Citing cancer experience, Ron Rivera advocates for Affordable Care Act

“We need to have the Affordable Care Act, whether in its current structure or it’s been changed or corrected or fixed or being added onto,” Rivera said. “We need to have something for the folks of the United States of America. For us not to have affordable, quality healthcare, and be the richest nation in the world, that’s kind of disappointing.”

On Monday, Rivera spoke at length about the importance of voting in Tuesday’s election, as well as democracy writ large. He said it’s been “really cool” to hear players discuss current affairs, and he noted that the spectrum of political ideologies in the locker room was “huge.” The enthusiasm for engagement was echoed in a Monday blog post by team president Jason Wright, who wrote the team believed in “big, meaningful and comprehensive community activities versus a collection of small one-off ventures.”

“For example, we will continue to have a robust set of activities around social justice because the players on our team and our employees care about those issues,” he added. “Voting is one component, but there is much more we can and will do.”

Rivera reiterated Monday the importance of participation in democracy, saying that the thing that bothers him most is when people don’t vote. In past years, Rivera has gotten up early to be one of the first people at the polls. He loves the “I voted” stickers. This year, he and his wife Stephanie and daughter Courtney filled out their ballots and put them in the mailbox. On Tuesday, he said he plans to turn the television on around 5 p.m. and click between local and national stations to monitor elections.

“People always ask me: ‘Who did you vote for?’” the coach said. “I always tell them, ‘I voted American.’ I believe I voted for who I believe is going to be the best person for us.”

After his cancer diagnosis in July, Rivera has become an advocate for improved healthcare. The coach has grown more outspoken over the last three months, and he’s sometimes gone as far to call for “universal” healthcare. The message on Monday was more tempered, framed around the ACA, but the root of his activism remains personal. Rivera, 58, is now one year older than his brother Mickey was when he died of pancreatic cancer in 2015.

This season, the coach has been limited at times by chemotherapy and other treatments. He’s thought about others in the same fight during his time in the hospital, those who might not have a five-year contract worth millions.

“After seeing what I went through, and knowing what the cost has to be, you worry about the folks that can’t afford what I had,” he said. “I almost don’t want to say it’s unfair, but it is. These folks deserve every opportunity [to receive quality healthcare]. It just kind of struck a chord with me.”

On Monday, the coach mentioned an upcoming fundraiser for Inova Health System, the Northern Virginia hospital company where

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Mental Health Advocates Say These Things Need To Change No Matter Who Wins The Election

Looking beyond Tuesday’s elections, mental health advocates are gearing up to become a more potent political lobby, as the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a surge in people seeking services and flooded an already understaffed system. They are urging political leaders to increase funding and extend protections for mental healthcare regardless of who wins the presidency and the down-ballot races that will decide the makeup of Congress and statehouses around the country.

“We’re going to be seeing a tidal wave of people seeking out mental health support,” said Matthew Shapiro, associate director for public affairs at the National Alliance on Mental Illness in New York State, at a virtual policy panel in October. Many of the callers to a state-run support line during the pandemic have been “seeking out mental health services for the first time in their lives,” he said.

“That’s a very encouraging thing to hear the people are seeking help,” Shapiro said, adding that it’s “scary and really concerning” that there might not be enough help to go around.

Shapiro and other advocates are becoming more vocal about funding for mental health and issues that affect it, reflecting a desire to follow the example of activists who fought taboos against HIV and other conditions to win support in the halls of power.

The movement has a long way to go. Mental health and substance use have been virtually absent from the presidential debates. That lack of attention reflects mental health advocates’ lack of power, said Bill Smith, who this year founded Inseparable Action, a political group advocating for greater access to mental healthcare. “There are a lot of really, really smart people who know what we need to do and understand the policy solutions. They just don’t have the power to get it done,” said Smith, the former political director for a marriage equality group.

Inseparable Action aims to help build that political power. It helped pass California’s new law making it harder for insurers to deny mental healthcare and is at work on an agenda of reforms Congress can pass and ones the president can make without its approval. Those include more strongly enforcing the equality of mental and medical benefits and rolling out the new 9-8-8 emergency number for mental health crises. While Smith personally supports Joe Biden’s campaign and has raised money for it, a second Trump administration could also act on any of those proposals. “There are things that need to happen no matter who the president is,” Smith said.

Groups that support people with mental illness are raising their voices as well. Fountain House, a community center in New York for people with serious mental illness, helps its members build social, vocational, and educational skills by teaching them to run the center itself. It can also help members advocate for their political

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Advocates, restaurants call for extension of meals program

BERLIN, Vt. (AP) — Advocates for a program that uses federal coronavirus relief money to distribute free restaurant-made meals intended for people in need during the pandemic and to help those eateries stay afloat are calling for the program to be funded past mid-December.

The statewide Everyone Eats program offers restaurants financial support to cook healthy meals for the community, said Sue Minter, executive director of Capstone Community Action on Thursday.

In three months, $1.5 million has been allocated to the industry, allowing over 100 restaurants to prepare 150,000 meals distributed around the state — but the funding ends in December, she said at a press event at Central Vermont Medical Center, where 200 meals are given out weekly.


“Seven months into the pandemic hunger in Vermont is increasing,” Minter said. “And the impact of unemployment and the unfolding economic disruption is intensifying. And Vermonters are rising to the challenge together.”

One in four Vermonters now face food insecurity, compared to one in 10 before March, she said.

The pandemic has also had a dramatic impact on the state’s hospitality industry, particularly restaurants, which are now “on life support,” she said.

Cornerstone Pub & Kitchen, in Barre, provides 200 free meals each Thursday through the program, said owner Rich McSheffrey.

“I can’t stress enough the significance of it, I can’t stress enough the impact of it, and I definitely will say that if this program has any possibility of extending then it’s definitely in the best interest,” he said.

He believes ending the program in the winter is senseless, he said.

“It seems very stressful to me to think that so many people with food insecurities and so many people that are hungry are going to have a program stopped in Vermont in the winter,” he said.

In other developments related to the coronavirus on Thursday:

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UTILITY BILLS

Less than half of an $8 million COVID-19 pandemic relief program for people and small businesses behind on their utility bills has been used, and the state is encouraging those eligible to apply.

The Vermont COVID-19 Arrearage Assistance Program can help with past-due bills to keep the lights on, water flowing, and heat running as winter approaches.

“We only have six weeks left to essentially spend the full $8 million,” Riley Allen, deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service told MyChamplainValley.com on Wednesday.

Allen estimates that the total amount of unpaid bills in the state is much larger than what’s been awarded so far, the station reported.

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COLLEGE CASES

St. Michael’s College in Colchester is going to all remote classes after six positive cases of the coronavirus were detected in the latest round of surveillance testing. All the cases were asymptomatic.

In a message posted Thursday on the college’s website, college President Lorraine Sterritt said that, out of an abundance of caution, the school would move to all-remote classes and all in-person activities are suspended through the weekend. Dining will be takeout-only.

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THE NUMBERS

Vermont reported 15

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