring to the table.

Candidates' positions on national fuel-efficiency standards, providing economic incentives for nonpolluting renewable energy sources, and cutting off subsidies to oil and coal should give us a sense of their vision for the future.

Alejandro Queral

Northeast Portland

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