Rep. Katherine Cassidy (D-Lubec) on LD 1487: Washington County all about community, helping during tragedies
Video and prepared remarks from 3/18/14. Rep. Cassidy expanded upon her statement to reflect that Mrs. Salleroli would be finding out Wednesday the results of biopsies and testing done upon a newly discovered tumor on her liver.
Mr. Speaker, women and men of the House,
I want to tell you about Washington County, where I live, and specifically about two of the hardest working people I know in Washington County.
There’s a place in Eastport, a very funky café and bar called the Rose Garden.
During the summer and fall in 2012, and also in 2010 and 2008, during the campaign season, I would end up at the Rose Garden in late afternoon, after I finished knocking on doors in Eastport. I would ask for a root beer float, and relax a bit before heading home. That’s how I got to know Alan and Linda Salleroli, who own the Rose Garden. One or the other of them would fix my root beer float and ask about the work I wanted to do in Augusta, the issues that I cared most about. Just on Sunday, both Al and Linda worked the bar, and served up a proper St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
You always find them together these days, never apart.
That’s what spouses do, when one of them is diagnosed with cancer.
They go forward together, trying to appear as if everything is business as usual. Al and Linda put on a good game face – still always cheerful and mindful of their patrons and their community.
But things are different now at the Rose Garden. There’s still live music on weekends, and chili or rib cook-offs Sunday afternoons in winter, and open mic and poetry gatherings at other times. And the Rose Garden is still a place where everybody knows your name. And everybody also knows how Linda got cancer two years ago, and had one eye removed, and then things were good again because we all thought that Linda had beaten cancer.
The Sallerolis have owned the Rose Garden for 10 years, and Al Salleroli even took a turn as president of the Eastport Chamber of Commerce. But although they both still work seven days a week, they can’t afford health insurance.
As a cancer survivor, Linda continued to get check-ups, but after January 1, in order to receive charity care at the Lafayette Family CancerCare facility in Brewer, she first had to show that she had been denied MaineCare. And there is up to a 45-day wait to get a MaineCare eligibility determination. So while she was waiting 45 days to be told by the state of Maine that he did not qualify for MaineCare, just in order to be eligible for charity care, she missed an appointment with a cancer specialist, because she couldn’t afford it.
Three weeks ago, Linda learned the cancer has returned, and has spread. She is angry, and Alan is especially angry. Any one of us would be angry, too, if we got cancer, and if we didn’t have the health insurance that we get in our roles as state legislators.
I know how Alan and Linda feel. Just three years ago, my husband and I were living without health insurance, because we also were self-employed and we couldn’t afford it. Frank got cancer, and he died.
We were lucky, though, because Frank was a veteran, and he could turn to the VA, and Togus, for cancer treatment, and then hospice care.
But the Sallerolis don’t have any such option to turn to, except for the Maine Legislature, to ask for help with Linda’s cancer. So here I am, this morning, asking you, my legislative colleagues, on behalf of Alan and Linda Salleroli, to cast your vote to expand health care for Mainers such as Linda. Just like you, she’s a hard worker, and she’s a taxpayer and, like some of you, a small business owner and a community leader. And she deserves better.
Mr. Speaker, I don’t rise often to speak on the floor, but when I do, I stand up for Washington County, and I do so with pride because that’s where I live. Six of us in this Chamber represent Washington County, in fact, with a seventh serving in the Senate.
We can tell you about entire small towns where everybody knows your name, and how our four weekly newspapers frequently print photos of five generations of a family. In Washington County, we know that after the Eastern Maine basketball tournament every spring, caravans of cars honking horns and fire engines with sirens will arrive back in town at midnight. We love our local beauty pageants, our high school graduations, our Fourth of July parades, our countless quilt raffles as fundraisers, our festivals for blueberries and salmon and pirates. We support our American Legions that always serve a hunters’ breakfast, and churches that put on bean suppers no matter the time of year. We turn out by the hundreds for benefit suppers when tragedy visits an individual or family, whether we know them or not.
Washington County is all about community. And my personal definition of community is “the way we get by”. But I cannot tell you how my friends Al and Linda Salleroli are going to get by now, if we don’t have enough votes to expand health care across Maine. They’ve already put a portion of Linda’s cancer costs on their daughter’s credit card.
You have read all the numbers about Washington County. We have demographic differences, and we have health disparities with the rest of Maine. You know about our poverty, our unemployment, because you’ve seen the numbers in the Kids Count annual report. So, it hurts when others tell our Washington County people to “get a job”, as a way to get health care.
Nobody can dare tell Alan and Linda Salleroli to work any harder than they do.
What the individuals and families of Washington County, like the Sallerolis, share with all of you, is that we are all Mainers. And just as much as the rest of you, we also believe in that great motto for Maine – “the way life should be.”
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.