North Carolina editorial roundup

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:


June 21

StarNews of Wilmington on a state prescription drug law:

As a deadly epidemic of illegal opioid use plagues our state, the North Carolina General Assembly wisely has broadened access to the prescription drug that can reverse overdoses.

Senate Bill 734 was signed into law Monday by Gov. Pat McCrory, and provides a standing order for pharmacies to dispense the drug to people who believe they may need it to help someone at risk of overdosing on prescription opioids and also heroin.

The common-sense law, which passed unopposed in both legislative houses, also protects those who prescribe or administer the drug from criminal and civil liability.

We previously noted in this space that we witnessed the drug save the life of an elderly relative whose prescribed amount proved too much. Even when legally prescribed and properly dosed, opioids can sometimes prove deadly. In our case, it was a paramedic that administered the life-saving antidote. Now, most anyone who has a legitimate reason can keep naloxone on hand.

We remain in the grips of an opioid epidemic, and there is much more the legislature, Congress and health care providers need to do to end it. But this is a big first step in making the epidemic less deadly.

Our legislators and governor should be commended for passing this provision, becoming only the third state in the nation to do so.

We think North Carolina has set a good example.



June 22

News & Record of Greensboro on legislation regarding juvenile offenders:

North Carolina is one of two states where 16-year-olds charged with crimes are considered adults. New York is the other.

North Carolina and New York have been left behind as other states have raised the age of adult responsibility to 17 or 18. There are good reasons to follow, but the N.C. Department of Public Safety isn’t waiting for lawmakers to act. It is taking important steps to provide age-appropriate correctional strategies for young offenders.

This isn’t a matter of treating anyone with kid gloves. Rather, it’s making a better effort to divert youngsters from possible lives of crime — while making the state safer in the long run and saving taxpayers’ money.

Last week, the state prison system announced it will end the practice of putting 16- and 17-year-old offenders in solitary confinement as punishment for infractions. The language used by W. David Guice, commissioner of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice, to explain the decision was not what many people would expect:

“The mental health, medical, educational, social, spiritual and emotional needs of these youth are numerous and complex. It is important that while these youth are in our care, their unique needs are accurately identified and addressed in the most effective way possible.”

This may sound strange, given the serious crimes, including murder, committed by some young offenders. They’re usually viewed as being locked away, justifiably so, and not put in the “care” of prison officials. Their “unique needs” don’t arouse the sympathies of the public.

Yet, something significant has happened in those other states that have decided to leave young offenders in the juvenile justice system for a year or two longer: They’ve done a better job of rehabilitation, reducing recidivism. When 16- and 17-year-olds enter the adult system, which stresses punishment, they are more likely to return again and again.

Some 70 offenders younger than 18 are housed at the Foothills Correctional Institution in Morganton. The facility is structured to maintain sight and sound separation from the older inmate population. New programming will put more emphasis on education, behavioral health treatment, life skills development and family and community rehabilitation work, officials say.

Some young offenders have to serve sentences that will keep them in prison well into adulthood. But the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that, for reasons based on developmental science, young offenders should be held to a different standard of culpability. Even a murderer who’s younger than 18 cannot be sentenced to death or even life without the possibility of parole except in extraordinary circumstances.

North Carolina someday may change its law so that most 16- and 17-year-old offenders are handled in the juvenile criminal system with its emphasis on rehabilitation. Until then, it’s wise for prison officials to do what they can to save misguided youngsters from more mistakes.



June 13

The Daily Reflector of Greenville on protecting a state health care law:

Pitt County legislators should act quickly and decisively to make sure the N.C. General Assembly supports the state’s Certificate of Need (CON) law in the face of strong efforts to remove it.

Protecting this health care law while improving it to be more responsive to current economic challenges is the right approach for Pitt County’s legislative delegation.

Some among the local delegation are overly sympathetic to some physicians and conservative activists who support a bill that the N.C. Senate is advancing to end the state’s CON regulations within five years.

Be aware: They are counting on this bill staying under voters’ radar.

North Carolina’s Certificate of Need law prevents private single-specialty medical service providers, who have no obligation to serve the poor and underinsured, from offering the same profitable specialty services — most notably, ambulatory surgery centers and free-standing imaging centers — that rural-based hospitals like Vidant depend on to offset losses experienced from treating people who are unable to pay for emergency room or trauma care.

Laws authorizing such programs are one mechanism by which 36 state governments currently seek to reduce overall health and medical costs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Republican Sen. Louis Pate of Mt. Olive, who represents Pitt County and co-chairs the Senate Health Committee that is hearing the activists’ case for ending the CON law, has himself been ideologically opposed to the law for several years. Republican Rep. Susan Martin of Wilson has previously echoed Pate’s preference for unfettered competition.

Both delegates are restrained from joining the conservative tide only by the thread of certainty that without CON protection, Vidant, and its care partners at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine would face a virtually insurmountable threat as the region’s primary economic engines.

Pitt County Rep. Greg Murphy, a Greenville urologist and also a Republican, takes an approach his colleagues should follow. He doesn’t support the proposed bill and agrees with the need to protect hospitals like Vidant and the medical school that serve a disproportionately poor population. But he also believes the CON law needs to be revisited during this time of needed cost containment.

“Most folks will agree not every hospital should have a cardiac surgical program and that hospitals that can justify the results should have a cardiac surgical program,” Murphy said.

However, requiring a certificate to provide beds for psychiatric patients seems excessive when the state has a shortage of openings, he said.

Hospitals that receive CON protections should demonstrate genuine need and meet the highest standards of excellence in care and service.

The Certificate of Need law represents the life, health and economy of eastern North Carolina. Local voters should personally make sure their local elected officials know that when they examine possible changes to this law.


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