News

The other side of the opioid crisis – a first-hand account

We’ve done some coverage of the opioid crisis lately – particularly in Wilmington, one of the worst cities for opioid abuse in the nation.

While taking an unflinching look at the very real problem and its very real human costs, it’s worth considering another aspect of our reaction to it.

Last month Lynn Frank, 64, wrote a thought-provoking piece for Philly.com about living not with opioid addiction but with chronic pain that is made manageable by her use of prescription opioid medication.

From that piece:

I am the other side of the opiate crisis. I am not an addict. I take pain medication to function at a minimal level and not allow my chronic pain get the better of me. It lets me feel normal for a short time every day. I never feel “high” from taking it, just almost “normal.” It allows me to focus and to do simple tasks that I could not otherwise perform

There are other things chronic pain sufferers do to relieve pain. In an effort to distract ourselves we meditate, pray, and have hobbies such as knitting (my personal favorite) and reading. We do many things to take our minds off of our pain, We attempt to stay positive even when it feels impossible. A short relief from pain helps. Pain medicine helps us function, at least for a short time, in a way that most people take for granted.

Please acknowledge those of us who suffer from chronic pain. Recognize our need for these powerful medications. Understand that we are only trying to live our lives by managing the nonstop pain. We want to survive and overcome. We will.

Read the whole thing here.

 

Courts & the Law, News

Cooper, parties in Leandro case taking steps forward to help state meet education requirements

The News & Observer is reporting today that the parties in the landmark education case Leandro v. North Carolina have agreed to nominate an independent consultant to come up with a specific plan to improve North Carolina’s education system.

The agreement announcement was made Monday on the 20th anniversary of the state Supreme Court’s first ruling in the case, when it declared that the State Constitution guarantees every child “an opportunity to receive a sound basic education,” according to the article.

“After two decades of litigation, the plaintiff school districts and the state agreed to nominate an independent, “non-party” consultant to the court by Oct. 30, or, if they can’t agree on one, they’ll nominate three possibilities.

If the court concurs, the consultant will work to come up with a specific plan for meeting the court’s 2002 mandates in its second Leandro ruling – a well-trained, competent teacher in every classroom, a well-trained, competent principal in every school and enough resources that every child has an equal opportunity for education. Those mandates were upheld by the state Supreme Court in 2004.

It’s unclear what influence, if any, the consultant would have in the legislature, which allocates funding for education.”

Gov. Roy Cooper also announced today in a press release that he has signed an executive order to establish the Governor’s Commission on Access to a Sound Basic Education to help North Carolina meet its duties under the state constitution as underscored by the landmark rulings in Leandro and Hoke County Board of Education v. North Carolina.

“No matter where North Carolina students live or go to school in our state, they all deserve access to a quality education that prepares them for the jobs and opportunities of the future,” Cooper said in the release. “That is their right as children of North Carolina and we must not let them down.”

The Commission will assess North Carolina’s ability to staff schools with competent, well-trained teachers and principals and its commitment to providing adequate resources to public schools, according to Cooper’s Office.

Seventeen representatives will be appointed in the coming weeks by Cooper from the fields of education, business, local government, law, health care, early childhood development, psychology and counseling, and public safety. The first meeting is expected to be in the fall.

Commission leaders will work with the independent consultant appointed in Leandro to help with their review and assessment.

Commentary

One more time: What you need to know about the Senate healthcare debate today

As Sydney Idzikowski reported earlier this morning, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the controversial GOP healthcare proposal today. There’s obviously been a lot written on this subject, but for those who may have lost track, here is a handy set of links to the key recent stories in this space that explain what’s at stake:

Progressive advocates are obviously hoping against hope that Senators Burr and Tillis will finally see the light and recognize the need to
start from scratch with a different, bipartisan approach that sets aside the efforts to gut Medicaid and focuses instead on making real improvements to marketplace stability and affordability.

Stay tuned — we’ll have updates here as they become available.

Commentary, News

Human rights advocates call on Cooper, Stein to support inquiry into NC’s involvement in CIA torture

Human rights advocates are calling on Governor Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein to support the work of a non-governmental commission that’s been formed to examine, among other things, North Carolina’s role in the illegal and immoral torture program administered by the U.S. government in early years of the last decade. As is explained on the website of the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture:

“In the years following 9/11, North Carolina was used as a staging ground to launch flights that picked up suspected terrorists abroad and transported them to CIA ‘black sites’ and third-party countries where they were illegally detained and tortured. Declassified documents and news reports have confirmed that the CIA front company Aero Contractors, which is headquartered in the state, used North Carolina’s aviation infrastructure and public airports to launch these ‘torture taxi’ flights in support of the United States’ Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) program.

The North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture (NCCIT) is a non-profit organization dedicated to investigating and establishing public accountability for the role that North Carolina’s government and state resources played in helping to facilitate the U.S. torture program. The NCCIT has established a blue-ribbon panel of policy experts, academics, and community leaders to do the job their government refuses to do: investigate North Carolina’s involvement in the U.S. torture program, prevent it from happening again, and make North Carolina a leader against torture.”

A draft letter to Cooper and Stein prepared by advocates at NC Stop Torture Now calls on the two leaders to cooperate with and aid the investigation. In support of the request, the letter notes that:

  • The U.S. government has done nothing to hold officials responsible for the CIA’s failures or for the terrible damage caused by U.S. torture, both at home and abroad.
  • Torture has boosted terrorism and damaged U.S. global standing. 
  • President Trump has repeatedly endorsed torture as a foreign policy “strategy.”
  • New evidence has recently emerged that the U.S. may be re-engaging with torture in Yemen.
  • A North Carolina-based contractor has played a key role in torture, has used the state’s public public airports in its efforts and could again.

Let’s hope the effort bears fruit. To learn more about the efforts of Stop Torture Now NC, visit their website by clicking here.

Commentary, Trump Administration

Senate to vote today on mystery health care bill

President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell aren’t giving up on passing damaging legislation to repeal and (maybe) replace the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. Despite McConnell delaying the Senate’s August recess to give his caucus more time for deliberations, the GOP has not been able to agree on a health care bill.

Now, McConnell is pushing a last ditch effort to move GOP healthcare plans forward against the wishes of the American public and nearly all provider and patient groups. Senators are expected to vote Tuesday on a “motion to proceed,” which, if passed, would allow the Senate to debate the future of the Affordable Care Act and Medicare and vote on amendments. However, many Senators are concerned because they have been left in the dark about which bill they will actually be voting on. There’s no shortage of bills that could possibly make up the motion to proceed, including: the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act, or the House-passed American Health Care Act.

The fact is, each of the proposed health care plans would do irreversible harm to millions of Americans. What’s more, each proposed bill would wreak havoc on health insurance markets nationwide.

Here’s what we know about the proposals on the table:

  • Over 20 million Americans risk losing health care coverage altogether.
  • Medicaid funding—which covers 1.4 million North Carolina children, as well as people with disabilities and seniors in long-term care—would be slashed by 26 percent over ten years.
  • Protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions would be weakened, if not outright eliminated.
  • Plans may no longer be required to cover essential health benefits, such as hospitalization, maternity care, mental health, and medication.
  • Premiums would increase, especially for people with low-incomes and older adults.
  • Health insurance marketplaces would be destabilized as healthy consumers leave the risk pool.

The mystery bill needs to get past the motion to proceed before it can be discussed and signed into law. If the vote is unsuccessful the bill is considered dead…for now. That doesn’t mean the GOP will give up on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. Since the ACA was passed in 2009, the House has held more than 50 votes to repeal former-President Obama’s signature legislation. Prior to May of this year, none of the bills were considered by the Senate. In the last month, however, the Senate had attempted to vote on a health care bill four times. Both the public and legislators are becoming impatient with the incessant focus on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. A recent report from Axios states that many Trump supporters do not view repealing the Affordable Care Act a priority. Another report shows that 71% of the public favor a bipartisan effort to improve-not repeal- the Affordable Care Act.

We will see later today whether voters will get their wish.

Sydney Idzikowski is an MSW intern at the NC Justice Center