Short Session – Short Indeed!

Short and fast is the best description of the General Assembly's Short Session. This is an important time for North Carolinians as our represe ntatives rush to wrap up their work for the year, and particularly this year with rumors of a Blue Wave in November.

With the prospect of losing their super majority control of one or both houses, legislators have proposed i mportant changes to our constitution, elections, consumer rights, tax laws and medical care making proposals public hours, or even minutes, before legislators start voting on them.

In hopes of cramming legislation through, bills are breezing through the halls of the General Assembly and it's nearly impossible to keep up with them all. Although, we at TEA are trying. To understand constitutional amendments read Rob Scholfield's analysis in NC Policy Watch and Stronger NC breakdown. In the meantime, h ere are some items important to our work:

As TEA has been tracking, S99 , the amended state budget passed and went to Governor Cooper who swiftly vetoed the bill and made a statement "I will not sign my name to a budget that protects corporations and the wealthy at the expense of schools and students".

Senate Republicans were quick to vote down Governor Cooper's veto by a 34-13 vote. The House voted 73-44 to override Cooper's veto and pass the budget. It goes into law despite Cooper's objection.

S99 currently still includes:

  • $10 million in grants for mental health professionals including school nurses
Governor Cooper’s budget by contrast expands funding by $40 million, which would allow school districts to hire an additional 531 instructional support personnel ( school nurses, psychologists, and counselors).
  • $3 million for mental health training for school staff
  • $2 million for nonprofits who work with students in crisis

Here's NC Health News' analysis of this year's budget compared to last year's.

The HOPE Act
TEA previously reported on this bill, framed as C hapter Two in NC's response to the opioid epidemic. Chapter One was Stop Act . The HOPE Act proposes to allow local law enforcement access to the NC Controlled Substance Reporting System and modifies sentencing specific to opioid possession.

The bill passed after long and heated debates on civil liberties concerns. Two Representatives raised particular concerns about the reach of this bill and APNC thanked them for advocating in this way. Reps. Reives (D-Sanford) and Speciale (R-New Bern) both highlighted concerns about the impact of broad access to the CSRS on the privacy of patients. Reives suggested an amendment that would require a judge to issue a warrant for access which Speciale supported although it was shot down.
The question is, does this bill address that problem? For the most part it does, but it oversteps itself when it allows the government to look at private records without a warrant.” Speciale stated.

Many advocates attended an earlier hearing of the House Health Committee in early June and our friend John Markham spoke in opposition to the bill and in support of recovery funding. Advocates were pleased with the removal of the new criminal offense: Death by Distribution of Certain Controlled Substances

Both TEA and APNC Executive Director Donald McDonald were cited in an interview with North Carolina Health News .

IVC Bill
This bill passed under close observation by mental health patient advocates. Its purpose is t o revise laws pertaining to involuntary commitment in order to improve the delivery of behavioral health services in NC.

Regressive Tax
TEA previously reported on proposals to cap state income tax. This proposal would cap the tax rate at 5.5% challenging state officials to fund core services and increasing sales and property taxes disproportionetly affecting the poor and middle class North Carolinians.

More Bills
Other bills stalled in short session include Carolina Cares (an act to expand health coverage) and Revise Marijuana Laws . With a smart prevention focus, we are keeping a close eye on any bill that may propose to legalize marijuana. In the meantime, Canada became the second country (after Uruguay) to legalize marijuana.

SIX Constitutional Amendments!
Our legislators are on break now, but they quickly passed six constitutional amendments on their way out the door. Our good friend Kay Castillo with NASW-NC wrote the following constitutional amendment wrap-up for our sister association's members.

At the Federal level a comprehensive Opioid package has been under consideration. See what's included and see section analysis of the Opioid Crisis Response Act here. Senate Appropriations committee approves FY19 Health Spending Bill . House Appropriators Approve Health Spending Plan for FY19 .
Advocacy 101 and Partnerships

We are pleased to announce the release of NC Child's report entitled: The Child Welfare Impact of the Opioid Epidemic. The organization partnered with APNC to use accurate and non-stigmatizing language in their groundbreaking report. The premise is simple: if we are concerned about the number of children entering NC's foster system due to parental drug problems, provide access to treatment and recovery supports to those families.

From NC Child's Media Advisory

Donald McDonald, executive director of Addiction Professionals of North Carolina, a statewide membership organization representing the interests of addiction professionals, described the importance of health insurance for those struggling with addiction.

“Addictions specialists see individuals daily who want to recover, but who don’t have access to adequate and appropriate services. We know what causes substance use disorder and we know how to treat it and we know people get better than well. But only 1 in 10 get the help they deserve. Meanwhile, drug overdoses have doubled since 2010. Closing the health insurance coverage gap would unlock the full spectrum of addiction care–prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery–which could make a substantial difference as we work to help North Carolinians find freedom and wellness,” said McDonald.

“Substance use disorder is a tragic disease that can tear apart families and leave children without stable, nurturing homes. The opioid epidemic is driving this crisis to a new level in our state,” said Whitney Tucker, research director at NC Child.

“Closing the health insurance coverage gap won’t end the opioid crisis, but it’s a powerful strategy that we can implement immediately to help thousands of uninsured parents get the treatment they need to keep their families together,” said Tucker.

Download the final report here. Read more details of NC Child’s priorities here.


As you continue in your advocacy goals, remember these actions to be most effective:

  • Remind yourself of our Policy Advocacy Core Values;
  • Take the time to find out who represents you and how to reach them; 
  • Keep up to date on the NCGA legislative calendar here;  
  • The NCGA broadcasts live, real-time audio of the daily House and Senate sessions, press conferences in the Press Conference Room, and meetings held in the Appropriations and Finance Committee Rooms. Click here to listen in;
  • Revisit how bills become law so you know the different methods of advocacy along the way; and
Profile in Advocacy

I'm delighted that Kurtis Taylor, is my Profile in Advocacy this week .  Kurtis is the Executive Director of
Alcohol Drug Council of North Carolina (ADCNC) and the Vice Chair of the Substance Use Disorder Federation and a man living in long term recovery.

1.        Advocate, from Latin advocatus means "one called to aid (another)”. What moves you to aid others in this way?
I am excited to aid others because I am deeply grateful for the aid that I have received. As a person in long-term recovery, I know how important it is to have people in your life that support you when you need it most.

2.        What’s the single most important character trait that makes an effective advocate?
The single most important character trait that makes an effective advocate is to possess an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude drives me and helps me to maintain an appropriate perspective and outlook on life.

3.        Share with us an advocacy story from your work – one in which you are most proud or where you learned the most.
I was asked to come to a hearing in Federal Court to testify as a character witness for a gentleman that was facing some very serious charges. I was able (with great enthusiasm) to lend endorsement to this man’s recovery program and the person that he had become. Based largely on my testimony, this man was allowed to go free. Since then, he has helped countless individuals in their recovery journey. He started a program that supplies citizens returning home from incarceration with toiletries and basic necessities, as they move into transitional housing. Because he was free, he was able to witness the birth of his precious baby daughter and he is now married to a wonderful woman that also advocates for others. This particular opportunity to “aid another” excites me, because the life of his entire family was positively impacted, and now he is positively impacting the lives of so many others. 

4.        When you look back, how will you measure your success as an advocate?
Have I helped others to be successful? Have I spoken-up for those unable to speak for themselves? Have I played a part in making sure that people seeking long-term recovery from substance use disorder have more options and more opportunities to live full and productive lives?

5.        Tomato-based or vinegar?
Tomato-based (DEFINITELY)

If you have suggested topics for Advocacy 101 or know someone we should feature in Profile in Advocacy , do let me know.

BTW, ADCNC will be throwing the 1st Annual Anne Doolen Visionary Awards Luncheon Thursday, August 2nd. This event will recognize the strong work of NC's advocates, while raising funds to continue ADCNC's invaluable mission. Please visit to learn more.

Until next time,

Kathleen Lowe, MSW
Policy & Advocacy Specialist
Partners in Action

1 in 5 personally knows someone addicted to opioids
The Hill reported that a new s urvey by The Federal Reserve included for the first time questions related to opiods. The Reserve's annual report on the economic well-being of U.S. households found that white adults were twice as likely to be personally exposed to opioid addiction as black or Hispanic adults. 

Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics transforming opioid addiction treatment access.
National Council report highlights how CCBHCs are filling in the gap of treatment.

They are also mapping out their 2019 presentations and have issued a call for presentations.

SAMSHA releases call for State Opioid Response Grants - Deadline August 13,2018 and its FREE Opioid Overdose toolkit.
In the News

Feds Release Parity Enforcement Tools .

FDA nationwide recall of Naloxone injections.

Opioid Deaths rate tens of thousands worse than originally thought study finds.

New Netflix Documentary Recovery Boys explores life in recovery.

Alerts & Calls to Action

Close the Coverage Gap!

North Carolinians must speak with one voice when lawmakers return for regular session. Close the Coverage Gap is our clarion call. Every family experiencing substance use disorder deserves immediate access to adequate and appropriate treatment and recovery support services. Let us repeat: Every family experiencing substance use disorder deserves immediate access to adequate and appropriate treatment and recovery support services! Broadly expanding health insurance coverage will help save more lives and help more people find wellness.

Care4Carolina is an organization working to expand access to quality healthcare. They outline the coverage gap and importance here .
Supported in part through funding from the NC Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services via the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant at the Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services Administration.
APNC, a proud affiliate of NAADAC, represents the interests of over 8,000 licensed and certified prevention, treatment, and recovery professionals throughout North Carolina. Member dues ensure that we are able to continue engaging in deliberate education and vigilant advocacy in our pursuit to empower our professionals to thrive. Consider joining APNC as an individual or organization today. Visit our web site to learn more.