News

Who died, when and where in NC county jails

If you haven’t yet read the first installment of the News & Observer’s five part series Jailed to Death, you should.

But don’t stop there.

You should also check out the database of 151 inmates who died in custody in 65 N.C. county jails between 2012 and 2016.

The database is a good platform for further stories that take a closer look at some of these deaths – as well as a way for N.C. residents to get a look at the reality in their home county.

News

NC paramedic recounts stories from front line of heroin epidemic

A weekend piece at Salon takes a look at North Carolina’s opioid epidemic through the eyes of a Guilford County paramedic.

The piece, by Salon’s Young American journalist Lauryn Higgins, is worth your time – particularly if you’ve been following our recent coverage of the issue at NC Policy Watch.

From the piece:

In 2015, “the number of deaths from heroin overdoses in the U.S. surpassed those from gun homicides,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while a recent report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicated that, “4.31% of people in the U.S. ages 12 or older have used prescription pain relievers for non-medical purpose in the last year.”

North Carolina ranks among the nation’s top ten in opioid related deaths

These numbers are a harrowing reminder that heroin abuse is growing at an alarming rate, and statistics show this is because the drug does not discriminate. Every socioeconomic class, gender and race is affected by this epidemic. Smith adds, “In some cases heroin is more accessible and even cheaper than alcohol. It gives, from what I understand, a more consistent high; you don’t develop a tolerance quite as quickly, and it’s easier to hide.” For many addicts, these characteristics allow users to live their lives as normally as possible, some even masking their addiction until it’s too late.

In the Northwest North Carolina region, the foster care system has seen an increase in children needing homes by more than 25% from 2011 to 2015, with Smith’s backyard of Guilford County seeing the highest number; 560 individual children having sought placement in the last year. It’s led officials to deem this a “state of crisis,” for the system, and identify the heroin epidemic as an underlying cause for the recent spike.


Read the whole piece here.

News

NC’s Payton McGarry on proposed military transgender ban

If you follow NC Policy Watch, you’ve read the name Payton McGarry.

Payton McGarry prepared for a military career but has seen that dream repeatedly frustrated.

As a young transgender man, the 21-year-old UNCG student was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging HB2 – and is a plaintiff in the amended lawsuit against its replacement, HB142. He recently announced a run for Greensboro City Council.

He’s also, as we’ve covered before, one of a number of transgender Americans who thought being openly transgender would prevent them from serving in the military. That all changed last year, when the Obama-era Department of Defense announced it would lift its ban on transgender service in the military.

This week President Donald Trump announced in a tweet that he intends to reverse that policy – a shift that reportedly caught the Pentagon and Joint Chiefs of Staff by surprise.

Now, McGarry has written a powerful essay at the Lambda Legal website about his own experience and what a ban on transgender people serving “in any capacity” in America’s military means for him personally.

From the piece:

A delay is not the end, and three tweets are not an official policy change (any actual policy change beyond the tweets remains to be seen). But again, this month and this week, I’ve seen my whole plan for my future fall down around me, just as it had when I wanted to join the Marine Corps in high school.

Being disappointed, yet again, is a lot of the pain.

But honestly, another big part of the pain is seeing how uneducated so many people are about these issues.

I had someone tell me later that afternoon that it takes a person a year to recover from top surgery. “Funny,” I thought, “because it only took me about a month.”

I heard people say that the military doesn’t need us, despite the fact that the Army is not hitting its recruitment goals.

I saw people spout wildly inaccurate stats about the cost of health care for transgender people, when even most major publications are reporting that the cost of health care for trans service members is miniscule compared to the rest of the military’s budget. Or compared to the unnecessary financial burdens Donald Trump and his family have put on the federal government, for that matter.

But the worst part about Wednesday was having to realize just how many people actually think that trans people are a burden. Seeing all the misinformation and lack of education is hard, but feeling that hatred is almost unbearable.

Because the truth is that trans people are amazing. We are so strong that it blows my mind every single day. We are resilient. We are diverse. We are beautiful. We are so many good things in this world.

Take the time to read the whole piece.

 

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.

 

News

Payton McGarry, HB 2/HB 142 plaintiff, running for Greensboro City Council

Filing for local elections ended Friday and – perhaps predictably in a politically fractious year at the state and national level – there are a raft of first-time candidates on this year’s ballots.

Among them, one of the most interesting is Payton McGarry. The 21-year old transgender man was a plaintiff in the original HB 2 lawsuit – and is playing the same role in the amended suit against HB 142.

McGarry, a student at UNCG, has filed to run for City Council in Greensboro.

Payton McGarry, now a candidate for Greensboro City Council.

Since HB 2 was originally passed, McGarry has been a visible and vocal part of opposition to measures that would limit transgender protections. Now he’s looking to become the first openly LGBT member of the Greensboro City Council. It’s McGarry’s first run for office – and it could be an uphill battle. Though the city council races are officially non-partisan, McGarry is a liberal Democrat running against a moderate Democrat incumbent in Councilman Justin Outling. Leaning socially liberal and fiscally conservative, Outling won the District 3 seat in his own right after initially being appointed to finish the term of a departing councilman. That was no small feat for Outling, a black Democrat running in a council district whose representatives have traditionally been white and more conservative.

Outling has proven to be a moderate in office, which has made him a target for some more left-leaning candidates.

Two other candidates have also filed for the seat – Anturan Marsh and Craig Martin.

The primary election will be held Oct. 10. Election Day is Nov. 7.