Commentary

Why is NC sicker than almost all other states?

The Fayetteville Observer gets right to the heart of the matter this morning in an editorial entitled “Living in NC is bad for our health.” As the essay points out, North Carolinians are near the bottom in national health rankings because, simply put, we don’t do enough or invest enough to address the issue.

The editorial is based on a new study by a group named WalletHub, that specializes in comparing quality of life in different parts of the U.S. The new study found that North Carolina was ranked fifth from the bottom in the nation and was grouped with most other southern states in the lower rankings. This is from the editorial:

“North Carolina ranked 47th. It was 50th in cost, 44th in access and 36th in outcomes. We’re relieved, at least, that in outcomes, the most critical of the measures, we weren’t all the way at the bottom of the barrel. The other states ranking worse than North Carolina were Arkansas, Alaska and Mississippi….

What are the forces creating the best and the worst? It’s not necessarily politics, although there are more blue states at the top and more red ones at the bottom. Rather, it appears more a case of wealthier states and those willing to spend more on health care at the top, and poor states — and those, like North Carolina, bent on slashing taxes at any cost — that are on the bottom.

And one more thing: The states that can claim excellence have mostly embraced the Affordable Care Act and helped the insurance exchanges succeed. Many also have expanded Medicaid to bring coverage to more of their working poor. Those of us at the bottom saw our politicians wage an ideological jihad against Obamacare, trying to make the exchanges fail and refusing to expand Medicaid, even though they could have done it at little to no cost.

For North Carolina, the numbers show the results of that political war to make Obamacare fail. But they show more than that. They are indicative of another, older problem: Our failure to train enough doctors who are willing to set up practices in our more impoverished rural areas. The quality of health care is very good for those who live an easy ride from the Triangle and Charlotte, and nearly as good in our other metro areas. It’s in our rural areas that we see smaller hospitals on the brink of financial collapse and shortages of doctors, especially specialists….

But a big part of the job belongs to our lawmakers, who are responsible for health-care policy, spending and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or whatever comes after it. Unless we are full participants, we still will rank among the states that fail to provide the health care that residents want, need and deserve.”

News

New report: Suicide the leading cause of death in NC jails; NC worse than most states

As noted in this space yesterday, the good people at Disability Rights North Carolina are out with a new, informative, easy-to-read and sobering report on what amounts to a crisis in North Carolina’s jails. The report, which complements this week’s series in Raleigh’s News & Observer is entitled “Suicide in North Carolina Jails.” This is from the release that accompanied the report:

A report released today from Disability Rights North Carolina finds that the rate of suicides in North Carolina jails, as a percentage of all deaths in those jails, is much higher than the national average. The report concludes that regulations governing North Carolina jails are woefully lacking when it comes to identifying, protecting, and helping inmates at risk of suicide.

The report is available here: http://www.disabilityrightsnc.org/sites/default/files/Suicides_NCJails_August2017.pdf

“North Carolina does not require jails to use any of the recognized best practices for helping an inmate who has a mental health condition,” explained Susan Pollitt, senior attorney with Disability Rights NC. “We fail to require mental health screenings. We fail to keep them in safe cells. We fail to train jail staff in suicide prevention. And so, we end up with tragedies that could have been prevented.”

Disability Rights NC staff examined death reports and medical examiner reports, as well as newspaper articles and other media interviews, in order to determine the number of deaths in jails throughout North Carolina, and how many of those deaths were the result of suicide. The data show that from 2013 to 2016, 45.9% of deaths in NC jails were the result of suicide—far higher than the national average, which stood at 35% in 2014.

“Because of the lack of community mental-health services in North Carolina, people facing a mental health crisis often end up in our jails,” said Vicki Smith, executive director of the Disability Rights NC. “Ensuring the safety of people in each county’s jail is the responsibility of the sheriff, front line staff, and county commissioners. Jails must make the necessary investments into training, personnel, and equipment to provide inmates with the help they need.”

A recent article in the News & Observer—one in a series on deaths in North Carolina jails—finds that failure to adequately supervise inmates, including those who had been identified as being at risk for suicide, often contributes to deaths. The Disability Rights NC report calls on every jail to ensure they have a robust and effective Suicide Prevention Program, which should including the following: Read more

Commentary

Sobering numbers document NC’s plummeting investment in higher education

In case you missed it, the latest Prosperity Watch update from the numbers experts at the N.C. Budget and Tax Center has some troubling, if unsurprising data, on the declining commitment to higher education over which North Carolina’s conservative leaders have been presiding in recent years:

Ensuring access to an affordable college education is critical to North Carolina’s overall economy and the well-being of families and individuals across the state. Yet, while enrollment in the state’s four-year public universities – which collectively comprise the UNC System – has increased over the past decade, the cost of a college education also has increased for students and families. The result is that access to an affordable post-secondary education is increasingly moving out of reach for many North Carolina students and families.

Since 2008, total enrollment (full-time equivalent) in the UNC System has increased by more than 18,000 students. During this time period, state funding per student decreased by 14 percent, while average tuition and mandatory fees within the UNC System increased by nearly 50 percent when adjusted for inflation. Amid these diverging funding trends, public universities have been charged with serving more students, state support has eroded and the cost of a college education has steadily shifted to students and families.

As a post-secondary education has become less affordable due to significant state funding cuts to the UNC System, students and families have taken on increasing amounts of student debt in order to pursue a college education. State funding cuts, consisting of management flexibility and efficiency reductions to the UNC System, total $813 million since 2008. Management flexibility cuts give respective campuses within the UNC System discretion in how state funding cuts are imposed and are in addition to other targeted funding cuts that have been made to the UNC System since 2008.

Under the new state budget passed by state lawmakers, need-based financial aid – provided via lottery receipt dollars – remains at its 2012 funding level. Furthermore, the new budget provides no additional state funding beyond enrollment growth for student support services or programmatic needs to promote college completion.

To achieve stated goals such as increasing enrollment and graduation rates for low-income and rural students to more closely match the demographics of North Carolina, ensuring that the state’s public four-year universities have adequate resources is important. Increased state support will help ensure that an affordable college education is available to North Carolina students and families and that student support services to help meet access and completion goals are available. This will require reversing the trend of eroding state support for higher education that has occurred over the past decade.

Commentary

Two new editorials provide history lessons to GOP chief Woodhouse

As noted in this space on Monday, North Carolina GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse was way off base in an absurd weekend Twitter rant in which he attempted to link the Democratic Party of 2017 with the conservative racists who ran it in 1898 during the infamous Wilmington coup d’état. Now two major state newspapers have weighed in to provide a little extra schooling for Woodhouse.

Here’s the Wilmington Star News in this morning’s lead editorial, “Republican leader’s 1898 tweet a pathetic overture”:

“Following Woodhouse’s logic, perhaps Democrats should start tweeting about the GOP’s role in the Great Depression and the number of Republicans who opposed entry into World War II, giving aid and comfort to the Nazis. Should we blame contemporary Republicans for the burning of Atlanta and Charleston during the Civil War?

In 1898, the North Carolina Democratic Party consisted entirely of white men. The state Democratic Party in 2017 includes a large number of African Americans. In fact, more than 80 percent of black registered voters in North Carolina are Democrats.

In the 1960s, with Democrats like John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Terry Sanford supporting civil rights, and the attraction of Barry Goldwater and the GOP’s Southern Strategy, white Southerners began to exit the Democratic Party. Most black voters have long since pledged allegiance to the Democrats.

We’d suggest that if Tar Heel Republicans want to make inroads among black voters, they not only disavow these type of antics, but also stop pursuing voting limitations that disproportionately affect African-Americans, and draw election districts that can at least pass the muster of the courts.”

And here’s today’s Greensboro News & Record in “The hurt of history”:

“Yet, people and institutions can change, for better or worse. That’s why state Democrats wanted to ‘celebrate how far we’ve come.’ The country and the Democratic Party have progressed since 1898, when a racist insurrection in Wilmington was not opposed by the state or federal government and no one was punished for dozens of murders and the destruction and outright theft of homes and businesses.

If this history is unknown to anyone today, or sounds incredible, one reason is that the Democratic Party turned around so dramatically. After the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 under Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, many white, Southern Democrats felt betrayed. Some left their party and joined the other party — notably including Jesse Helms, who would be elected to the U.S. Senate five times as a Republican. They were replaced by newly registered black voters. The Democratic Party became the more progressive and more diverse of the two — and no longer the dominant party in the South.”

Public apologies are something Woodhouse has had a fair amount of experience with in recent years. Let’s hope he gets in some more practice soon.

Commentary

Policy issues impacting NC seniors the subject of August 15 luncheon

Please join us August 15 for a very special Crucial Conversation –

The silver tsunami: What’s on the policy horizon for North Carolina’s seniors?

Click here to register

In one of the brighter and underreported developments of the 2017 legislative session, North Carolina lawmakers took some important steps to secure consistent, quality care for seniors. Among the important accomplishments:

  • Providing a long overdue increase in the Medicaid reimbursement rate for homecare workers,
  • Paved the way for the appointment of a joint subcommittee on aging, and
  • Passed legislation to improve the regulation of adult care homes.

These efforts represented important steps in the right direction towards a future in which North Carolinians can age with dignity.

Needless to say, however, there’s a lot left to do. The projected growth of North Carolina’s senior population will have serious impacts on the state’s budget, workplace needs and economy well into the 21st Century.

Join us to celebrate the progress on senior issues during this year’s legislative session and to hear from the following aging, labor and economics experts about the policy choices and controversies that lie ahead:

Mary Bethel, President of the North Carolina Coalition on Aging

Bill Lamb, President of Friends of Residents in Long-Term Care (and former Associate Director of the Institute on Aging)

Charmaine Fuller-Cooper, Associate State Director of Advocacy for NC AARP

Ana Pardo, Campaign Coordinator for the NC Justice Center Workers’ Rights Project

Mary Bethel

Bill Lamb

Charmaine Fuller-Cooper

Ana Pardo

 

 

 

 

Don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about this important and timely subject and to become a part of the solution.

When: Tuesday, August 15 at 12 noon – Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Click here for parking info.

Space is limited – preregistration required.

Cost: $15, admission includes a box lunch. Scholarships available.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com