Mental Health Treatment Reform
Our mental healthcare system is broken. And for far too long, families across North Carolina have suffered the daily consequences of our state’s failure to adequately address the debilitating side effects of little to no access to mental healthcare treatment.
Mental health disorders affect 1 out of every 5 adults and 1 out of every 10 children in North Carolina. Mental health issues do not discriminate based on gender, race, or wealth. Whether it’s the result of a lack of access to insurance coverage, the lack of infrastructure and ability to travel to a treatment center or the failure of our system to provide long-term treatment options, only about half of those who suffer from mental health disorders receive treatment services. This is unacceptable. The harsh truth is that our current system does not provide families with access to the assistance they need. As a result, far too many of our loved ones are left alone in the dark fighting to survive and cope. This is not a singular issue that is unique to some of us, it is an epidemic that affects all of us.
If you elect me to the North Carolina Senate, one of my top priorities will be to focus on fixing our broken mental healthcare system. That means creating more community programs and providing local mental healthcare providers the resources they need to adequately serve their community. We must address mental health reform at every level of our government. Our loved ones deserve better, and if elected, I will make sure we do better for them.
I find it unacceptable that North Carolina has failed to protect some of its most vulnerable residents. Over 600,000 North Carolinians would qualify for coverage under Medicaid expansion, over 200,000 of whom do not currently have reasonable access to coverage. These low-income residents often have to choose between paying for their basic needs or paying for healthcare. None of us should ever be forced to make such a decision. It is estimated that the costs to the state for uncompensated care is over $50M annually. The federal government is required by law to pay 90% of the cost of expansion – roughly $2B a year. Expansion would create more healthcare providers, better access and the opportunity for greater overall health. Failure to pass expansion is costing us in job opportunities, funding, and infrastructure. Hospitals in rural areas across North Carolina are forced to close due to a lack of resources. Expanding Medicaid is a commonsense solution that will provide immediate relief to the most vulnerable members of our community.
A Living Wage and Affordable Housing
North Carolina has a reasonably low rate of unemployment of about 4%. However, our economic development has not uniformly improved the standards of living for many members of our community. Despite the low unemployment rates, approximately 17% of Durham lives in poverty. When a significant number of residents live in poverty it impacts us all. Our economic system is based upon equal access to goods and services. When people who work full time cannot afford to pay for housing, nutritious food, healthcare and other basic services, there is an unfair, systemic issue that must be addressed. Unequal access to basic goods and services leads to economic instability. It is important that we take appropriate measures to provide everyone with equal access to safe and affordable housing. As your State Senator, I look forward to working closely with community leaders to develop practical solutions to improving the standard of living for Durham residents.
For centuries, systemic racism has contributed to racial disparities in education, financial well-being and the application of social justice. Regardless of your race, economic status, sexual orientation or gender identity, all people deserve to be treated fairly and equally. As your State Senator, I will stand firmly against any legislative policy that in any way attempts to deprive you of your fundamental human rights.
HB2, later HB142, the law that precludes any governmental entity in North Carolina from granting any protections to the LGBTQ+ community, sunsets in December 2020. All members of the LGBTQ+ must have a voice in that debate. Our legislative majority has been rightfully ridiculed nationally for its abhorrent, discriminatory policies against the LGBTQ+ community. I believe we must go beyond abolishing discriminatory practices and legislation. We must adopt proactive protections. North Carolina should ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Thirty-eight other states have ratified the ERA.
I will fight to reform our criminal justice system to better serve the most vulnerable members of our community. We need mental health courts and drug treatment courts in every county. We must provide alternative payment options for defendants and allow our judicial officials to exercise greater discretion in ordering fines and fees.
Reproductive Freedom For All
I am pro choice and will always fight to protect reproductive freedom for everyone. We must protect and expand Roe v. Wade. Access to quality, affordable reproductive healthcare, including contraception and abortion services, is fundamental to the overall health of our community. As a trans man, I believe in “my body, my choice.”
Pre-K Funding and Disparity
Under Republican leadership, the General Assembly in Raleigh has passed massive tax cuts for big business and special-interest groups while our schools struggle to get the funding they need to serve our students. We need to make critical investments in our public schools, community colleges and university system – great schools provide a strong economy for the future.
Education is the cornerstone of our community. If we cannot improve education for our children, the problems of today will be the problems of tomorrow. At a bare minimum, we need more funding for education. This includes expanding funding for Pre-K programs, trade schools, and community college options.
It is widely accepted that pre-k programs are an essential tool to ensure a student’s success in public education. We need increased funding and creative options for pre-K programs to ensure that all children are emotionally, behaviorally and academically prepared for integration into kindergarten. I support the use of childcare vouchers for pre-K programs until we can find a way for our pre-K programs to be fully funded by the State of North Carolina.
Public education is a fundamental right. All of our children deserve access to a good education in a safe environment. Across our state, the disparity between our schools is obvious. The poorest communities often have the worst schools with the least funding. Our most vulnerable students are being educated in the worst of circumstances. Systemic racial and economic subordination accounts for much of this disparity. This is unacceptable – all children deserve the same opportunity to learn and make a life for themselves and their families. We must not only strive to achieve equal academic access for our children, we must take whatever steps are necessary to achieve it and sustain it. Anything short of equal educational opportunities for all children is a systemic failure—one we can no longer ignore.
We cannot live a healthy life if we do not stop damaging the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink. We are all at risk. Our children are at risk.
My plan to protect North Carolina’s environment and improve the health of our community is three-fold:
- Reduce the environmental impact of our public sector by improving our publicly owned infrastructure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
- Incentivize the private sector to improve environmental practices above the established industry standards, in industries such as farming, building, and utilities;
- Ensure that NC DEQ and our courts can hold big corporations accountable for their conduct that causes environmental harm.
In 2018, Governor Roy Cooper issued Executive Order 80, a Commitment to Address Climate Change. The order establishes three goals:
- Reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 2005 levels
- Increase the number of registered, zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) to at least 80,000
- Reduce energy consumption per square foot in state-owned buildings by at least 40% from fiscal year 2002-2003 levels
I support the goals set out in Executive Order 80. The State of North Carolina must set the example for environmental practices in the private sector. Improvement of our public sector infrastructure is a significant step towards a safer and healthier environment for all North Carolinians. But that is only a start.
Finally, I believe we should encourage businesses to join the NCDEQ’s Environmental Stewardship Initiative. The program was designed to help businesses that choose to implement practices that are good for both the environment and economy. It provides technical assistance and networking opportunities to stimulate the development and implementation of programs that use pollution prevention and innovative approaches to meet and go beyond regulatory requirements. This program seeks to reduce the impact on the environment beyond measures required by any permit or rule, producing a better environment, conserving natural resources and resulting in long-term economic benefits.
Gun Violence Prevention
Gun violence poses a serious health risk to our community, claiming the lives of hundreds of Durham residents every year, and thousands across the State of North Carolina. Guns are the third-leading cause of death for North Carolina children ages 1-17. Thousands of children are exposed to gun violence in school. Across the US, the firearm homicide rate is 25 times higher than other comparable countries.
Gun violence is an epidemic. If elected, I would make it a priority to enact the following legislation:
- Mandatory waiting periods and universal background checks for all firearm purchases;
- Required registration of all guns;
- A ban on assault weapons, bump stock and high capacity magazines;
- Increased legislation to hold gun owners responsible for the eventual use of their guns;
- Safe storage legislation – N.C.G.S. 14-315 does not go far enough in deterring the unsafe storage of firearms.
- HB 454 – proposed by Governor Cooper, the bill would create an Extreme Risk Protection Order, or red flag law, authorizing family members and law enforcement to petition a court to restrict an individual’s access to firearms if there is evidence that person poses a danger to themselves or others.
Our residents are dying. Our children aren’t safe. We must take immediate and significant measures to prevent more death and injury in North Carolina.