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Health care plays role in Senate race
Voting is Tuesday
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Candidates for State Senate District 1, Buddy Carter and Dr. Billy Hair, face off in a special election Tuesday.
They laid out their stances on taxes, the economy and education in recent issues of the Coastal Courier. Recently, the candidates followed up with their views on health care.
Carter resigned his seat as a state representative for District 159 to run
for the Georgia Senate. He served as the mayor of Pooler for five terms and was chairman of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Planning Commission and the Coastal Georgia Regional Development Center. He owns several pharmacies across metro Savannah.
Hair is a former Chatham County Commission Chairman and formerly served as president for Savannah Technical College. He is a Vietnam War veteran. Hair also owns three businesses in South Georgia including Productivity Air.

Buddy Carter
Q. Discuss funding a statewide trauma network. Where would trauma centers be located in the state?
A. Please, please see my Web site about trauma (one of the five T’s in my platform) at Currently we have four Level 1 trauma centers and 14 total trauma centers.
I have co-sponsored legislation that would add a $10 fee to car tags that would be dedicated to trauma funding. We need more trauma centers everywhere in the state, especially in Southwest Georgia.

Q. Should the state fund mental health services?
A. Absolutely. For the past three years I have served on the Appropriations Committee and was secretary of the Human Resources Subcommittee that dealt with mental health services. I have fought to maintain and increase funding for mental health services and will continue to do so. I also fought along with other local legislators in the successful effort to keep Georgia Regional Hospital open in Savannah.

Dr. Billy Hair

Q. Discuss funding a statewide trauma network. Where would trauma centers be located?
A. We need to fund the existing trauma centers fully and establish new centers in Southwest Georgia and North Georgia. The funding stream should be consistent and permanent. We need to fund these centers with a funding stream as close to possible to the people who cause the need for the care the most.
The super speeder fine is a start since a larger percentage of the need comes from automobile accidents. But we need to look at other sources of funding that are directly related to the need for these services and not fund this service from income taxes or general revenue.

Q. Should the state fund mental health services?
A. Mental health is a critical and often ignored part of our health care system in Georgia. We are currently serving a huge number of patients through our jail and corrections system. We also need to look at establishing a more efficient system of serving these patients with normal medical needs. We have a triage system that separates a patient’s needs with the type of care given. We don’t treat heart patients the same as we do broken arms.
However in the mental health area we have basically a one-size-fits-all system. We send depressed patients to the same hospital as we do with those who have much more serious mental problems. The milder cases that only need medication are quickly released, wind up on the streets, commit minor offenses and are put in jail and the cycle starts all over again.
We need to establish separate mental health clinics to dispense medications for mild cases and use the much more costly mental hospital system for the severest cases. If the state does not pick up the cost of these facilities then it becomes another unfunded mandate from the state.

Q. Is water an issue? If so, what will you do to protect this resource?
A. One of the reasons that the water issue has become critical is that the state ignored it for many years and failed to address the issue. Second, the state has in recent years taken a very adversarial position with the federal government and our neighboring states of Alabama and Florida. That is not the way to solve this problem.
We need to objectively determine our water needs and the issues associated with providing those needs. Then we need to calmly and professionally sit down with our counterparts to address these needs and issues. I believe if we take this proactive stance we can solve this issue without costly and unnecessary litigation.
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