School lunchesToday’s lunch links theme is: “Important subjects you can’t believe you didn’t already more about.”

Subject #1 is the the latest worrisome scoop on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. For those of you who didn’t make our September Crucial Conversation on the topic, the TPP is a secretly-negotiated trade deal to empower large corporations that many think will be much worse than NAFTA for the American public. Now, today, to continue the good news, the folks at WikiLeaks have released the secret text for the Intellectual Property Rights Chapter of the proposed treaty and spelled out numerous concerns about human rights that it may pose.

Subject #2 is a little less momentous, but might well impact the lives of folks you know in the near term; it concerns the already well-down-the-road plans to completely overhaul the venerable GED test. As the NC Justice Center’s Sabine Schoenbach reports this morning in this new policy brief, the changes will be significant — a new format, new computerization and higher fees to name three — and could leave a lot of North Carolinians behind absent thoughtful action.

Subject #3 is one you probably could’ve guessed at, but about which it’s still good to be reminded — namely, the amazing mythology about the supposed benefits of the conservative “education reform” agenda. Read More


North Carolina’s Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos announced an initiative yesterday to address how mental health and substance abuse is handled across the state, and how best to avoid using emergency rooms and jail cells as regular treatment options.

“We will ask this coalition to assess our existing structure in the state and recommend possible policy changes to help break down the barriers to care for our patients,” Wos said, according to the Associated Press.

But it appears the state agency already assembled a coalition and launched a similar effort two years ago, when DHHS released a comprehensive action plan to lessen behavioral health stays in local emergency rooms.

Read More


The state’s health and human services agency launched an effort today for what it hopes better helps those dealing with mental health or substance abuse crises.

The “Crisis Solutions Initiative” announced Thursday morning by DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos wants to stem the emergency room visits by those suffering from mental health issues, and instead steer them to community resources. DHHS estimated that there were 150,000 visits to emergency rooms in the state last year for addiction-related issues or psychiatric conditions.

“With today’s announcement, we begin a focused, long-term effort to ensure that individuals and families who are experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis know where to turn for the help they need,” Wos said in a written statement. “In turn, we can begin to reduce the tremendous burden that these issues place on hospital emergency departments and law enforcement.”

The initiative is in the planning stages, according to a DHHS news release.

From the news release:

As a part of this initiative, a Crisis Solutions Coalition will be created to address the inefficiencies that currently exist surrounding crisis services in the state. Secretary Wos has charged Dave Richard, director of the DHHS Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disability and Substance Abuse Services, with leading this coalition. Patient advocates, along with leaders from healthcare, government, and law enforcement communities will be invited to join the coalition to help:

  • Recommend and establish community partnerships to strengthen the continuum of care for mental health and substance abuse services.
  • Promote education and awareness of alternative community resources to the use of emergency departments.
  • Make recommendations related to data sharing to help identify who, when and where people in crisis are served, and what the results of those services are.
  • Create a repository of evidence-based practices and provide technical assistance to Local Management Entities/Managed Care Organizations (LME/MCOs), law enforcement and providers on how to respond to crisis scenarios.
  • Recommend legislative, policy and funding changes to help break down barriers associated with accessing care.
  • Assist with the creation of LME-MCO Local Business Plans to provide a road map for mental health investments in the community.



One of the most frustrating parts of the General Assembly’s ongoing move to renege on the Dix Park deal has been the out-of-the-blue concern that has materialized from conservatives for persons with mental illness. After working for years to underfund and privatize essential services (often, admittedly, in tandem with shortsighted Democrats), all of a sudden, these folks are desperate to sell off Dix for condos to get money to fund services for persons in need.

Conservative State Rep. Jim Fulghum of Raleigh wrote a letter to Raleigh’s News & Observer over the weekend, however, protesting that he was no Johnny-come-lately to the cause of helping people with mental illness and that he both supported the Dix park and somehow restructuring the lease to help persons with mental illness. Let’s hope he’s sincere.

The problem, of course, is that even sincerity of this kind isn’t gonna’ solve the state’s mental health challenge. As veteran lobbyist Paula Wolf noted in a “letter” to Fulghum on her “Paulatics” blog yesterday, Read More


In case you missed it yesterday, the Charlotte Observer had a good editorial that offered: a) tempered praise for the McCrory administration’s plan to ditch the pink stripes on licenses for immigrants, and b) a big thumbs down on a legislative proposal to make it easier for people with mental health issues to obtain handguns.

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.