Thursday, January 31, 2008

NASW-NC Signs onto star rating system support letter for adult care facilities

NASW-NC was pleased to sign onto the letter referenced below in an email from Mary Bethel. The purpose of the letter was to support a star rating system for adult care homes, similar to the one already in place for child care facilities. If you would like to get involved in this issue, please contact Mary at the information listed below.

Thank each of you and your organization for signing on to the letter to the Medical Care Commission relative to the Star Rating System. FYI, attached is a copy of the letter which was presented at the public hearing this morning. Those of you who were able to attend the hearing know that Bill Wilson, my co-worker, made remarks at the hearing which mirrored the letter. He noted each group that was a co-signer and asked those present with any of the groups to make their presence known.

There were so many late signers to the letter that obtaining signatures or signature authorization from everyone was not possible. Therefore, a list of each group and their representative was indicated at the end of the letter with no signatures.

We received word after the public hearing that the NC Association of Area Agencies on Aging has also signed on to the letter. Gayla Woody, the chair of the Association, has e-mailed Nadine Pfeiffer to let her know their support for this.

The public hearing was short and sweet. There were only seven speaker, including Bill. All the speakers, with the exception of a representative of the assisted living industry, spoke in some form or fashion about the need to strengthen the rules so that consumers have access to reliable and transparent information. I can tell you from talking after the hearing with the Medical Care Commission Chair and others present at the hearing that the fact 11 (now12) organizations signed on to the letter was very impressive and made a strong statement.

The Raleigh News and Observer ran a story yesterday by their Generations reporter, Tommy Goldsmith, titled “Adult-Care Rating Plan in Dispute”. This article can be viewed at Mr. Goldsmith was at the public hearing today so there could be a follow-up article.

Again, thank you for your sign-on to the letter. If you need a hard copy of the letter or have questions about the hearing, etc. related to the star rating system proposal, please feel free to contact me.

Mary Bethel
Associate State Director for Advocacy
AARP North Carolina
225 Hillsborough St., Suite 440
Raleigh, N.C. 27603
Telephone: (919) 508-0297
Fax: (919) 755-9684

NC Aging News

The January 2008 issue of NC*Aging, the newsletter of the UNC Institute on Aging, is now available to view at

If you would like to request inclusion of your news item in a future issue, send email at any time to

Your event can be added to our events calendar at at any time regardless of the newsletter publication schedule. Send email to

Action for Children Action Alert


The U.S. House of Representatives and the President have come to an agreement on an Economic Stimulus package that is expected to reach the House floor for a vote this week. Unfortunately, the deal leaves out two effective measures that would both improve the economy and give a boost to those who need it most: increased food stamp and unemployment insurance benefits.

In 2006, food stamps helped more than 854,000 North Carolinians feed their families, and food banks around the state say demand is growing every day as food prices skyrocket and the economy slumps.

Every year, thousands of North Carolinians exhaust their unemployment insurance benefits before they can find another job.

Food stamp and unemployment insurance dollars are an efficient way to infuse money into the economy, since they are spent immediately on food and other basic households needs. The two measures together stimulate about twice as much economic activity as they would cost.

Please contact your Representatives and Senators and encourage them to include a temporary increase in food stamp benefits and a temporary extension of unemployment insurance benefits in the Economic Stimulus package.

By Phone:

Senator Burr: 202-224-3154
Senator Dole: 202-224-6342
Rep. Butterfield (1st District): 202-225-3101
Rep. Etheridge (2nd): 202-225-4531
Rep. Jones (3rd): 202-225-3415
Rep. Price (4th): 202-225-1784
Rep. Foxx (5th): 202-225-2071
Rep. Coble (6th): 202-225-3065
Rep. McIntyre (7th): 202-225-2731
Rep. Hayes (8th): 202-225-3715
Rep. Myrick (9th): 202-225-1976
Rep. McHenry (10th): 202-225-2576
Rep. Shuler (11th): 202-225-6041
Rep. Watt (12th): 202-225-1510
Rep. Miller (13th): 202-225-3032

By email:


Thanks to our friends at the NC Justice Center for providing this email contact option.

Thank you,

Action for Children North Carolina

Monday, January 28, 2008

Covenant for NC's Children Education Work Group

NASW-NC attended the Covenant for NC's Children Education Work Group today at NCAE. The group went over a proposed legislative agenda for the work group. Issues identifed of high priority are explictly endorsing HB 1366- School Violence Protection (bullying bill), corporal punishment in public schools, and suspension issues. Members of the group also mentioned working towards collecting data relevant to drop-out rates and suspension, and including Title V (absinence until marriage-only) in the proposed agenda.
The final agenda will be posted once approved by the Covenant.

NCWU Meeting

NASW-NC attended the North Carolina Women United meeting today at Interact. Speakers included representatives from Planned Parenthood of Central NC, Raleigh NOW, and IPAS. The speakers discussed issues relevant to women's rights around responsible sex education in NC, supreme court cases that affect women's employment and reproductive rights, and reproductive justice. NASW-NC will continue to serve as a member of this group, advocating for women's rights in NC. For more information about NCWU, please visit their website at

Attorney files $1 billion lawsuit

By John Stevenson : The Herald-Sun
Jan 24, 2008

DURHAM -- With a blast of showmanship and a prayer for help to "a Lord who has never lost a case," flamboyant Florida attorney Willie Gary on Wednesday launched what he styled as a $1 billion lawsuit to protect a mental-health provider from alleged harm by the Durham Center and other defendants.
The suit, filed in Durham County Superior Court, contends there is "a deception and scheme to dismantle, destroy and drive Dominion Healthcare Services, Inc. out of business."
Dominion Healthcare, with about 1,200 employees, offers evaluations and treatment to mentally ill Medicaid consumers in the Tar Heel State.
However, the company is being arbitrarily deprived of its ability to function, putting its future in jeopardy along with the lives of patients, according to Wednesday's lawsuit.
The Durham Center, which has a major hand in community mental-health services, is one of 10 named defendants. Others include the center's area director, Ellen Holliman; the Wake County Human Services Limited Management Entity; the Five County Local Management Entity; the Mecklenburg County Local Management Entity; and a firm known as Value Options.
No response was available Wednesday from the local defendants.
"We are advised to have no comment at this time," said Robert Robinson, deputy director of the Durham Center.
County Manager Mike Ruffin also declined comment.
A $1 billion figure was not mentioned in official court paperwork.
To do so would have been a violation of civil procedure in North Carolina.
State rules require that lawsuits be worded only to seek damages "in excess of $10,000," although attorneys may argue to a jury for virtually any amount.
The $10,000 phraseology was adopted years ago, largely to prevent lawsuits from being overly sensationalized.

Medicaid NPI Update

Please review article taken from the North Carolina Medicaid Bulletin – January 2008

National Provider Identifier (NPI) Seminars N.C. Medicaid will hold National Provider Identifier (NPI) seminars during the month of February 2008. Seminars are intended for providers that would like more detailed information on how NC Medicaid will be implementing NPI. New information as well as future changes will be addressed at these seminars. Providers are encouraged to attend.

The seminars are scheduled at the locations listed below. Pre-registration is required. Due to limited seating, registration is limited to two staff members per office. Unregistered providers are welcome to attend if space is available.
Providers may register for the NPI seminars by registering online at
Sessions will begin at 9:00 a.m. and end at 12:00 p.m. Providers are encouraged to arrive by 8:45 a.m. to complete registration.
Please see directions and contact phone numbers for venues.

February 5, 2008A/B Tech Community College
*Enka Campus*1
459 Sand Hill RdCandler, NC

February 6, 2008
Park Inn Gateway Conference Center
909 US Highway 70 SW
Hickory, NC

February 14, 2008
Martin Community College
1161 Kehukee Park Rd
Williamston, NC

February 19, 2008
Holiday Inn Select
5790 University Parkway
Winston-Salem, NC

February 20, 2008
Hilton University Place
8629 J.M. Keynes Drive
Charlotte, NC

February 26, 2008
McKimmon Center
1101 Gorman StreetRaleigh, NC

February 27, 2008
Coastline Convention Center
501 Nutt St
Wilmington, NC

Friday, January 25, 2008

Action for Children Updates



Raleigh News & Observer
"Gubernatorial candidates to debate Saturday"

Four gubernatorial candidates will debate Saturday.

Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, state Treasurer Richard Moore, former Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr and retired Air Force colonel Dennis Nielsen will meet at a forum sponsored by the state NAACP. Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, Salisbury attorney Bill Graham and state Sen. Fred Smith were invited, but will not attend, according to the NAACP.

The forum will be held at 3 p.m. at the Historic Union Baptist Church in Durham at the winter session of the NAACP. It is the first time the group has sponsored a debate.

"Normally candidates come by the NAACP and sometimes have an opportunity to say something or shakes hands," said Rev. William Barber II, head of the group. "But this is different."

The candidates will share the stage, answering questions about the NAACP's agenda.

Barber said the group would not be endorsing any of the candidates, but hopes to use the forum to stress civil rights and anti-poverty issues in the governor's race.

The debate will be broadcast Monday on WRAL.
"Civil Rights Group Seeks Riders for Tour"
Local Contact: Bruce Lightner, Martin Luther King Committee, (919) 834-6264,
For More Information:

Raleigh, NC --- Early this Spring 165 North Carolina citizens will journey into the deep south. Buses will leave from Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte. For the eighth consecutive year the Raleigh MLK Committee is sponsoring a bus trip to Atlanta, Selma, Tuskegee, Montgomery, Birmingham and Memphis to retrace the steps of Dr. King and other civil rights heroes.

During the trip, participants will visit the birth home of Dr. King and walk along historic "Sweet Auburn Avenue" in Atlanta and the Martin Luther King Center where his tomb rests. They will relive the experience the bravery of the people who endured "Bloody Sunday", then made the harrowing Selma to Montgomery March for voting rights, ordinary men and women who risked their lives to register Blacks to vote. Travelers will relive Rosa Park's nonviolent protest in Montgomery that inspired the bus boycott movement that helped open equal access to public facilities throughout America. Time will be spend in Birmingham and in Memphis to visit the National Civil Rights Museum and Lorrine Hotel where Dr. King was slain. This historic trip will be held April 1-4, 2008.

Tour package includes luxury bus transportation, entrance to 14 historic sites and 3 nights hotel lodging, fellowship dinner and an engraved souvenir tee shirt. Tour package is $298 per person. Citizens from any location may take the tour. There will be room for 165 riders (3 buses). Those who confirm first will be guaranteed seats. To view trip itinerary visit or call (919) 834-6264 to reserve space.

Washington Post
"Bush's Second Child Insurance Veto Stands in House"
By Christopher Lee, Washington Post Staff Writer

House Democrats failed for the second time in nearly four months yesterday to override President Bush's veto of a proposed $35 billion expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

The 260 to152 tally left backers of the legislation about 15 votes short of the two-thirds majority of lawmakers voting necessary to override the president's Dec. 12 veto. Forty-two Republicans supported the override attempt, two fewer than in the previous effort to reject Bush's Oct. 3 veto of an earlier version of the bill.

Democrats argued that the nation's economic troubles made expanding a program that provides subsidized health insurance to children of the working poor all the more important.

"With the economy taking a sour turn, now is not the time to deny the most innocent and helpless Americans -- children whose parents can't afford health insurance -- what they so desperately need," said Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Republicans pointed out that last month Congress approved enough money to fund the program, known as SCHIP, through March 2009.

"There is no child currently on SCHIP that is going to lose coverage, regardless of the vote today," said Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Tex.), the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The fight over the program turned into one of Washington's biggest political battles last year.
Winston-Salem Journal
"Kids need physical education, activity"
By Richard Reinholz

KERNERSVILLE-- With prevention efforts on childhood obesity on the rise, there seems to be some confusion between the terms of “physical education” and “physical activity.”

Many times these words are used interchangeably but in fact they differ in very important ways. Understanding the difference is critical to understanding why both are important in the development of healthy, active children.

According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, each child in the United States deserves both a quality physical education and physical activity program.

Physical-education programs are best in providing opportunities of physical education to all children and to teach them the skills and knowledge needed to establish and maintain an active lifestyle.

Physical-education teachers assess student knowledge and motor and social skills and provide instruction in a safe and supportive environment.

The association recommends that schools provide two hours and 30 minutes of instructional physical education for elementary-school children, and three hours and 45 minutes for middle- and high-school students per week for the entire school year.

However, physical education should not be compared to or confused with other physical activity such as recess, intramurals or recreational activities.

Physical activity is bodily movement of any type and may include recreational, fitness and sport activities such as skipping, jumping rope, playing soccer, lifting weights and daily activities such as walking to the mail box, riding a bike down to a friend’s house or raking leaves.

The association recommends school-age children accumulate at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day and avoid prolonged periods of inactivity.
Charlotte Post
"Booze ranks high among young: Study finds pot use rising among black youth in Mecklenburg"
By Herbert L. White

Alcohol remains the drug of choice among Mecklenburg County's children, according to a new study.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Drug Free Coalition will release the results of its annual survey at a press conference to be held in the Government Center lobby on January 18. The third annual Indicators Report seeks to raise community awareness of the nature and extent of substance use and abuse.

"With the publication of this report," said coalition Chairman Paul Friday, "for the first time we have a big picture or a trend line overview of the nature and extent of our substance use and abuse situation. The data suggest that we have made progress in some areas but major problems remain, despite the dedicated work of individuals and the many agencies struggling to make a difference."

The study indicates overall alcohol consumption in the last 30 days by middle and high school students is up from 14 to 17 percent and 32 percent are binge drinkers. Sixty-five percent of college students under 21 say they’ve drunk alcohol in the last 30 days.

Another 34 percent of students were offered, sold or given an illegal drug over the past year – significantly higher than the statewide average of 27.4 percent and the national number of 25.4 percent. Young persons can purchase alcohol about 40 percent of the time here without being asked for identification.

"These are disappointing statistics for Charlotte," says Friday, a professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at UNC Charlotte.

"Parents need to understand them, take them seriously, and be aware of what they and their children can do to counteract the situation. Everyone, including the community, has choices. The Drug Free Coalition believes that some choices are forever, so we all need to choose wisely."

Raleigh News & Observer
"MySpace to fight online predators: In New York, state attorneys general announce an accord with the Web site"
By Martha Quillin, Staff Writer

MySpace, the Internet equivalent of the coffee bar that never closes, has agreed to take steps to make it more difficult for sexual predators to find child victims through its site.

At a news conference Monday in New York City, N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper and attorneys general from across the country announced an agreement with the popular social networking site that they hope will serve as a template for others.

The agreement, nearly two years in the making, includes a promise by MySpace to help develop tools to verify the ages and identities of its users, a measure that advocates argue will prevent underage children from setting up profiles on the site and keep predators from gaining the trust of young users by posing as people they're not.

"We're joining forces to find the most effective ways to keep young children off these sites and to protect the kids who do use them," Cooper said. "This agreement sets a new standard for social networking sites that have been quick to grow but slow to recognize their responsibility to keep kids safe."

MySpace, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., claims to have more than 200 million registered users worldwide. Other changes the company said it has made or will make in the coming months include:...

Asheville Citizen-Times
"Child care centers rate higher in '07"
By Ashley Wilson

ASHEVILLE – Child care in Buncombe County just keeps getting better.

That's the conclusion of a report by the N.C. Partnership for Children that shows fully 50 percent of the county's child care centers rated four or five stars in 2007.

Child care centers are regulated by the N.C. Division of Child Development, and five stars is the top rating.

"There's a lot of work to take place, but if they are willing to do the work than they are able to reap the benefits of the four or five star (rating)," said Alissa Rhodes, a quality enhancement specialist with Buncombe County Child Care Center. "It's saying, 'Yes, I run a high quality program in Buncombe County.'"

Fifty-six percent of children enrolled in child care in Buncombe County were in these highly rated programs in 2006-07, compared with 44 percent in four- or five-star programs four years earlier.

Environment is an important part of the state's rating. A team comes in to look at areas of each program, including materials, how its rooms are organized and how long children have to wait between activities. Evaluations are done every three years, unless a center requests one sooner.

Centers also receive a higher rating if all their teacher assistants have at least an associate degree and teachers a bachelor’s degree.

Rhodes works with Buncombe County day care centers on these issues in an effort to establish goals and achieve higher ratings. She also helps them maintain those standards after the ratings have been handed down.

"If they have a higher star rating, presumably the quality is higher, which means children are being better cared for and families are getting the support they need and children are getting ready to enter school," said Amy Barry, program manager of Smart Start of Buncombe County, which the N.C. Partnership for Children oversees.

Smart Start has been working with area child care centers to help them reach those higher standards. The program identifies early childhood needs and resources in the community and responds to those needs by developing and funding health, education and child care programs.

WNCW 88.7§ionID=2
"Poor still suffering from last recession"
By Jon Hurdle, Reuters

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Many of the poorest people in the United States are still struggling to recover from the effects of a recession that ended six years ago, making them very vulnerable as the country stands on the brink of a new downturn.

In 2006, the latest year for which Census Bureau figures are available, 12.3 percent of Americans were living in poverty, compared with 11.7 percent in 2001, the year of the last recession.

"It's unusual in an economic recovery that ... we still have poverty higher than it was in the recession that preceded it," said Sharon Parrott, a policy analyst for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank in Washington.

This shows the poor have largely missed out on the gains made when the economy was expanding, Parrott said. The recent expansion was "much stronger for the people at the top than for people at the bottom."

Few places illustrate this more readily than Philadelphia.

Mattie McQueen, 43, put off paying her phone bill in December so she could afford a few Christmas treats for herself and her 1-year-old granddaughter, who lives with her.

"You've got to rob Paul to pay Peter," she said.

By holding on to the $162 that she owed the phone company, McQueen, a resident of South Philadelphia, was able to buy turkey, chicken, collard greens, and a few toys for her granddaughter, Mayliyah.

Without the budget adjustment, it would have been a cheerless Christmas dinner.

Below Poverty

McQueen, who is diabetic and unemployed, lives on welfare payments of $637 a month from the City of Philadelphia, another $102.50 every two weeks in supplementary social security for her granddaughter, and $89 a month in food stamps.

That adds up to an annual income a little over $11,000, well below the $13,690 set by the federal government as the official poverty level for a family of two.
Fayetteville Observer
"Prioritize: State must lure industry to impoverished county"

Robeson County has always been one of the state’s most economically disadvantaged areas. But things are getting worse.

Data released last week from the U.S. Census Bureau paint a disturbing economic portrait of a county where at least 30 percent of residents lived in poverty in 2005. And 50 percent of households have incomes below $25,000. The federal poverty threshold for a family of four in 2005 was $19,350.

The financial crisis is worrisome because lack of money exacerbates pre-existing conditions in the ailing community.

Residents, who often lack health insurance, have one of the shortest life expectancy rates in the state and the nation. The school system struggles to meet state and federal goals on a tight budget. And the county ranks high in child abuse cases.

Blame plant closings. Robeson County lost nearly 9,000 manufacturing jobs between 1993 and 2003. And while the county has gained some jobs since then, there is a major deficit.

Families dealing with the financial blows of lost jobs won’t recover soon. But, over time, the community can improve its economic forecast.

Things will immediately get better if the Lumbee tribe gains federal recognition. The long-overdue designation would make the tribe eligible for additional education, health care and economic-development opportunities, which would significantly benefit both the tribe and the regional economy. Unfortunately, recognition continues to elude the Lumbees.

Recruiting new industry is the only sure way to revive the community. But the county faces stiff competition for new business. Since most companies prefer to locate in the Triangle, the Charlotte area or the Triad, dozens of counties compete for whatever is left. And while North Carolina offers higher incentives to companies that locate in economically distressed areas, the definitions of distressed are too broad.
Charlotte Observer
"King's greatest dream remains unfulfilled: Much work remains to be done to end racism, injustice, inequality"
By Lewis Diuguid, McClatchy Newspapers

If the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had succeeded, racism, discrimination, poverty, injustice and inequality wouldn't still boldly assault the nation.

King's dream remains unfulfilled, and that's the greatest failing of the movement he led. Picking up where King left off is what people now must do as we celebrate the national holiday commemorating his birthday. He would have been 79 years old.

King was assassinated 40 years ago on April 4 in Memphis. To resuscitate the dream of the drum major for justice, each of us must take action. Some recent reports show that a lot of work needs to be done.

A study by Julia Isaacs with the Brookings Institution found that economic gains lifted many black families into the middle class following the civil rights movement.

But those gains have actually reversed for their children. The study said "a majority of blacks born to middle-income parents grow up to have less income than their parents."

Children losing ground

"Only 31 percent of black children born to parents in the middle of the income distribution have family income greater than their parents, compared to 68 percent of white children from the same income bracket," the study notes. "White children are more likely to move up the ladder while black children are more likely to fall down."Blame it on tightening affirmative-action programs, resegregation and diminished quality of education for children of color, family breakups, and discrimination and racism.

The report also said that in 2004 the median family income of blacks age 30 to 39 was $35,000, or 58 percent of the $60,000 for white families in the same age group.

Clearly the middle class of all colors has lost ground as Bush administration tax cuts have made the rich richer. But discrimination and racism stall black progress even more.

King in 1967 helped launch the Poor People's Campaign to demand jobs, better wages, a good education and other benefits for poor adults and kids of all colors. King would abhor today's wealth disparities and the shameless military spending.

The top 1 percent of Americans had income increases from 2003 to 2005 that exceeded the total income of the poorest 20 percent of people in this country, The New York Times reported, citing Congressional Budget Office data.

Fayetteville Observer
"Foster parenting requires training"
By Catherine Pritchard

Q: I’m very interested in becoming a foster parent. Who do I contact to get training and find out what I should know? — T.H., Fayetteville

A: Call the foster-care program at the Cumberland County Department of Social Services.

Its number is 677-2442.

You can also call NC KIDS at (877) 625-4371 or check

The site is operated by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. There, you can find general information about the state’s foster-care program and requirements of foster parents.

To qualify, you’d have to be at least 21 years old; have a stable home and income; be willing to be fingerprinted and undergo a criminal-records check; and maintain a drug-free environment.

You’d also have to complete 30 hours of required training and obtain a license from the state.

Foster families provide an essential service — temporary housing and care for abused, neglected and dependent children who need a safe place to live when their parents or relatives can’t take care of them. Note: Relatives may be licensed as foster parents.

More than 10,000 children are in foster care in North Carolina, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Foster families work with social workers and the child’s birth family to return the child to his own home as quickly as possible.

But in cases where the child becomes free for adoption, foster parents may be considered as adoptive parents.

Fostering doesn’t have to lead to adoption. And adoption of foster children isn’t limited to foster parents. For information about adoption of foster children, check index.html or call the NC KIDS number above.

At that Web site, you can view 177 case files of older foster children awaiting adoption.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"About second chances: Seventeen-year-olds are juveniles. So why should they be treated as adults when they commit nonviolent crimes?"

There are any number of compelling reasons why a 17-year-old who has committed a violent crime should be tried and, if convicted, imprisoned as an adult, though mitigating circumstances could intrude in cases.

But there are no reasons, compelling or otherwise, why a 17-year-old nonviolent offender who commits a minor crime should be treated as an adult. This is a recipe for turning a youthful offender into a habitual adult offender.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and Rep. Donald Friske (R-Merrill) are proposing legislation that would treat such nonviolent offenders as what they are: juveniles. Currently, a Wisconsinite who is 17 or older and who commits a crime is subject to adult trial and punishment. This bill would raise that age to 18.

This would be good for both the young nonviolent offender and for the rest of us. But don't take our word for it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report in December that found that young offenders who are tried and detained in the adult system are a third more likely to be arrested later for a crime than those youths who go through the juvenile system. The Journal Sentinel's Dani McClain reported on the study in December (

The bill deserves full Senate and Assembly approval. Unfortunately, because a new tax is involved, that is not as certain as it should be.

The bill has a high-minded ideal. If 17-year-olds are going to be imprisoned, rehabilitation should be a goal. Currently, there is not enough of this going on in the adult system for these offenders, so it's not a matter of simply transferring funds from one system to another.

Thank you,

Action for Children North Carolina

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Action for Children Legislative Update


Action for Children North Carolina is pleased to provide you with this FEDERAL legislative update.

Congress took important action on key issues before adjourning on December 19. Since the House comes back into session today (Senate returns on January 22), we wanted to recap actions taken in December and update you on what to expect in the new session.

We do not intend our updates to be this long in the future, but a lot has happened in the last month, and many of the programs we care about are up for reauthorization.








SCHIP Continued but Not Reauthorized

Despite broad public and Congressional support, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) was not reauthorized in 2007. Instead, Congress passed the Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007 (S. 2499), a stop-gap measure to extend SCHIP until March 31, 2009. The bill was signed by the President on December 29. Twice in 2007 the President vetoed SCHIP reauthorization bills that had bipartisan support and would have expanded the program to cover more children.

The Act provides sufficient funding for states to continue covering the six million children currently enrolled in the program, but it does not address the August 17th Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) directive. By effectively capping eligibility for SCHIP at 250% of the federal poverty line, which in 2007 was $51,635 a year for a family of four, this directive will have a negative impact on children’s coverage. Some states will have to curtail their programs while other states (like NC) may not be able to proceed with planned expansions. A new report issued by the Center for Children and Families gives more detail and a state-by-state impact analysis.

North Carolina enacted legislation during the 2007 state legislative session to expand coverage to children up to 300% of the federal poverty level (NC Kids’ Care). The expansion is due to be implemented in 2008, but the state will have to submit its plan to CMS for approval before it can receive federal funding for the expanded coverage. It is not yet clear what effect the directive will have on North Carolina’s expansion plans.

Next Steps in 2008: There is support in Congress to revoke the CMS directive. A letter signed by more than a dozen Senators has been sent to the Finance Committee and Senate leaders, urging Congress to repeal the directive. This issue will be a priority for advocates in 2008. Advocates are hopeful that the Medicare legislation (or some other legislation) will provide a vehicle for Congress to address the CMS directive.

In addition, a vote has been scheduled for January 23rd to attempt to override the President's veto of the latest SCHIP reauthorization bill.

US Senate Passes a Farm Bill

On December 14, after weeks of stalemate, the Senate passed the 2007 Farm Bill with nutrition provisions (Food Stamps and the Emergency Food Assistance Program - TEFAP) that closely mirror those passed by the House in July. For details on how the House and Senate bills compare, please see the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Food Research and Action Center.

Both bills:

Index for inflation and make other improvements to the food stamp program’s standard deduction and minimum benefit.
Eliminate the food stamp cap on the dependent care deduction and exempt tax-preferred retirement and education accounts from the asset limit.
Increase annual funding for TEFAP from $140 million to $250 million.
Significantly expand the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides free fresh produce to children in schools.
The Critical Difference between the two bills is that while the House bill makes the above changes permanent law, the Senate bill would end the major improvements in 2012 and policies would return to current law.

Next Steps in 2008: Farm Bill negotiators are hoping to finalize a compromise bill by February. How much funding is allocated for Food Stamps and Emergency Food Assistance, as opposed to going for other titles in the farm bill, will be decided in these negotiations. The highest priority for conference is to follow the House’s lead and make the above benefit improvements permanent.

The Farm Bill, which expired in September, has been temporarily extended several times and is currently continued until March 15.

Senate Committee Conducts Hearing on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act Reauthorization

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a December 5th hearing on the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). Senators called for increased investment in the prevention and treatment of juvenile delinquency. The Act, last authorized in 2002, assists states in addressing juvenile justice issues and provides funding for prevention. Core components include:

Keeping status offenders (minors that skip school, miss curfew, drink alcohol) out of secure confinement;
Ensuring that youth are not detained in adult facilities if they are not tried as adults;
Ensuring that youth are not exposed to adult offenders in the special circumstances when they are placed in adult facilities;
Addressing the disproportionate percentage of minority youth in the criminal justice system.
Next Steps: Without Congressional action, the act will expire in 2008.

Resources: Please see the following links for transcripts of this and other recent JJDPA hearings.

Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, December 5, 2007
House Education & Labor Committee hearing, September 2007
Healthy Families & Communities Subcommittee and House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism & Homeland Security, July 2007
Please see Voices for America’s Children for more information about the Administration’s proposal for juvenile justice funding and criticisms against it.

Please see Action for Children’s recent report on raising the age of juvenile delinquency, Putting the Juvenile Back in Juvenile Justice.

Additional juvenile justice research and policy updates are available at Act 4 Juvenile Justice.

President Signs Omnibus Appropriations Bill

Congress passed H.R. 2764, a $555 billion omnibus appropriations bill that provides funding for 11 of the 12 spending bills Congress must pass each year. (The bill funding the Pentagon’s regular budget, not including the wars, passed earlier.) In order to avoid a presidential veto of the omnibus bill, Congress trimmed overall spending in bills it had passed and added $70 billion in unrestricted funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The President signed the bill on December 26.

While disappointed that more funding was not provided for domestic human needs programs, advocates were pleased that some important programs received funding well above the President’s request. For more details on final funding levels and how they differed from the President’s proposal, please see an article and chart from the Coalition on Human Needs.

Important programs that received more funding than the President proposed include Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP), Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program (WIC), Community Services Block Grant, education for disadvantaged students, special education, job training, Section 8 housing, community health centers, Pell Grants and Head Start. No new money was allocated for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG); however, the President’s proposal to slash SSBG funding by $500 million was rejected.

Next Steps in 2008: There will likely be a supplemental appropriations bill in the spring to provide more funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such a bill could be a vehicle for additional domestic spending, as well. The fiscal year 2009 budget resolution, which will set a ceiling on FY09 appropriations, will also be considered, and the President is expected to set a low number for domestic spending and refuse to negotiate, as he did in the FY08 process. The hope is that fewer Republicans will support the President in an election year, and advocates are looking to get as high a “top-line” for appropriated programs as possible in the resolution.

President Signs Head Start Bill

On December 12, President Bush signed the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act, H.R. 1429, after it passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming bi-partisan support. Earlier the President had proposed to dismantle the program by instituting state-controlled block grants. The bill authorizes $7.35 billion in funding for Head Start in FY ’08, up from $6.9 billion in FY ’07, but this funding level is still insufficient to restore cuts made since 2002.

Next Steps in 2008: While advocates applaud the improvements in the bill, adequate funding levels will be critical to strengthening the program.

Cuts to Child Support Enforcement Still Stand

The Deficit Reduction Act, signed by the President in 2006, cut the Child Support Enforcement Program by $6.7 billion over 10 years. Despite strong bi-partisan support, Congress failed this session to reverse those cuts. States will begin to feel the greatest impact from the 2006 cuts beginning this month, as staff layoffs result in more child support dollars going uncollected. In 2006, more than 17 million children and their families received $24 billion in child support through the help of the program, which collects over four dollars in child support for every dollar it spends.

Next Steps in 2008: Efforts to restore lost federal funding will continue, bolstered by a letter of support from the National Governor’s Association.

Other Issues Upcoming in 2008

Medicaid: The Administration is expected to propose harmful regulatory changes to Medicaid in the President’s budget proposal in February. Advocates will seek a moratorium on such cuts.

EITC/ Child Tax Credit: Advocates are looking for an appropriate tax bill to pursue an expansion of the EITC or the refundable component of the child tax credit. Groundwork has been laid on these issues in both the House and the Senate, and there is some bipartisan support in the Senate to expand the child tax credit to lower income households.

Affordable Housing: The House has already passed bipartisan legislation that would improve the Section 8 housing voucher program (H.R. 1851), and the Senate is likely to consider a similar bill early this year. This reform could impact millions of families who live in public housing or use housing vouchers to rent in the private market.

Economic stimulus package: Economists are predicting a recession, and talk of tax cuts has begun in DC. If a stimulus package is considered, advocates’ top priorities would be to ensure that any tax cuts were well-targeted, temporary and progressive, and that the bill included additional resources for state fiscal relief and assistance to poor households who are most hurt by recession.

Estate Tax: Permanent estate tax reform legislation (likely a proposal for “near-repeal”) is expected to be introduced in the Senate this spring. Advocates will be working to prevent such a bill from passing the Senate and to discourage the House from taking it up, should the Senate pass it.

Thank you,

Action for Children North Carolina

MHA/NC News Release

MHA/NC News Release

Contact: Kelly Capps, (919) 866-3274,

North Carolina Candidates for Governor Address Topics in
Mental Health, Developmental Disability, and Substance Abuse

January 15, 2008 (Raleigh, NC) – Three candidates for North Carolina Governor, Richard Moore, Bob Orr, and Bill Graham, recently took advantage of an invitation from The Mental Health Association in North Carolina (MHA/NC) to sit down and meet with the organization, along with several partner organizations, to discuss the future of the mental health system in our State. So far, these three candidates have been open to discussion, asking good questions, and listening to the concerns of the mental health, developmental disability, and substance abuse community. Each has pledged strong support, more involved leadership under their Administration, and to be open to further conversation if elected.

MHA/NC hopes to see these three candidates again, along with others, at The Coalition Candidate Forum to take place Monday, February 25th, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM at the RBC Center in Raleigh, NC. All major party candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor are being invited to participate in this forum and will be given an individual time slot to address various issues relating to mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse. The forum is open to the general public.

Friday, January 11, 2008

NICS Improvement Bill (H.R.2640)

Dear Member of States United,

The NICS Improvement Bill (H.R.2640) passed the House on a voice vote last night. The House voted to accept the bill as modified by the Senate. This legislation aims to get more records on the NICS database - not only on mental health but also for felonies and domestic violence restraining orders and domestic violence misdemeanor crimes. For instance, it is estimated that right now 25% of felony records are not on the NICS system. Looking at these facts, the legislation contains some wins and Congress actually passed gun control legislation.

However, the legislation definitely contains compromises, particularly in the area for federal and state procedures to restore gun rights to those who were on NICS due to mental health issues. (See press release you received from CSGV, LCAV and VPC) Therefore, it will be important for gvp organizations to carefully monitor the implementation of the procedures set up to allow a person who had a mental health issue to get their gun rights restored.

Barbara Hohlt
Executive Director, States United
646-594-8956 cell

Moore, Perdue debate Parton theater, college tuition

Moore, Perdue debate Parton theater, college tuition
Associated Press Writer

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — The two leading Democratic candidates for governor traded accusations about a Roanoke Rapids theater and college tuition in a televised forum Thursday night that focused on the state's economy.

Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue and State Treasurer Richard Moore argued at the close of the hourlong debate. In the first half, Republican candidates Bill Graham, Bob Orr and Fred Smith gave their own answers to identical questions on the University of North Carolina television studio stage.

But Moore and Perdue's testy comments dominated the evening, as the candidates continued their back-and-forth that started last fall. The candidates want to win their May 6 primaries and ultimately succeed Democratic Gov. Mike Easley, who is barred by state law from running this year for a third consecutive term.

Perdue took the offensive on a question about illegal immigration, instead using some of her response time to criticize Moore's leadership on a state panel that approved $21 million in debt used by Roanoke Rapids to build a music theater for Dolly Parton's brother.

Financial records show that Randy Parton had spent public money on alcohol and trips to Las Vegas. He has not performed at the theater since early December, and city officials have renamed the venue the Roanoke Rapids Theatre.

"A lot of us have been watching what's going with Randy Parton's party palace," Perdue said, asking Moore to release more documents on the project. "We'd like to know the background on it. We'd like to know why the decisions were made."

Moore told Perdue that everything has been made public and that Perdue didn't have her facts straight. He criticized the lieutenant governor for failing to support Roanoke Rapids, which is trying use a new kind of financing to build its sagging economy after textile losses.

"It's just so typical of someone who has led the go-along get-along club in Raleigh for 20 years," Moore said of Perdue, who first entered the General Assembly in the mid-1980s. "Research Triangle Park took 30 years to be successful. All of these things take time."

Moore later accused Perdue of supporting tuition increases at the Legislature while pushing a "college promise" program that would help students attend college debt-free if they keep good grades, stay out of trouble and perform community service.

"It's not about making more promises, it's about making better decisions," Moore said.

Perdue responded later by referring to Moore's campaign donations from investment managers as a sign Moore was out of touch with average North Carolinians.

"Do you want a candidate from Wall Street, or do you want a candidate from Main Street?" Perdue asked to the television audience.

Earlier in the debate the three Republican candidates said they would push for lower taxes and work to enforce the immigration laws.

Smith, a state senator from Johnston County, recommended changes to help the state keep illegal immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses or voting fraudulently. He also criticized Easley and the state community college system for backing a policy allowing illegal immigrants to enroll on all of the system's campuses.

They are "picking and choosing which laws they want to enforce," Smith said. "That's not a good example for our people."

Orr, a former Supreme Court justice, remains opposed to targeted tax incentives to bring large companies to the state. He said the limited economic development money the state has should be used for work force training and create an environment of innovation.

"We paid hundreds of millions (of dollars) to bring Google to North Carolina for 200 jobs and a server farm," Orr said, referring to an incentives package in Caldwell County. "We want North Carolina to be the place where the next Google starts and grows."

But Graham, a Salisbury attorney, and Smith both believe such tax breaks can be useful in some cases.

Graham said later he wants to bring transparency to North Carolina government by installing Web cameras in the House and Senate so more people know which legislators are pushing for bloated budgets.

"We've got to do a better job and have more responsible government in Raleigh," he said.

The three GOP candidates debated even as Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory appears ready to become a late entry into the Republican race.

He filed with the state paperwork needed to raise campaign money for governor, while a leading Republican in Guilford County said McCrory told him he would announce something next Tuesday in Jamestown, where he went to high school. McCrory declined comment Thursday on his future.

UNC-TV plans two additional televised forums Feb. 7 on health care and April 24 on education.


January 10, 2008 - 11:46 p.m. EST

Copyright 2008, The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP Online news report may not be published, broadcast or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


A bipartisan House committee agreed Wednesday there's probable cause to believe state Rep. Thomas Wright participated in unethical and improper activities, an action that could lead to Wright's censure or removal from office.

By unanimous votes on all eight counts against him, the House Select Committee formally accused the Wilmington Democrat of ethical misconduct unbefitting of a member of the House, involving loans for his foundation, charitable contributions from three companies and his failure to report $185,000 in campaign contributions. Rep. Wright also faces six felony charges by a Wake County grand jury in relation to the same evidence used by Committee members to find probable cause to censure or expel him from the General Assembly. On those charges, Wright faces up to 11 years in prison. He has plead not guilty to those charges.

Listen Thursday for excerpts of the hearing at plus commentary on the outcome of the panel hearing from Chair of the Select Committee Rep. Rick Galzier (D-Cumberland), NC State University Political Science Professor Dr. Andrew Taylor, and Joe Sinsheimer, the political activist that did the initial research into Wright's campaign accounts that ultimately lead to a State Board of Elections investigation and the current charges against him.

Visit: for more information.

Friday, January 4, 2008

NASW quoted in NBC 17 article

Closure Of Mental Hospitals Delayed
Thursday, Jan 03, 2008 - 02:48 PM Updated: 07:52 PM
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The state is delaying the closing of Dorothea Dix and John Umstead mental health hospitals by 60 days.
Discuss This Story
"Part of what we're doing here is doing what executives should do and that's taking hard looks at the programs," said Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dempsey Benton said during an afternoon press conference at Dorothea Dix Hospital.
The hospitals were scheduled to close in March. Benton said the planned transition fof patients from Dix to Central Hospital will be put off from March 1 to May 1.
Benton said he intends to create new working groups of mental health professionals and advocates to review the state's treatment protocols. Patient standards, administrative guidelines, and the construction plan for Butner's new Central Hospital will all be reviewed.
Critics of the plan have argued private mental health providers are not yet in place to fill the void that would be created when the staff at Dorothea Dix Hospital is removed.
"I think we've got to get beyond wishing and make sure we've got a plan that is doable to get those community services and programs in place," Benton said.
State Rep. Verla Insko, a Chapel Hill Democrat and chair of the House Government Oversight Committee, said she was pleased Benton is slowing the transition to ensure it's executed correctly.
"I think the message is 'we want tobe sure when we close Dix,’" Insko said. "We don't want to be doing it without a clear understanding that it's going to work."
Benton also announced he is taking supervisory control of the state's 14 mental health facilities, a responsibility formerly held by the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services. Psychiatrists will receive a 5 percent raise, a move Benton said he hopes will make it easier to maintain full staff levels.
Yet the changes did nothing to satisfy North Carolina's chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, who have argued the facility restructuring will leave much of the Triangle's mentally ill population without easy access to treatment services.
"The whole sense of reform was to have services in the local community," said Advocacy Director Jack Register. "When you're in a crisis you don't need to travel five hours. It's like an emergency room, and we're not going to start placing emergency rooms a hundred miles from people's houses."

Thursday, January 3, 2008

HHS Secretary Benton makes announcement

Secretary Benton held a press conference today and stated that Dix & Umstead Hospital closings would be delayed 60 days (see the video and article on

Below is an article from N&O and the press release from the Secretary's office:

Dix to remain open 2 months longer By Michael Biesecker and Lynn Bonner, Staff Writers RALEIGH - Two state mental hospitals set to close in March will stay open at least two more months while an expert team examines problems with the hospital built to replace them.
The replacement hospital, Central Regional in Butner, has numerous patient hazards built in that could be expensive to fix.
Dempsey Benton, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, extended the lives of the two older hospitals, Dorothea Dix in Raleigh and John Umstead Hospital in Butner, until the state is sure the new hospital is safe for patients.
"Every dollar wasted is cheating the folks who count on us and the taxpayers," Benton said at a press conference this afternoon. "We have to restore the public's faith in our facilities, and in the actions today being announced I will try to do that."
In a news release sent out as the press conference began, DHHS said Benton will move the state-operated services section out of the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services to report directly to him. This section is responsible for day-to-day direction of all 14 of the state's public mental health facilities.
An advisory group will make sure the new hospital is safe and can provide effective care. Another group will look at ways to make communities better able to treat patients with mental health crises locally rather than ship them to state hospitals.
A third work group will review hospital management and operations, including protocols for violence and for placement of restraints, and administrative guidelines that can be consistently implemented throughout the state hospital system, the release said.
"I think it is welcome to engage experts and stakeholders in this discussion," said Dr. Marvin Swartz, a professor of social and community psychiatry at Duke University. Swartz was appointed to serve on two of the panels.
The agency will also launch a new Web site by the end of the month to help people better understand how the facilities operate, the release said. It will be accessible at It will include admissions and discharge data, as well as information about staff and patient injuries and patient deaths.
Legislators with an interest in mental health have pressured Benton and his department to keep Dix open because the replacement hospital is too small and because other hospitals in the state system, which would get more patients when Dix and Umstead close, have been cited by investigators for questionable care. or (919) 829-4698

Link to Secretary's press release:

NASW-NC also participated in an interview with NBC-17. This interview discussed the implications of reform and of the hospital closures.

Online PACE fundraising...from National NASW

The New Age of PACE, and of Politics
By Brian Dautch
Senior Political Action Associate

In the 2008 campaign cycle, NASW will play an important role at every level of politics through its chapter and national Political Action for Candidate Election (PACE). Many chapters are looking for reform in the governor’s mansion, state legislature, or local government. Other chapters are seeking even better circumstances in many of these same offices.

Likewise, NASW National PACE is looking to support outstanding and effective candidates in Congress as well as the White House, and to assist incumbents who have been beneficial to our cause. Now, there’s a great way for you to help your chapter and National PACE support candidates running for office: By contributing to PACE online.

To make a contribution, visit the website at Please remember that you’ll need your username and password handy in order to log in, since National PACE is only permitted to collect funds from NASW members. Your support benefits both your chapter and National PACE.

Giving literally means the difference between victory—and the election of government officials who truly value the advancement of social justice and the social work profession —and defeat. In such a closely contested election, a loss for even one NASW-supported candidate could lead to a greatly reduced ability to advance our agenda.

Help PACE advance the cause of social work by visiting and logging in to the donation page. If you prefer to donate through the mail, a form is available for you to print out and return to us. While larger contributions obviously aid us tremendously, we can make huge advances if every member gives whatever amount they can.

We appreciate your time and energy. We would love to see all of you get involved.

**As a reminder, NASW-NC receives a percentage of PACE funds donated Nationally. Please contact the chapter office with questions. JR**

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

interesting editorial on hospital closures

NASW-NC does not endorse any editorial opinion. This is information only.

update on Umstead

UMSTEAD HOSPITAL:State officials say the state mental hospital in Butner is no longer at immediate risk of losing its Medicare and Medicaid funding. In a statement released last month, state officials said that federal inspectors recently spent three days at John Umstead Hospital as a follow-up to a visit in March that uncovered serious problems. They said the inspectors gave the hospital until March 1 to address remaining issues. Investigators working on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had threatened to decertify the hospital for failure to control violence. The hospital collected more than $21 million in Medicaid and Medicare payments last year and had a $79.8 million budget.
Investigators have put pressure on all four of the state's mental hospitals to improve or risk losing federal money. Broughton Hospital in Morganton lost its federal payments in August and is on the verge of losing its national accreditation. Broughton's director was demoted this week. Dorothea Dix Hospital is in trouble for failing to fill out paperwork required to transfer patients from its admissions unit to other hospitals. It has until March to correct problems before its federal money is cut off. Debra G. Dihoff, executive director of the advocacy group NAMI North Carolina, has asked DHHS Secretary Dempsey Benton to convene a team of experts, including people from outside the state, to help improve the hospitals. An external review team "would do much to restore public confidence in our state operated psychiatric hospitals," Dihoff wrote. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 12/21/07; Lynn Bonner, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 12/22/07).