Health care issues are extremely important concerns for North Carolinians.
We all want our families and loved ones to be healthy and strong. As government officials, it is our job to help make sure you have the options and care you need. Legislators serve on several interim committees focused on health care issues. These committees range in scope from public health service to licensing midwives.
Thank you for allowing me to share this information with you. Please let me know if I can help you in any way.
Joint Study Committee on Autism Spectrum Disorder and Public Safety
The Joint Committee on Autism Spectrum Disorder and Public Safety studies ways to better train and educate public servants to deal with autism-specific situations. The committee focuses on educating first responder units, public safety personnel, judges, magistrates, district attorneys, and other related organizations.
Recently the committee has discussed lowering the age for the Silver Alert System to include autistic children who may be excluded from the Amber Alert System. The Silver Alert System in the North Carolina Center for Missing Persons disseminates information about missing persons with dementia or some other cognitive impairment. This system will work in cooperation with broadcasters and the Department of Transportation. A new law (HB 38) expands the number of people who can request the alert. Caretakers at a care facility are now authorized to request the alert. Emergency medical workers can also assist in the search for missing persons suffering from cognitive impairments.
Joint Legislative Health Care Oversight Committee
The Joint Legislative Health Care Oversight Committee studies the delivery, availability and cost of health care in North Carolina. Yesterday the committee met and discussed healthcare access.
Committee members heard presentations from representatives of The Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association, the North Carolina Healthcare Information and Communications Alliance and the Association of Community Pharmacists.
The committee discussed using other providers of healthcare such as clinics in retail stores, workforce development issues, and ways technology can improve access to health care.
Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services
The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services reviews the development, financing, quality of service, and delivery of mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse services. The committee discussed the increase in length of hospital stays. In recent years, local management entities (LMEs) received money to develop crisis service plans used to reduce stays in hospitals.
Committee members have spent time reviewing monthly system indicators, a workforce development initiative, and the Mercer Report. Mercer Government Human Services Consulting conducted a five-month study of the state’s LMEs. Overall, seven of the state’s LMEs performed above average, 13 were average, and five were below average. One of Mercer’s major recommendations is that the state maintain the LME structure with less than 20 LMEs.
Piedmont Behavioral Health Care LME (PBH) gave a report on its 1915 b (substance abuse) and c (developmental disabilities) Medicaid Managed Care Waiver. The LME has been able to invest Medicaid savings in other areas. PBH has also been able to manage care, create financial incentives, and develop medical plans appropriate for its surrounding population. Three other LMEs (Guildford, Mecklenburg, and Smokey Mountain) will begin the process for approval of these waivers.
The committee has completed a draft of its report detailing each of its meetings and its recommendations for the General Assembly.
Public Health Study Commission
The Public Health Study Commission studies whether or not county and district health services meet residents’ needs, workforce and facility needs for each area, and standards for maintaining those facilities. The commission also proposes a funding plan for public health care facilities and studies small counties’ ability to meet core public health functions.
The commission is divided into four subcommittees to better study different areas of public health. These subcommittees are Strengthen Core Public Health, Chronic Disease and Injury, Healthy Children and Families, and Communicable Disease and Preparedness.
The commission’s finalized report can be found at the Legislative Library or at http://www.ncleg.net/LegLibrary/. The report includes a summary of the commissions’ meetings, recommendations for the General Assembly, and draft legislation.
Select Committee on Licensing Midwives
The Select Committee on Licensing Midwives has been discussing whether or not North Carolina should create a procedure for licensing midwives. Nurse midwives are not certified to perform home births. While Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) are certified to do home births, 96 percent of labors done by CNMs are hospital births. The North Carolina Nursing Board oversees CNMs.
Committee members heard presentations from people and groups opposed to licensing mid-wives including the North Carolina Medical Society, the North Carolina OB/GYN Society, and the Brody School of Medicine Department of OB/GYN. Opponents of licensing midwives were concerned about the health of the women and babies, a lack of equipment, and the dangers of complications. Some people simply feel it is important to have a physician monitor the mother and baby’s health.
The committee also heard from groups supporting licensing midwives including representatives from the NC Friends of Midwives, the Asheville Area Birth Network, the North American Registry of Midwives, and a professor from ECU’s College of Nursing who helped develop the certification in Tennessee. Supporters claim that since home birth is an option in North Carolina, the state should license midwives to protect mothers and babies. There is no way to know how many home births are actually performed in the state without licensure. It also costs less to give birth with a midwife. Supporters note that CNMs undergo significant training and screen heavily so that they don’t take on women that are high risk.
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As I’ve said many times before, I hope you will continue to let me know how you feel about the issues that are being debated by the North Carolina Legislature and the challenges you and your family are facing each day.
By working together, we can make Northampton, Vance and Warren Counties and all regions of North Carolina a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Please remember that you can listen to each day’s committee meetings and press conferences on the General Assembly’s website. Once on the site, select “audio,” and then make your selection — Appropriations Committee Room or Press Conference Room. You can also use the website to look up bills, view lawmaker biographies and access other information.