Don’t miss the next N.C. Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon:

Closing the health coverage gap for North Carolinians living with substance use disorders
Featuring Dr. Lonise Bias of the Len and Jay Bias Association and Jeff Matkins of Insight Human Services.

Click here to register

North Carolina, along with every other state, has an unprecedented opportunity to expand health coverage to its most vulnerable residents. Currently, 30 states plus the District of Columbia have broadened Medicaid eligibility with financing available from the Affordable Care Act. So far, legislators in North Carolina, along with the Governor, have blocked these federal funds from expanding access to health care, boosting the state’s economy and bolstering rural hospitals.

Closing the health insurance coverage gap in North Carolina would provide better access to medical services and treatment for 500,000 working poor families. Many of the people locked out of the system have treatable, chronic diseases. An estimated 150,000 are living with substance use disorders. Millions in our state are in long-term recovery from addictions and need ongoing support to remain healthy.

Join us as we discuss these and related issues with two very special experts on the subject:

Dr. Lonise Bias

Dr. Lonise Bias is the Founder and President of the Len and Jay Bias Foundation. Through her pain at the loss of two sons, Dr. Bias has created youth and family programs to reclaim the community and has inspired thousands. She will share her story with us about her son, Len Bias’ tragic death of cocaine intoxication in June 1986 just two days after being drafted by the Boston Celtics.

Jeff Matkins

Jeff Matkins, Chief Operating Officer of Insight Human Services (formerly known as the Partnership for a Drug Free NC), works with colleagues in 60 counties to provide substance use prevention, intervention and treatment. Jeff will discuss how sound policy decisions such as Medicaid expansion would help provide access to care and improve the lives of thousands of North Carolinians.

Click here to register

When: Monday, November 30, at 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)

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: Thanks to a generous donor, admission is FREE and includes a box lunch. Donations, however, are welcome.

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or

Click here to register

Women in criminal justice

Image: American Civil Liberties Union

On Tuesday, a bill was proposed in the Senate that would make it a criminal offense for a woman in North Carolina to use drugs while pregnant. The bill, sponsored by Senator Brent Jackson and Senator Louis Pate, would permit a woman to be charged with assault if she uses an illegal narcotic while pregnant and her child is born addicted to or harmed by the drug.

The problems with this bill are numerous.

First, it is obvious that pregnant women who suffer from a drug dependency are less likely to seek prenatal care when they are threatened with prosecution. Studies have shown that prenatal care substantially improves birth outcomes even for pregnant women who continue to use drugs during their pregnancies.

Second, drug dependency is a recognized medical condition that must be treated with proper medical care. Under the threat of prosecution, pregnant women will be less likely to be forthcoming with their doctors about their drug use which will prevent them from getting the help they need and which could negatively affect both the mother and child.

Third, there is evidence that criminalizing drug use during pregnancy would disproportionately affect minority and low income women. Poor women and women of color are more likely to live in areas where they don’t have access to treatment facilities or proper medical help and therefore more likely to be unable to get the help they need during pregnancy.

The only defense to prosecution provided by the bill is for a woman to enroll in an addiction recovery program prior to the birth of the child, remain in the program after delivery and successfully complete the program. In reality, this is often not a viable option for a pregnant woman.  Many treatment programs won’t accept pregnant women or aren’t set-up to adequately meet their needs. Also, particularly in rural areas, there often aren’t treatment centers close by. If legislature really wants to help pregnant woman overcome drug addictions, they should introduce a bill that would provide easy access to helpful and effective drug treatment centers.

Currently, it appears that Tennessee is the only state to have such a law on the books. (A bill was introduced in Oklahoma this month). A week after the Tennessee law went into effect, a woman was arrested for smoking meth. She is now in county jail and could be incarcerated for up to year. Criminalizing drug use during pregnancy has done nothing to help her overcome her addiction or protect the health of her baby. Instead, the state has just added one more person to criminal justice system.

If the ultimate goal is promote healthy pregnancies and healthy babies, this bill is not the answer.


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