Wednesday, June 27, 2007

MH Parity Makes it through Senate Health

Today we celebrate a victory long in the making. The Senate health Committee unanimously passed a version of Mental Health Parity. It is not the perfect bill, but there is a commitment and a great start to efforts that are 15 years in the making in NC. Nine major mental illness categories are covered at full parity; other mental health categories are covered at partial parity. The bill will most likely be heard on the Senate floor by the end of the week.

Congratulations to all those who worked so hard on this bill. Especially Representative Martha Alexander, her dogged determination has helped make this victory possible!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Budget......need I say more

Well, the trip went nowhere. Guess it was a good thing we did "go" before we left the house. The General Assembly has a clock for the annual budget. It runs out June 30. So, in order for the government to continue to run, a Continuing Resolution is being discussed. This will simply hold the budget as it is for another 30 days.

More to come soon...

Monday, June 25, 2007

More on the Calendar this Week!

Here is more to keep an eye on this week. This information comes from the NC Justice Center Newsletter:

House Bill 265—Establish High-Risk Pool
Scheduled for: Tuesday before the Senate Committee On Commerce, Small Business and Entrepreneurship. This bill has already passed the House with strong bipartisan support.
The Issue: Insurance companies charge excessively high premiums—often tens of thousands of dollars a year—to North Carolinians with chronic medical conditions.
This Bill: Creates a high-risk insurance pool for people who are charged excessively high insurance premiums. The premium for the pool would be 175% of what a person would pay if he were healthy. Insurance companies would contribute to the cost, which helps to prevent them from pushing sick people off their plans and into the pool.
Contact: Adam Searing, NC Health Access Coalition Director, (919) 856-2568

Scheduled for: Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Health Care. This bill has already passed the House with strong bipartisan support.
The Issue: Many health insurance plans do not adequately cover mental health services.
This Bill: Requires insurers to provide benefits for the necessary care and treatment of mental illness that are no less favorable than benefits for physical illness generally.
Contact: Adam Searing, NC Health Access Coalition Director, (919) 856-2568

Scheduled for: Tuesday before the Senate Commerce Committee.
The Issue: Many low-income households who wait years to receive Section 8 rental assistance cannot find landlords to accept the assistance.
This Bill: Amends NC’s Fair Housing statute to prohibit discrimination against households with family members who are disabled or over age 62 solely because they receive Section 8 assistance.
Contact: Bill Rowe, General Counsel, (919) 856-2177

Scheduled for: Tuesday before the House Committee on Juvenile Justice.
The Issue: The juvenile’s felony conviction can follow him throughout his life, making it difficult for him to find a job or secure housing.
This Bill: Allows certain felonies committed by people under age 18 to be expunged if certain conditions are met.
Contact: Bill Rowe, General Counsel, (919) 856-2177

Scheduled for: Wednesday before the House Commerce Committee.
The Issue: In North Carolina, 42% of the workforce lacks paid sick days and may be fired for missing work to care for sick children or elderly parents. No state or federal law exists that provides a right to sick days.
This Bill: Requires employers to allow employees to earn up to seven sick days a year that may be taken by employees to care for themselves, sick children, spouses, and parents. In addition, employees could not be fired or otherwise retaliated against for taking sick days.
Contact: Bill Rowe, General Counsel, (919) 856-2177

Calendar this week

Make sure that everyone "goes" before we leave. This week will a road trip unlike many. We have a full calendar.

Today NASW-NC will be meeting with our coalition on SB 1358 The Street Gang Violence Prevention Act. This bill has some great intent but its implementation is flawed. We will be working with other advocates as well as some allies from National organizations to find ways of redirecting this language.

Our major concern in this bill is the layering of penalties on youth based solely on their affiliation or membership.

Tuesday will be a press conference regarding NC Kids' Care. We want to push for the adoption of the House funding for NC Kids’ Care, which would extend health insurance coverage to children in families between 200%-300% of the Federal Poverty Line ($42,000-$62,000 per year for a family of four).

Wednesday will be Mental Health Parity

Thursday will be the initial meeting of the provisional licensure work group for the Professional Association Council. This critical group will be working toward finding permanent fix for the billing of provisional staff.

This is a small sample of what NASW-NC will be doing for you this week.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Honoring Heroes in the Fight

NASW-NC was honored today to participate in the annual awards ceremony Heroes in the Fight. A combined effort of Eli Lilly and the Coalition for Persons Disabled by Mental Illness (CPDMI).

This award honors community supporters, media professionals, allied mental health professionals, psychiatrists, and treatment teams for their efforts.

Congratulations to everyone. Demonstrating yet again the power of community and honoring those who make a difference.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Busy day at the building

NASW-NC had a very busy day today at the legislature. From the coalition with mental health parity, to budgetary issues, to kids issues, to professional licensure issues...

Look for legislative alerts as we progress toward the end of the budgetary process. Several issues will be debated at the last minute. The Social Work Licensure bill (SB 1090) will NOT be heard tomorrow. We had some last minute fixes that need to be made first.

Till then...same social work time, same social work station.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A good place for a discussion on reform

As the session moves into the final phase with the budget I wanted to switch gears and talk about mental health reform for a bit.

Reform has been historic in so many ways for our state. As I have been told by Division of MH/DD/SAS leadership, this is the only time a state has taken on the task of reforming it's entire system at the same time. I believe that all social workers would agree that reform has not been ideal and has not been implemented in any kind of systematic way.

One key element of reform that has and is dramatically impacting the practice venue for social work comes in the form of provisional licensure. Since this blog is public and available to non-members, I will make my blanket statements first.

1. NASW-NC has created a provisional task force looking at the issues of reimbursement and job stability for PLCSWs.
2. NASW-NC, along with a coalition of other professionals, The Professional Association Council, was able to work with the Divisions to have the H code extended another year.
3. NASW-NC is actively working with the Divisions on a permanent fix. A workgroup has been convened.

Now, I know that there are lots of varied feelings about PLCSWs. So, let's begin a dialogue.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Daily update

NASW-NC spent today working with the Professional Association Council. This council is made up of the licensed professions in NC. All of our sister professions are represented. It is a great way for us to bring issues to the fore that affect everyone.

It has been an honor to get to know these folks as we have wrestled with issues such as provisional licensure and workforce development.

We currently are convening a work group with DMA and DMH regarding the provisional licensure concerns. We are also working on issues around larger workforce development across the board.

Key to all of this is the cooperation of our colleagues and the willingness to come to the table. As an association, NASW-NC is accountable to our members. In this venue, at times, I have to set aside a "social work" only mindset and look at issues fro a larger context. It has been very helpful for me to learn more about how other professions struggle with similar issues to us.

The legislature is quite today. It is the official legislative Friday, so folks are headed out of town as quick as possible.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Thoughts on the budgetary process from a newbie

Well, the GA (General Assembly) has been quieter than normal this week. With most folks out today at the funeral of Mrs. Basnight Raleigh is calmer. NASW-NC has spent the day in coalition meetings discussing issues in the substance abuse arena.

Most folks know that NASW-NC is part of more than 40 coalitions. We work with our partners as much as we can. As natural consensus builders, by our training, we seek to bring folk together to discuss issues.

I say this because that is the crux of my concern about the budget. Yes, I am new. Yes, this is my first session as your lobbyist. BUT, it seems to me that the natural way I would go about putting together the state budget priorities would be to hear from those who have needs. I liken this to the NC family sitting down and stating what we need to do with our available funds.

I know the world is not as I think it should be. I also don't think our General Assembly has been acting much like the NC family they should. We focus on priorities that seem important while ignoring the most essential basic needs of others.

In fact, the budget has been more and more disappointing as time progresses. Perhaps, someone can enlighten me as to why it seems that investing in those most at need would be detrimental to our future credit rating.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Parity on hold for Wednesday June 13, 2007

Due to the passing of Sen. Basnight's wife, Sandy, there will be no committee meetings Wednesday. NASW-NC joins the rest of NC in offering our heartfelt sympathy at this difficult time.

At this time, the Parity bill is on hold. Tentatively scheduled for two weeks out. More information will be provided as it is available.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Mental Health Parity up next week

We have learned that MH Parity will be up on Wednesday next week in Health. Please contact folks. This is a critical bill!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

HB 248 Makes it out of Aging today

In some intriguing moments today in the Aging committee, the Star Rating bill made it through with a serial referral to Appropriations. This bill would create a star rating system for Adult Care Homes and authorize studies for how evaluations would be made for those that succeed as well as those that need technical assistance in order to make it. Eventually the bill would cover other LTC facilities as well.

Congrats to Rep Bordsen D-Alamance for all her efforts. Congrats also to all the members of the committee who took such diligence with this important issue.

Particularly, Rep. Clary R-Cleveland, Gaston who made comments on the importance of this legislation.


This blog is about social work issues in NC. My name is Jack Register. I am the Director of Advocacy & Legislation for the National Association of Social Workers NC Chapter. The opinions expressed here are mine alone. While I speak for the association at times, I feel strongly that a dialogue needs to develop amongst social workers in NC.

So, let's start blogging!