Orlando Knittel

I am my father’s daughter. My dad, who passed away in December 2013, was my role model. Orlando Knittel was born in Couer d’Alene in 1929. His first memory was walking in the deep snow, holding hands with my grandpa, who was leading a cow. My dad served in the Korean War in the medical unit. When he returned to America, he attended college, thanks to the G.I. Bill.

After saving up enough money, my dad fulfilled his dream and moved his family to the country, where we lived on a small rural, weekend-run farm, in a double-wide trailer. Every morning we woke up to the smell of rich soil that spanned several acres. My dad instilled in me and my four siblings a strong work ethic. I have vivid memories of filling buckets with blackberries and green beans, some of which we would eat, some of which we would sell to local markets. My dad paid us kids a penny a rock to clear out his field. For star thistle, a slightly tougher task, we earned the large sum of 50 cents per filled refrigerator box. I remember the prickly, sticky sensation, even through gloves, when pulling those stubborn plants!

Most importantly, My dad taught me the value of developing and adhering to an internal moral compass. I learned from him that a god person worked hard, told the truth and helped others. he often reminded me that one never knows the troubles someone else may be facing, and that being judgmental does not follow the Golden Rule.

I wish my dad could have seen me run for State Senate. He would have been proud. And I would have worked hard to live up to the values he instilled in me.

Thank you, Mrs. Winkle

It seems fitting that I learned of my Idaho Education Association (IEA) endorsement just days after hearing the sad news that my favorite teacher, Mrs. Winkle, suffered a stroke. Mrs. Helen Winkle was an integral part of my 3rd and 4th grade school years. I was a bright, anxious kid who constantly doubted myself and worked hard to earn Mrs. Winkle’s approval. She taught us sometimes unruly kids perched from her stool in the front of the classroom, almost always covered in chalk powder and ink pen marks. During assignment time, Mrs. Winkle would pace by our desks, stopping now and again to offer a gentle suggestion, or, more frequently, a smile and a “good job.

Mrs. Winkle made teaching look fun! Looking back, I can only imagine the effort she put in behind the scenes. There were always fun projects (on a limited budget in our small, country town; I am certain she spent a good deal of her own money on us). Mrs. Winkle was famous for her annual 4th grade zoo trip earned by the kids who learned their times table. To earn this honor, we diligently (anxiously) practiced our times tables all year. Twelve times two equals 24. Twelves times three equals 36 – up to twelve times itself.

Later, I realized that almost every single kid would earn that trip, even the ones who struggled. I remember stopping by the classroom in the evenings with my mom, to pick up a forgotten coat or smelly lunch pail. Mrs. Winkle would be sitting in a student’s desk, working side by side with a child and a concerned parent, grouping pencils together to illustrate Math concepts (as a visual learner, this worked best for me).

As a kid, I didn’t think much of it. Mrs. Winkle was a Teacher. Teachers just did stuff like worke late, buy plaster on weekends, bring in doctor friends with canned jars of dirty cotton illustrating the harm – and grossness – of tobacco on lungs.

Follow-up: When visiting my childhood home, I would occasionally run into Mrs. Winkle at church or in town. “You were my favorite teacher,” I would say, every time. She would beam, and ask about my latest career adventure. “I am so proud of you, honey. You are doing so well,” she would say. Thank you, Mrs. Winkle.

For Release: Knittel endorsed by Idaho Education Association (IEA)

Heidi Knittel for Senate Dist. 12 Endorsed by Idaho Education Association (IEA)

For Immediate Release
Date: August 8, 2014
Contact: Luke Anorak, (208) 908-8028

Nampa, Idaho — Heidi Knittel, Idaho State Senate Candidate, District 12, has been officially endorsed by the Idaho Education Association (IEA). “It is an honor to be recognized by this esteemed, 120-year strong organization.” Knittel said.

Knittel supports IEA’s vision to deliver on their promise of a great public school for every Idaho student. “Public education is the gateway to opportunity. It is vital to prepare our students to succeed in a competitive and diverse world,” Knittel said, concurring with an IEA Core Values.

Knittel understands that, in order to meet their vision, education professionals must be championed at the Legislative level. As State Senator, Knittel plans to do just that. “I will continue to advocate for educator’s rights, including restored education funding, increased teacher base salary and more opportunities for professional development.”


Knittel responds to The Statesman, addresses homeless, mental health.

August 2, 2014

In today’s Idaho Statesman, Heidi addresses homelessness and mental health in Idaho.


Audrey Dutton’s article about Idaho’s rising homeless population is timely. While I am so grateful to Idaho’s shelters, churches and housing projects, it is not enough. Idaho has a mental health problem that needs to be addressed at the legislative level, and supported by voters.

As an advocate for vulnerable citizens, I frequently witness homelessness that stems from, or is heavily impacted by, mental illness and lack of resources. Ms. Reyes was a wife and college-educated mother. What went wrong? “She got overwhelmed.” Where were her supports as her life began to deteriorate? Why was her mental illness not being treated? Not everyone has family, friends or church support to help them through their darkest hour.

Fiscally speaking, in the case of mental health, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of crisis intervention. While Idaho has a spirit of independence and self-reliance, we also understand good financial sense. Idaho has an abysmally low offering of mental health services. Funding preventative programs, such as drop-in centers, and access to affordable counseling and medications would cut costs to the taxpayers, who end up with a much higher bill that comes with foster care involvement, etc.

Heidi Knittel, Nampa

Knittel published in Idaho Business Review 2014

Idaho’s mental health care is an economic development issue.

By: Heidi Knittel July 8, 2014

If business owners aren’t depressed about the state of mental health care in Idaho, they ought to be. As Idaho’s elected leaders slash mental health services, the cost of untreated mental illness on small businesses is staggering.

A few facts:
1) Depression is the second leading cause of disability worldwide.
2) The U.S. mentally ill population has a 48 – 73 percent lower employment rate, and misses between 35-96 work days annually, depending on severity of symptoms.

There’s an impact on our future workforce as well: The drop-out rate for U.S. high school students with emotional disturbance is greater than 50 percent.

It gets worse. Reduced or lost productivity in the U.S. costs a total of $78.5 billion, including lost earnings due to missed work ($59 billion), the value of time spent to care for family members with mental disorders ($3.1 billion) and estimated value of lost future earnings due to premature death, including suicide ($11.8 billion).
Fifty-four thousand adults in Idaho live with a serious mental illness. Do any of them work for you?

Symptoms of depression and mild mental illness include fatigue and lack of focus, which can lead to higher on-the-job accidents and workers’ compensation claims. A 2004 study estimated that the total economic benefit from treatment of depression is $7,100, a return of about $7 for each dollar invested in treatment.

There is hope. Businesses owners can’t close the funding gap, but they can help workers with mental health and related productivity losses, both at the state and local level. Larger employers have Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and offer health insurance that covers mental health services, such as counseling and medication management.

But what can the small business owner do? Look around your company. If one out of every 25 of your employees is suffering a mental illness, are you sure that employee has access to adequate care? Educate yourself and your staff about the mental health benefits on your health plan. Develop positive relationships with your employees that reduce workplace stress and increase trust. Consider the impact on your lower-wage employees who do not have access to health care.

In 2012, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter turned down a lucrative offer to not only expand mental health treatment, but to boost the economy. Otter assembled a bipartisan workgroup to study the impact of Medicaid expansion. The results were astonishing: Over the next ten years the state could save $290 million in offsets to state and county governments, and allow for $6 million in state and county savings. Additionally, the workgroup estimated a generation of 16,000 new jobs, concomitant with closing the healthcare gap.

Small businesses are required to offer health insurance to their employees or pay a penalty. Many of Idaho’s 1,300 small business employees qualify for Medicaid expansion which, if adopted, would mean that employers could forego providing healthcare, while avoiding the financial penalty and protecting profits.
Ironically, Idahoans are paying for Medicaid expansion anyway with federal taxes. We are gifting our money to 35 participating states. Does it make good business sense to send Idaho tax dollars to help businesses and workers in other states?

Idaho has an election this November. Please do some research on where Idaho’s candidates stand on healthcare. Support the candidates who go to bat for healthy, working and prosperous Idaho workers and employers. Small businesses are relying on you.

Heidi Knittel is the program director of a small case management agency in Nampa and a member of the National Council for Behavioral Health. She’s running for Idaho State Senate in District 12.

LDS Dems-Idaho Interview: Heidi Knittel for Idaho Senate Seat 12


Over a series of weeks, I had the pleasure of being interviewed via Facebook, by Jon Young, LDS Democrat.

July 3, 2014

This interview is part of a series of interviews of Democrat candidates across the state from varying religious backgrounds. LDS Dems-Idaho recently interviewed Heidi Knittel about her current run for Idaho Sentate Seat 12. We encourage you to learn more about her at www.knittelforsenate.org.

This interview was conducted by Jon Young, an LDS Democrat living in Boise, ID.

Jon: Besides winning in November, what do you hope to accomplish by running for the state senate?

Heidi: Let me start by saying I am honored to run for Idaho State Senate in District 12. I’ve been talking with a lot of folks in my district. People are tired of the same, “good ol’ boy” politics, which line the pockets of big industries and legislators, but do nothing for the average Idahoan. They are highly concerned about issues that impact them daily: economy, education, and keeping their families healthy.

I think it is time to start a public conversation of how our 20-year, GOP-led legislative body has weakened Idaho to the point of being among the lowest states in education and health care, and among the highest in unemployment and suicide rates.

During the 2014 session, our GOP leaders turned their backs on education, the economy, human rights and healthcare. They denied a health insurance program that would have saved almost 600 lives per year and would have helped thousands of veterans. When the recession hit, Governor Otter and his legislators voted to take millions of dollars away from education, with the promise that when the economy began to stabilize and grow, they would put it back. Instead, they have put the money into a “rainy-day fund” that is already overflowing. Yesterday, I spoke with a school teacher who said she typically spent $600-$800 per year on classroom supplies. This isn’t right.

I would also like to engage with the 20% of Idahoans who say they have given up hope of a better future, and are preparing to move out of the state. I encourage them to stay in Idaho and reclaim Idaho’s beauty, diversity and independent, common sense politics. It is time to hold our politicians accountable and to address the gaps that prevent us from keeping young people, doctors, educators and high-level workers in this great state.

Jon: What are the primary issues you’ll focus on in your campaign?

Heidi: My focus during this campaign is to meet with the folks of Canyon County District 12 and listen to their concerns. Most people I’ve spoken with do not feel represented by our current leadership. Despite their party affiliation, folks want to see a restored sense of balance to Idaho’s leadership. They are appalled by what has happened at the most recent Idaho GOP Convention. My goal is to represent real people rather than big business. I believe in: One person, one vote, rather than one dollar, one vote.

Jon: As a part of achieving balance, are there any Republicans you look forward to working with?

Heidi: Yes, absolutely. Senator Heider, for one. We were having a conversation in his office last year and he expressed his dismay at how “broken” the Department of Health and Welfare is. He expressed some willingness to try to understand what type of folks are on Medicaid. He said, “Is it just a matter of pulling yourselves up by your boot straps? I don’t know.” So I think there might be a little room for discussion there. Having worked with so many families, I would love to have the opportunity to share with Senator Heider a good sampling of stories, to demonstrate the “types” of folks on Medicaid who legitimately need our help, some in order to stay alive, and others to become successful, contributing members of society once again.

Jon: Having been assisted by Medicaid myself, you can add me to one of those “types.” I often hear people condemning others who are on government programs. While I believe some people do abuse the system and some reforms are needed, it isn’t the norm. What can we do to raise awareness of the actual needs and difficulties people are in?

Heidi: We need a representative who has had firsthand knowledge of this population, understands its intricacies and can provide real working solutions to help these folks become independent. Having worked with 500-700 families on Medicaid, I intend to provide honest representation of this population.

Jon: I often hear people say that government programs create more dependence on the government. Have you seen examples that demonstrate government programs can help people become independent of government support?

Heidi: Sure, there will always be a few bad apples in every sector but for the most part, folks don’t want to be on government assistance unless they legitimately qualify, for example, due to cognitive impairment. Government programs are cut and scaled back constantly. I don’t know of anyone who lives high on the hog on Medicaid. On the other hand, I know plenty of hard-working families, trying to make ends meet, in order to get a job, get food consistently on the table, get off Medicaid, buy their own homes and live the American dream.

Jon: What programs appear to work well?

Heidi: I think food stamps have a huge positive impact. A child needs nutrients to sleep well, get to school on time, and remain alert while learning. A healthy, educated child has a greater chance at learning and moving on to higher education or a good job.

Jon: Can you share a personal or professional experience that has encouraged you to run for the senate?

Heidi: I decided to write my name in as a candidate for State Senate in Idaho’s Primary the night before the deadline. I made this decision because I was frustrated. My dad, a war veteran and a moral man, always taught me to treat others with kindness. I don’t think the GOP-led legislature, as a whole, has been particularly kind or fair in some of its legislative decisions. During my time advocating for Idaho’s most vulnerable citizens, I have seen the state systematically “balance the budget” on the backs of these folks. Services are the first thing to go, for those with medical, developmental and mental health disabilities. A couple years ago, the legislature voted against paying for preventative dental care for disabled adults! They made this decision after hearing dozens of testimonies from folks who would be impacted, many of whom were in tears. Folks had to have their teeth removed, because the state wouldn’t pay for fillings. We are now experiencing extreme mental health care cuts across the board. Due to lack of preventative services, folks are ending up in inpatient psychiatric hospitals and the taxpayer is footing the much more expensive cost.

Jon: Great, here’s hopefully a fun a question I’ve not asked before: Who of the founding fathers or mothers of the United States of America do you most admire? How will the principles they lived by influence your campaign and government service?

Heidi: I love fun questions!

I admire Esther De Berdt Reed. She was a champion of American freedom. During the Revolutionary War she was an unstoppable force in raising money for General Washington’s troops. Her passion and action, including letter writing and door knocking, inspired others to participate in the cause to raise money for the troops.

I relate to Esther. She was determined, with an undying advocacy for her cause. She had a strong work ethic and, come hell or high water, completed her missions. If she had not died so young, I imagine her legacy would have been much larger.

Today, we are fighting a war on the working class, who are scrambling to stay ahead of poverty. They have no representation in the State Senate. In the meantime, the rich grow richer. In 1976, the top richest 1% of Americans took home 9 percent of the national income. Today, they take home 24 % – nearly three times more in as many decades.

Esther raised awareness, knocked on doors and gained support to keep our revolutionary soldiers clothed. Metaphorically speaking, our poorest and working class need new shirts – and I intend to advocate for them.

Jon: In conclusion, why vote for Heidi Knittel?

Heidi: For one, I am dogged. When I see injustice, I cannot remain silent. So much injustice was done during the 2014 Legislative Session. I drove from Nampa to Boise, day after day, to testify, to meet with politicians, to deliver data supporting good decisions – anything I could. Currently, we are not treating our poorest and working classes as well as we could and should. We are downright neglecting our veterans. Mental health and developmental disability services in Idaho are being slashed continuously. Each new tax cut takes away dollars from education. Idaho needs a living wage standard. The rich are getting richer, as Idaho becomes fiscally – and morally – bankrupt. It is also important to say that I am learning the value in working with legislators you don’t necessarily agree with. It takes maturity, and can be difficult. Rigid ideology has split this country apart; I believe even Ronald Reagan would agree with that statement. While I am passionate about my beliefs, I don’t want to become part of the problem – someone who stonewalls bills simply to make a point or satisfy big donors. Reasonable compromise has always been necessary for progress.

Terrible medicine, terrible public policy, and an assault on personal freedom.

In 2012, Senator Chuck Winder introduced SB 1387, a bill that would mandate trans-vaginal ultrasounds for all pregnant women, no exceptions.

When the bill was ultimately withdrawn, proponents promised they would be returning with a slightly altered version. When this happens, how many Republican men do you want on the House State Affairs committee, making this choice for you?

When I heard of Winder’s plans, I could not remain silent. Taking the day off work, I attended a protest at the State Capitol steps. My interview was on the news.

WATCH VIDEO HERE: Heidi Knittel TV Interview Regarding Forced Ultrasound Protest

“I am tired of the Idaho Senate and House infantilizing women and taking away our dignity and our ability to make these kinds of tough choices for ourselves.” (Heidi Knittel)

The bill would require pregnant women to have two ultrasounds before having an abortion: 1) a mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasound at a pro-life crisis pregnancy center (free); and, 2) if the women still wanted the abortion after being forced somehow (headlock?) to view the image of their fetus, the second ultrasound would cost the usual fee.

Forced ultrasounds would also be required for victims of rape, incest or severe medical conditions.

It gets worse.

In response to opposition to the bill (including protests at the Capitol, in which I participated), Winder suggested women might falsely use rape as an excuse to obtain an abortion:

“Rape and incest was used as a reason to oppose this. I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps, her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape. I assume that’s part of the counseling that goes on.”

House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, a retired physician, called the bill “terrible medicine, terrible public policy, and an assault on personal freedom.”

The bill was ultimately withdrawn, but proponents stated they would be bringing it back, in some form, another year. Advocates for the bill include Jason Herring, president of Right to Life of Idaho and co-sponsor Senator Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, who said: “What I was hoping that it would accomplish is that it would give the mother one more opportunity to see the baby before she made that decision. … I think the more information they have, the less likely they are to have an abortion.”

It sure would be nice to be afforded the perception that women are capable of understanding anything related to their bodies.

FOR RELEASE: Knittel endorsed by AFL-CIO.

Heidi Knittel for Senate Dist. 12 Endorsed by Idaho AFL-CIO.

For Immediate Release
Date: June 12, 2014
Contact: Heidi Knittel, (208) 779-2170

FOR RELEASE: June 12, 2014

Nampa, Idaho — Heidi Knittel, Idaho State Senate Candidate District 12, has been officially endorsed by the Idaho AFL-CIO.

Knittel has been a longtime supporter of unions, and believes that unions, working together with business and government, help workers.

Knittel supports the union pledge to, “the more effective organization of working men and women; to the securing them of full recognition and enjoyment of the rights to which they are justly entitled; to the achievement of ever higher standards of living and working conditions; to the attainment of security for all the people sufficient to enable workers and their families to live in dignity; to the enjoyment of the leisure which their skills make possible; and to the strengthening and extension of our way of life and the fundamental freedoms which are the basis of our democratic society.

The 5th Annual Idaho State AFL-CIO Convention was held this week in Boise.

Soldiers fight for our unalienable rights. Do we fight for theirs?

During a Memorial Day ceremony at Kohlerlawn Cemetery in Nampa, elderly men and women dabbed their eyes with handkerchiefs. Among them were Boy Scouts, veterans on motorcycles and civilians paying tribute to soldiers whose lives were cut short by war. I wandered between flag-adorned graves, piecing together history from headstones. A Willard D. Wells had served in the infantry in Korea. Unlike my father, he did not return from that war. Instead, he died a hero at 19 years old. My heart ached as I imagined his family receiving the news.

Frustration swirled with sadness.

Every Memorial Day we trip over each other to pay lip service to our fallen heroes, yet Idaho soldiers who return home alive rarely receive the level of care appropriate to their level of sacrifice and need. Idaho has the second-highest rate of uninsured veterans in the nation, with nearly 15% of veterans lacking in health care. Approximately 10,000 uninsured veterans live throughout our state, unable to pay for eyeglasses or routine health examinations. The Declaration of Independence provides three examples of “unalienable rights” given to all human beings: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Try having any of these without good health.

Idaho’s uninsured veterans have been qualified for a federal health insurance program for three years, but politicians such as Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and other GOP legislators — including my opponent, Senator Todd Lakey — have blocked or ignored this opportunity, turning a blind ear to the pleas of veterans and their families.

It puzzles me why any grateful American would refuse good health to the defenders of our freedoms. In 2011, Governor Otter established a bipartisan task force, comprising local fiscal and health experts, legislators and community members, to review health care expansion (also known as Medicaid Expansion or Medicaid Redesign) and discovered tremendous benefits for Idahoans. Not only would we be caring for thousands of our soldiers, but the plan would save up to 590 lives per year. Added to that was the study that closing the gap in coverage would likely save Idaho $479 million over 10 years in state and local funds that we typically spend on emergency care for Idahoans who can’t pay their medical bills. The benefits were undeniable. The study disclosed good news for Idaho’s economy (and opportunities for returning soldiers) as well: over the next 10 years, Idaho would see nearly $1 billion in new economic activity and 16,000 new private sector jobs.*

During the 2015 legislative session, Idaho legislators once again have the choice to extend health coverage to uninsured veterans and their families. Perhaps our governor and legislators will have a change of heart. Perhaps they will reflect, as I did, on our great debt of responsibility to those men and women who fought for the freedoms we enjoy, including good health. Perhaps they need to take a day and walk through a cemetery adorned with American flags.

*For more information on the benefits of Medicaid Expansion, go to CloseTheGapIdaho.org.

Mental Health Still in Crisis in Idaho

“What these families are often told is that if your child is acting up, call police, have police come in and file a report, so you can create a paper trail so that maybe later you can get services,” says Knittel.”

Families In Need: An In-Depth Look at Idaho’s Behavioral Health System

I was interviewed for this piece in February, 2013. Unfortunately, my concerns still hold true. Idaho leadership continues to demonstrate misguided priorities, as they slash more mental health prevention services than ever. Our police and jails are not the answer for the mentally ill.

Legislators will tell you they approved funds for 3 mental behavioral health crises centers this year. In truth, they approved money for just one, which will likely be in Coeur d’Alene. This will be a 24-hour maximum facility – no treatment plan has been offered for hour 25. Funding for start-up and costs to run this facility for one year: over $2 million dollars.

By ignoring prevention, our legislators are placing a huge financial burden on its taxpayers. Costly crisis band-aids such as psychiatric hospitalization, can cost up to $2,000.00 per day.

At a Republican debate May 8, at Columbia High School in Nampa, all candidates agreed that Idaho was suffering from lack of behavioral healthcare. Not one senator offered a single suggestion as to how to improve this situation.

I have a plan: prevention.