Opinion | Helping Americans Left Behind

Readers are moved by Nicholas Kristof’s account of the struggles and death of a childhood friend. “It is too late to save Mike Stepp,” a writer says. “It is not too late to save millions of others.”

To the Editor:

Re “Can Biden Save People Like My Pal Mike?,” by Nicholas Kristof (column, Feb. 14):

I am a faithful reader of Mr. Kristof’s columns and have followed the pieces regarding the hardships suffered by his childhood friends with particular interest. I, too, am from a small rural community (in Pennsylvania) and, like Mr. Kristof, I moved out but never forgot where I came from.

Mike Stepp’s story of addiction, mental illness and an early death made me weep — for Mike and for all those who were blindsided by a changing world, for those who shared my idyllic childhood but whose lives never matched their parents’ lives of middle-class security.

I hope that President Biden (and those who work with him) can bring dignity back to all Americans. Thank you, Mr. Kristof, for reminding us all of the stakes.

M.S. Flynn
Los Angeles

To the Editor:

Nicholas Kristof’s description of the tragic life of Mike Stepp, his childhood friend, alas, is a story shared by millions of people and their families across America.

My colleagues at Voices of Hope and at Addiction Connections Resource in Maryland see people like Mike Stepp every day. They have an active addiction, substance use disorder and mental health needs — all of which need and deserve immediate treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that drug overdose deaths are at their highest level, more than 81,000 in the 12-month period ending in June 2020.

The answer to Mr. Kristof’s question fortunately is “yes.” President Biden’s American Rescue Plan to address the Covid crisis includes $4 billion for substance use disorder and mental health services. Enactment of the Biden plan will change deaths of despair to lives of hope.

It is too late to save Mike Stepp. It is not too late to save millions of others.

Don Mathis
Havre de Grace, Md.
The writer is training to become a certified peer recovery specialist.

To the Editor:

Nicholas Kristof again displays his great humanity. He reminded me how insensitive educated liberals can be to the needs of the working class.

I recall that when Earth Day started in 1970, I was somewhat skeptical about the motivation. While I fully believe that climate change is real and represents an existentialist threat to our civilization, I thought that zoning restrictions and other liberal proposals to restrict growth would benefit wealthy educated suburbanites with lush lawns and do very little for the working poor. But I failed to appreciate how little I and others did to push for training and retraining programs for the losers.

In the end, educated liberals like me got wealthy and enjoyed the good life while the working poor paid the price for our environmental and free trade policies.

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