They're Back!

Legislators returned to Raleigh yesterday to start the Short Session and APNC was there.

The General Assembly meets in accordance with rules set forth in both the North Carolina General Statutes and the State Constitution. May 16th was the start of the Session and there is no statutory or constitutional requirement for when Session must end. Legislative calendar currently runs through June 26, 2018. Our hunch is that the session will move at quite a pace so that legislators can get out and campaign for the November elections. Buckle up.
Advocacy 101

While much focus has been dedicated to the plight of teachers and all things education, especially with yesterday's Red for Ed rally, the last few weeks saw a flurry of other activity with legislators and committees submitting reports to inform potential legislation for the session. Legislators who successfully navigated primary elections are ready to dig in once again.

Other items that may be on the legislative docket this short session include:

  • NC State Tax "Reform" which could impact availability of funds for certain programs such as counselors in schools. This passed the Senate and is now in the House;
  • Carolina Cares - An Act to provide health coverage to more residents in the absence of Medicaid expansion (currently HB662);
  • ABC Regulation and Reform (HB944 & SB714); and
  • Hope Act - Not yet introduced. With protections, expands local law enforcement access the NC Controlled Substance Reporting System.

who, as its name suggests, brought forth proposals to alter sentencing for opioid convictions. The Task Force was presented with a data report from RTI at its most recent meeting. APNC supports equitable sentencing reform for all drug offences, not only Opioids.

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

Of course, share with us any information you might have about policies our tribe should know about. It takes a village!
Profile in Advocacy

I'm delighted that North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition's Advocacy and Communications Coordinator Tessie Castillo has agreed to be my inaugural  Profile in Advocacy .  Tessie, a widely published writer on public health has successfully advocated for several laws to expand access to naloxone and syringe services.

She humored me by answering my 5 standard questions.

1.        Advocate, from Latin advocatus means "one called to aid (another)”. What moves you to aid others in this way?
I recognize that I come from a place of great privilege in my life. I came from a stable, middle-class home with no major childhood trauma, went to good schools, and have had many opportunities to achieve success. And even with all that, life can be very challenging. Sometimes even I feel depressed and disenfranchised. So, I just imagine how much harder it must be for people who don’t have some, or even any, of those advantages. I feel an obligation to do what I can to right the wrongs I see.  

2.        What’s the single most important character trait that makes an effective advocate?
You have to have a tough skin. You can be compassionate and hard-working and everything else, but if you can’t take heat from all sides – from people who disagree with you and even people who are supposed to be on your side – you won’t last long as an advocate. It’s not easy to fight the system.

3.        Share with us an advocacy story from your work – one in which you are most proud or where you learned the most.
I consider the legalization of syringe exchange programs to be my single greatest achievement. I remember in 2012 sitting around a conference table with a couple of NCHRC staff and Board members talking about how maybe in 10 years we would get that law passed. Then to be part of it passing just 4 years later – even I couldn’t believe it. But looking back now I can see how the strategies we used and the education and momentum we built contributed to its success.

4.        When you look back, how will you measure your success as an advocate?
I hope to measure it in the number of lives saved through naloxone distribution, the number of people whose lives have improved through participating in a syringe exchange, and the number of individuals and groups who are inspired to make change because of NCHRC’s successes.

5.        Tomato-based or vinegar?
I grew up on tomato-based BBQ but I have to say that once I tried vinegar for the first time I never went back!

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

Until next time,

Kathleen Lowe, MSW
Policy & Advocacy Specialist
In the News

Governor Cooper released his budget proposals. The Governor recognizes substance use disorders are a leading cause of unintentional death in North Carolina, and treatment and recovery services are part of the solution. His budget proposals:

·        Direct more than $9 million in community mental health funding to expand treatment and recovery services for individuals with Opioid Use Disorders.
·        Recommend that legislators provide $9.8 million to serve an additional 1,150 to 1,400 individuals through publicly funded Medication Assisted Treatment as well as alternative treatment methods and recovery support services, including recovery supportive housing.

·        Add an additional $11 million for TROSA and other treatment programs to assist in recovery-to-workforce solutions.

·        Fund seven FTE to address the increased incidences of HIV and Hepatitis C associated with the opioid epidemic.

·        Fund eight FTE to manage new State and federal dollars to address the opioid epidemic. These positions will assure appropriate utilization of these funds and monitor outcomes, allowing the state to comprehensively address the needs of individuals with substance use disorders. This recommendation is supported by Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SAPTBG) funds.

·        Continue a substance use prevention, assessment, and treatment program aimed at reducing the number of NC National Guard service members at risk for drug and alcohol misuse. Federal funding for this program ended in 2016.

·        Supports law enforcement efforts to combat illicit activities and maintain public safety by providing salary, benefits and operating support for nine additional SBI positions focused on opioids, gangs, computer crimes, and human trafficking investigations.

·        Recommends closing the healthcare coverage gap in a cost-neutral manner to the State. Medicaid expansion would cover an additional 670,000 individuals and inject over $4 billion into North Carolina’s economy annually.

Meanwhile, The Empowered Advocate has reason to believe that the NC House and Senate have been working behind the scenes to iron out their budgets before the start of session and we likely will see an agreed upon budget that might pass normal process and go into committee sooner than later.
Alerts & Calls to Action

With legislators returning to Raleigh, now is the time to use the power of your stories to promote positive change.

Together, people in recovery, family members, and allies can put a real face to this chronic illness and show elected officials that recovery is real. Show them what happens when citizens have access to adequate and appropriate treatment and recovery support services and the opportunity to thrive.

Together, we can eliminate stigma and increase resources.

SUD Policy Summit Social Media Highlights
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.