2014 NC Short Session: That’s Hardly a Wrap!

Senators wrapped up the 2014 short session shortly after a midnight on Friday when they finally approved a state budget. House members  followed by issuing their final votes on Saturday. But there’s a catch, legislators will return this week to agree on an actual adjournment date as the House made more changes to the Senate’s original plan.

On August 14th, legislators will return for a brief additional session to take up any bills that might get vetoed by the Governor, wrap up any bills that got assigned to a conference committee, and attempt to complete nine different other provisions held over in adjournment resolutions. There’s still one more catch, legislators will return again on November 17th for a special session to discuss Medicaid Reform and possibly Coal Ash, and there is no word on how long this session will last.

So, while legislators have adjourned, they have not technically finished working. We should have a better idea of  their plan to meet again in August by the later part of this week.

Relevant Bills with Action:

SB 744 Appropriations Act of 2014: This bill has been in the works since session started. When legislators couldn’t agree, they turned to appointing a 42 member conference committee. Last weekend, they reported that they had come to an agreement. The conference committee budget highlights are below. With the Governor’s signature, this will be the state budget for the 2014 fiscal year. View the Money Report for further explanation on the spending plan with accompanying page numbers listed after each highlight. Please note, it is difficult to capture all the provisions in the budget due to the amazing variety of the social work profession so information below is only a snapshot of changes.

  • Provides funds to support the costs related to the education of children in private psychiatric residential treatment facilities (F-6).
  • Provides funding for one year for group home residents who were determined to be ineligible for Medicaid personal care services on or after January 1, 2013. The maximum monthly payment is set at $464.30 and is based on providing 33 hours of service per eligible recipient (G-3).
  • Reduces General Fund appropriation for the Home and Community Care Block Grant (HCCBG) by 3%, leaving a balance of $31,808,889. Cuts are $969,549 (G-4).
  • Changes the income eligibility for the State-County Special Assistance (SA) Program from a method that bases income eligibility on the payment rate for the facility type where the recipient resides, to a method based on the federal poverty level for all recipients regardless of where they reside. The SA eligibility level is set at 100% of the Federal Poverty Level. Current recipients of SA are grandfathered in and will continue to receive SA. (G-8).
  • Provides funding to replace $4.5 million in federal block grant funds that counties lost in 2013-14 that was utilized to pay for Child Protective Services (CPS) workers. An additional $2.8 million in funding is provided effective October 1, 2014 to reduce county departments of social services caseloads to an average of 10 families per worker performing Child Protective Services assessments (G-9).
  • Provides $4.5 million for Child Welfare In-Home Services to serve at-risk families (G-9).
  • Provides $218,538 recurring and $125,750 nonrecurring funds for the implementation of drug screening for Work First Benefits applicants (G-10).
  • Provides funding through incentives and rebates to end the waiting list of the Aids Drug Assistance Program (G-11).
  • Provides $2.2 million for community-based crisis services (G-15).
  • Provider rates are cut, once again, by 1% (G-18).
  • Mental Health Drug Management: Authorizes DHHS to impose controls including prior authorization, utilization review criteria, and any other restrictions on mental health drugs (G-18 and pg 87 of the budget).
  • Provision to hold special session in November to discuss Medicaid Reform (pg 87, budget).

Other Bills of Interest with Action:

HB 884 Dropout Prevention/Recovery Pilot Charter School: This bill establishes a two year pilot program for one charter school who has had students drop out. The purpose is to increase graduation rates and reengage students. The bill passed the House and Senate and was presented to the Governor for signature.

SJR 881 Adjournment: This bill directs legislators to adjourn but to return on August 14th and November 17th. As mentioned above, the November special legislative session will be focused on Medicaid Reform.

HJR 1276 Adjournment: The House version of the adjournment resolution. While the dates to return are the same as the Senate, the House has a few more issues to keep alive including any bills related to autism insurance reform. The House gives the Senate until Wednesday, August 6th to take up the new adjournment resolution.

2014 NC Legislative Short Session Nears End But No Deal on Budget

Last week, the General Assembly saw more action from the Senate than the House, and Senators have been meeting in Rules Committee the past couple of weeks to pass a few pressing bills. On Thursday, while discussing Medicaid Reform on the Senate floor, Senator Bryant sought an amendment to expand Medicaid. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the amendment failed.

Senators commented that this was the fourth time they voted down to expand Medicaid in the state. The House did meet on Thursday and Friday of last week, but they had little committee activity during the week. Despite filing an adjournment resolution for Friday, July 25th, the House does plan to meet this week. Rumors started over the weekend that legislators have reached another deal on the budget, so we hope to see the proposal this week.

Relevant bills with action:

short sessionHB 1181 Medicaid Modernization: This is the bill that would create a new department to oversee the operation of Medicaid and NC Health Choice run by a seven member appointed board, create full capitation by 2018 (instead of fee for service), integrate physical and behavioral health by 2016, and much more to reform Medicaid in our state. The bill went to committee to push back a few dates in the bill including the creation of the new department from August 1, 2014 to September 1, 2014. Senators will take a third, and final, vote on Monday night. The bill then has to get approval from the House before it is made law. No word yet on the House’s position on the bill.

HB 369 Criminal Law Changes: This bill passed out of the Senate last week and is scheduled to be heard on the House floor on Tuesday. The bill will allow NASW-NC and other partners to work with the Human Trafficking Commission on age appropriate sexual abuse education for students and teachers. The bill also makes several changes to various criminal laws such as expungement for certain offenses and higher penalties for providing inmates with cell phones.

HB 1133 Technical and Other Corrections: A bill that normally marks the end of the legislative session, the House and Senate have been working on a technical corrections bill to tie up loose ends of the session. Usually very technical in nature (spelling errors, corrections to previous bills, etc), the bill had a surprise section that would eliminate the Child Fatality Task Force that makes statewide recommendations to prevent unnecessary deaths of children.

During the existence of the Task Force, childhood death has decreased by as much as 32% in the past three decades. During floor debate, Representative Grier Martin (D-Wake), ran an amendment to eliminate this section of the bill and it passed overwhelmingly. The bill passed out of committee and passed the floor Friday. The bill will now go to the Senate.

2014 NC Short Session, Week 10: The Newest Medicaid Reform Plan

Bay Area Activists Protest Cuts To Medicaid

What a week at the General Assembly! The Senate decided to work on bills that were sitting in the Senate Rules Committee all last week and move them to the floor for votes.The most controversial was Medicaid Reform which the Senate proposes to create a completely new Department. The House did not meet last week and have nothing on their calendar for tonight, but it is possible that they meet later in the week to work on the bills the Senate is working through their Rules Committee.

Relevant Bills with Action:

HB 369 Criminal Law Changes: This is the omnibus bill that will expunge certain drug offenses and includes language on Erin’s Law. Under Section 4(a), the bill directs the Human Trafficking Commission to study the inclusion of age appropriate sexual abuse education in the classroom as well as gather information on sexual abuse in NC. Under the bill, the Commission is directed to work with several organizations to do this, including NASW-NC. The bill will be heard a third time tonight and, if it passes the Senate, will be sent to the House for concurrence.

HB 1181 North Carolina Medicaid Modernization: Last week, the Senate came up with an entirely new Medicaid plan. Under the new plan, the Division of Medical Assistance (DMA) would become an independent agency called the Department of Medical Benefits which would manage behavioral, physical and other specialized care for Medicaid and NC Health Choice recipients under a Managed Care Organization (MCO) or Accountable Care Organization (ACO) model.

The Senate scheduled this new Department to be created by August 1, 2014 and governed by a 7 member Board of Directors. The Senate plan also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to immediately cease any activities related to Medicaid reform. This plan is certainly fast-moving in the Senate and controversial among many. The bill is scheduled for a floor vote in the Senate tonight. If it passes, it will need to go to the House for concurrence. The Governor has already stated opposition to the new plan but the House has not spoken much for or against the bill.

Relevant Bills Filed:

HB 1276 Adjournment Sine Die: Yes, you read that correctly. The House bill filed last week sets adjournment for this Friday, July 25th. Keep in mind, the Senate filed an adjournment bill on June 27th, and legislators are still in session.

North Carolina 2014 Short Session, Week 8: Medicaid Budget Miracle

Social workers found victory during the eighth week of the legislative short session with the acceptance of the proposed medicaid budget. On Monday night, the last day of the fiscal year, the Senate rejected the House mini budget, Senate Bill 3 without even voting, and they returned the bill to the House for further consideration. In kind, the House then returned the bill back to the Senate on Tuesday stating they did not follow the rules by rejecting Senate Bill 3 without a vote. This unusual game of ping pong with the budget sent the bill to a committee meeting with the appointed budget conferees and no further discussion happened on the floor of the House or Senate.

MiraclesOn Wednesday, the appointed 41-member budget conferees held an unusual open-to-the-public meeting. During the meeting, differences in the House and Senate budgets were discussed and the group broke into a private negotiating meeting. Upon return to the public meeting, the Senate announced that they would accept the House Medicaid budget with a few compromises that had been made before the meeting starting.

The acceptance of the Medicaid budget means the aged, blind, and disabled citizens on Medicaid will not lose services. We are excited the Senate acted on behalf of our advocacy efforts to save services for these populations. While the Senate agreed to the Medicaid spending, the conferees are still working out differences in teacher pay raises, the education lottery, and film incentives.

Bills with Relevance:

  • House Bill 1181 North Carolina Medicaid Modernization: This bill was introduced a few weeks ago with controversy in Section 10 regarding a pilot for I/DD patients living in certain group settings to have integrated physical and behavioral health care under Cardinal Behavioral Health. Under the new edition, this section becomes a study with multiple stakeholders involved. The bill was discussed in committee and passed the House with a vote of 113 to 0. The bill now goes to the Senate where support is underwhelming as Senators do not believe this plan, supported by the House and the Governor, will do much to make Medicaid a cost predicting system.
  • House Joint Resolution 1262 Suicide Prevention Resolution: On Wednesday, House members read the suicide prevention resolution on the floor. The resolution directs the Legislative Research Commission to study ways to prevent suicide among minors and veterans including training for key health care providers that work to assess, treat and manage patients with suicidal ideation. After overwhelming, bipartisan support from legislators who shared personal stories on the floor, the bill passed with no opposition and was sent to the Senate. Following the reading of the resolution, NASW-NC, NAMI-NC, The Mental Health Association, and others were recognized in the gallery by legislators for our support and continued work on suicide prevention in our state. Representative Cunningham (D-Mecklenburg), a primary sponsor of the legislation, gave a heartfelt, personal speech on the bill and credited social workers and educators for help during her family’s situation. We are grateful to the many legislators who stood up to speak on what can be such a tough topic for many.

What to look forward to this week:

Legislators have announced they are finished with committee work. They will use this week to focus on the budget and work out their differences. There are a few more bills expected to be heard on the floor this week but it should mostly be a quiet week with budget work being done behind closed doors.

Short Session, Week 7 and Still No Budget

The end of session should be approaching soon. The evidence? The large volume of bills that were gutted, amended, and flew through the legislature last week. The House and Senate are still divided on how large the Medicaid shortfall really might be – up to a $248 million difference between the two proposed budgets.

Pope-Southern StudiesThis was evidenced when the Senate nearly subpoenaed the State Budget Director, Art Pope to show up at their second budget meeting on Medicaid as he and his staff did not show up to one the previous week. Legislators grilled Mr. Pope on not being able to give definite numbers on the shortfall or how many adults and children are enrolled in Medicaid in the state. This tension continues to hold up the proposed budget for the House and the Senate.

Today, the House read the Suicide Prevention Resolution. The resolution called on NC to develop measures to help prevent suicide particularly for youth and veterans. Those in attendance were recognized by legislators in the House gallery during session. Many spent the day talking to legislators about how important the resolution is for young people and veterans in our state.

Last week, the Governor sent a directive to state departments to operate with the biggest cuts in the proposed budgets, but this does not include teacher assistants and massive cuts to the Aged, Blind, and Disabled on Medicaid. This would also mean no pay raises for state employees and teachers- a major goal outlined by legislators prior to the start of the short session.

Relevant bills with action:

  • SB 3 2014 Budget Mods./Pay Raises/Other Changes: Deemed the “mini budget,” this bill is a smaller version of the budget bill Senate Bill 744 and adjustments to the current budget. Raises for state employees and teachers will be paid for with agreed upon cuts. The bill does not do much to Medicaid. The bill passed the House unanimously, 117 to 0, and was sent to the Senate for concurrence. It is unsure if the Senate will agree to this mini budget with all the controversy regarding the Medicaid shortfall calculations.
  • SB 493 Health and Safety Regulatory Reform: Last Tuesday, legislators split the large Regulatory Reform Bill (Senate Bill 493) into two separate bills. SB 493 became Health and Safety Regulatory Reform that includes measures for autism insurance for anyone up to age 23 that was diagnosed before age 8, establishes a behavioral analyst licensing board, requires all health benefit plans cover prescribed, orally administered cancer drugs, and prohibits tanning bed use by anyone under age 18. The bill quickly passed committee and went to the floor. On Wednesday night, after much debate, legislators approved the bill with a vote of 78 to 32. Because of changes made to the bill, the bill has to return to the Senate for concurrence. It does not have to go through Senate committees. and if the Senate confers, the bill will go to the Governor to be signed into law.
  • SJR 882 Honor Senator Martin Nesbitt: Both the House and Senate honored late Senator Martin Nesbitt who died suddenly on March 6th, a week after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. Senator Nesbitt, from Buncombe County, was a champion for the social work profession. He was a long standing legislator, serving in both the House and Senate during his time. He is greatly missed!
  • HB 369 Criminal Law Changes/WC Illegal Aliens: The original bill was gutted and new language was inserted in the bill to address several criminal law changes. This bill does multiple things: it will expunge certain drug offenses with no age limitation and it directs the Human Trafficking Commission to study Erin’s Law (a bill NASW-NC has been working on to get a licensed clinical social worker involved). It will be heard on the Senate floor tonight. If approved, it will only need concurrence from the House before it goes to the Governor to be signed into law.
  • HB 1220 Hope 4 Haley and Friends: After passing the House last week, a Senate committee debated the bill and it was sent to the Senate floor. The bill allows for hemp oil extract from the cannabis plant to be used for youth with certain seizure disorders when no other treatment has worked. The bill does allow for UNC Chapel Hill, East Carolina, Wake Forest and Duke Universities to develop, conduct research, and participate in clinical trials with the oil. Neurologists, patients and caregivers who prescribe or are prescribed the oil would have to register under the legislation with a registry established by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Once DHHS approves measures and establishes the registry, families can start using the oil. The bill passed the Senate, the House concurred with a few changes that were made, and the bill was sent to the Governor for signature. The Governor has stated he will sign the bill into law.

Related news:

While not a priority piece of legislation for NASW-NC, we wanted to address the comments made by Representative and Speaker Pro Tem Skip Stam regarding sexual orientation in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV- TR (DSM-IV-TR) when discussed during debate on Senate Bill 793 Charter School Modifications. During debate, Representative Fisher put forth an amendment to prohibit charter schools from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The debate spurred questions on the definition of sexual orientation and Representative Stam shared with House members a memo from the outdated 2000 DSM-IV-TR on sexual paraphilias that listed a number of sexual perversions and disorders as well as homosexuality. The DSM removed homosexuality as a disorder in 1974. The amendment did not pass. On the second day of debate, Representative Ramsey pushed an amendment that would prohibit charter schools from discriminating based on any category under federal law or the Constitution. This amendment was approved and the bill passed.

NASW-NC does not support any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. We are pleased that House members found common ground not to discriminate in charter schools to further protect North Carolinians.

Photo Courtesy of Southern Studies

North Carolina Legislators Heading Towards Adjournment, Week 6 Recap

ChamberGavel_8

Legislators are still going back and forth on an adjournment date, but our latest predictions are that legislators will go home by the second week of July if they are not done the week of July 4th. With a lot of controversial bills still on the table and not having reached an agreement on the budget yet, legislators have a lot more work to do before adjourning for the year. It is possible for legislators to leave with the current budget in place that was passed in the 2013 long session and only make a few adjustments to cover the shortfalls in Medicaid and the Department of Revenue.

Week 6 of the short session started off with a new regulatory reform bill that created controversy for many House members that did not see the bill until shortly before it was presented. Legislators commented that their uneasiness with the bill stemmed from the bill being more than just regulatory reform and included other provisions. This uneasiness slowed down the bill and it was sent back to the Regulatory Reform Committee before going to the floor. Additionally, on Wednesday night, House Health and Human Services Committee members introduced a new Medicaid Reform plan that makes big changes for provider payment and certain I/DD clients in Cardinal Behavioral Health’s catchment area. More information about these two bills is below.

Relevant bills with action:

  • HB 712 Clarifying Changes/Special Ed Scholarships: This bill allows $3,000 for eligible students with disabilities per semester to attend private schools and exempts certain private schools from child care licensure requirements. The exemption is extended to private schools that provide more than 6.5 hours of child care as long as they are not funded by childcare subsidies or NC Pre-K. This may open the door for more private schools to offer after school care knowing they do not have to be licensed and meet certain state requirements for health and safety. The bill passed the Senate and was sent back to the House.
  • HB 1181 Partnership for a Healthy North Carolina: This bill addresses a new Medicaid Reform plan. The plan would set provider capitation rates over the next 5 years instead of fee for service. This would make providers responsible for overspending but also allows them to absorb any savings. Section 10 of the bill directs Cardinal Behavioral Health to pilot integrated care, physical and mental health care, with certain I/DD clients living in group settings. This bill is supported by the Governor. It was discussed in committee this week and referred to Appropriations. Read more about this plan and House and Senate differences on Medicaid.
  • HB 1220 Hope 4 Haley and Friends: This bill establishes standards for the use of hemp oil extract from marijuana plants to be used for people suffering from intractable seizure disorders when no other medicines have worked. The bill sets up a registry of neurologists who prescribe the extract, caregivers, and patients. The bill also encourages UNC Chapel Hill, Duke University and Wake Forest University to further study the use of hemp oil extract. The bill passed the House and was sent to the Senate.
  • HJR 1262 Suicide Prevention Resolution: This bill directs the Legislative Research Commission to examine ways to prevent suicide among minors and veterans in NC as suicide in these populations more prevalent. The bill directs the commission to study evidenced-based treatment and prevention strategies and ways to engage and train professionals who work with minors and veterans. It was assigned to the Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House.
  • SB 493 2014 Regulatory Reform Act: This bill makes several changes but the biggest for social workers is that it would direct insurance companies to cover autism services and allows for reimbursement of licensed clinical social workers to provide therapeutic care. This is the language from House Bill 498, supported by NASW-NC, that passed the House in the 2013 long session. The bill also establishes a board for Behavioral Analysts in NC (there is currently no state level licensing board for behavioral analysts). Additionally, the bill prohibits tanning bed use for minors under the age of 18. The bill is going through House committees at this time.
  • SB 761 Credit for Military Training: This bill enhances the effectiveness of military members and veterans obtaining occupational licenses and directs the Board of Governors for the University System and the State Board for Community Colleges to submit a plan that would grant college credit for students with military training. The bill passed the Senate and will be sent to the House.

Budget Conferees:

The Senate voted not to concur with House budget changes last week and a conference committee was established. The 41 member appointed committee is compromised mostly of appropriation chairs that will work to flush out the details and other influential legislators. Only one Democrat was appointed to the committee that will work to combine the House, Senate and Governor’s budgets. No persons of color were appointed. Legislative staff released a Comparison Report of the differences in the House and Senate budgets.

Women Concerns as Social Workers in the Workplace

On June 17th, 2014, Social Work Helper Magazine co-hosted a Virtual Town Hall with National Association of Social Workers (NASW -NC) by simultaneously conducting a Live Twitter Chat and Facebook Forum to identify concerns of women as social workers in the workplace. The town hall was held in preparation for the upcoming White House Summit on Working Families on June 23rd, 2014. Participants were asked to host local events in order to help identify priorities for the summit, and  As Editor-in-Chief of Social Work Helper Magazine, I will be in attendance at the Summit with President Obama.

working_families_summit_social_inviteAs a female dominated profession, approximately 80 percent of social workers are women, yet men overwhelming hold key leadership, administrative, and executive positions. The virtual town hall explored issues such as gender pay equity, sick leave, maternity leave, promotion/retention, workplace discrimination, and workplace safety. 

The key issues arriving from the live twitter chat were pay equity and the need for national unionization comparable to teachers, nursing, and law enforcement. The Facebook Forum most active discussions were workplace safety and the ability to use sick leave for self-care when needed. However, the consensus from both platforms is that no one felt safe reporting issues of with pay equity, sick leave, maternity leave, promotion/retention or workplace safety.  Dr. Michael Wright a professor at Tennessee State University who participated in the live Twitter chat stated, “When your job is what stands between you and homelessness, you don’t rock the boat”.

One woman made a profound statement in which I hid her comment from public view to help prevent any retaliation whether real or perceived. She expressed concern about hoping her comment does not hurt her job, but she also expressed the need to share with people who may understand.

As a woman who was out in the field with another woman three weeks ago when I was assaulted by a client with a brick in the head, I’m really tired of having safety training on fire extinguishers (which there are none in my building and it’s been evacuated due to fire twice in six months), but none on what I could have done differently when faced with a psychotic child with a brick. I love my job, but don’t feel I can turn a blind eye this time. Something needs to change. #workplacesafety

Law enforcement officers which is a male dominated profession requires at minimum a high school diploma and are often paid higher than an entry level Master of Social Work graduate working in the public sector of a female dominated profession. Despite both jobs being classified as hazardous by local, state, and federal agencies, social workers are often denied comparable overtime, time off, and other benefits given to law enforcement officers. When social workers witness or experience trauma or fatalities, there is no mandatory counseling or fitness for duty assessment to ensure the social worker is emotionally prepared for duty.

Social workers have  been denied the additional workplace safety protections given to law enforcement officers despite both law enforcement and social workers operating under statutory authority and hazardous conditions in the public sector. Some agencies do not even provide social workers with an agency vehicle or cell phone, and social workers are often required to utilize personal assets in order to perform job duties. Social workers are not given any self-defense, no radios, have no weapons, no backup, are often alone, and have no communications center to call for help to know someone is coming.

According to a 2007 Hill Briefing on Social Work Safety Issues,

A disturbing trend of violence against social workers and other human service professionals was mentioned in a letter sent to legislators by the bill’s sponsors. In April 2005, a woman in Texas fired a shotgun at two social workers visiting her home. In March 2006, The New York Times reported that Sally Blackwell, a social worker, was found dead in a field just outside of Austin, Texas. Throughout the investigation, her family said that threats were a daily part of Sally’s life as a social worker investigating accusations of child abuse and neglect with the power to remove children from their homes.

Two surveys conducted by the National Association of Social Workers in the last few years have found that job-related violence and the threat of such violence are common. In a 2002 survey, among 800 social workers, 19 percent had been victims of violence, and 63 percent had been threatened. In a 2006 national study of the licensed social work labor force, 44% of 5,000 respondents said that they face personal safety issues in their primary employment practice.

The current bill, H.R. 2165, would establish a grant program to provide for safety measures such as GPS equipment, self-defense training, conflict prevention, facility safety and more. It would also help with educational resources and materials to train staff on safety and awareness measures. The bill calls for Congress to authorize $5 million per year for the next five years and require states to provide 50 percent matching funds.  Read Full Briefing

Unfortunately, this bill and many others to address the debt of becoming a social worker do not go anywhere in Congress. Social Workers are often under a mountain of student loan debt in order to provide services to those within the margins. The unfortunate part is that many social workers and  social work students working in mandatory unpaid internships are living in the margins along with their clients. Many are having to rely on public assistance and programs in order to make ends meet and take care of their families.

Last year in New Orleans, a social worker named Ashley Qualls was murdered on her way home. Social Work Helper did a story on Ashley Qualls’ death when A&E First 48 Hours aired an episode with the detectives who continue to look for those responsible for her death.

Tulane School of Social Work graduate, Ashley Qualls, was working at a substance abuse treatment center when she was gunned down while walking home from work. Although Ashley was from South Carolina, she moved her family to New Orleans believing they would have more opportunity in a larger city. Each day, she rode public transportation to work, but at night she was forced to walk the 3.5 miles home because public transportation had stopped running. Read Full Article

It is my hope that events such as the White House Summit for working families will begin to acknowledge the specific challenges women working as social workers face in the workplace in order to serve others and take care of their own families. To view the storify of the Virtual Town Hall, you can visit this link.

North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) 2014 Short Session, Week 5 Review

By Kay Castillo, Director of Advocacy, Policy and Legislation, National Association of Social Workers, NC Chapter

Week five of the North Carolina General Assembly’s short session brought to us the House budget. Unlike the Senate, the House took extra measures to introduce and discuss their budget. Last Tuesday, House members reviewed their budget section by section in subcommittees to hammer out details before taking it to the full Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

North Carolina General Assembly
North Carolina General Assembly

Following Wednesday’s seven-hour committee meeting, the bill went to the Finance and State Personnel Committees before going to the floor for debate on Thursday afternoon with a final vote on Friday morning.Moving forward, a conference committee will be appointed to combine the Governor, Senate, and House budgets. While the House debated the budget all week, the Senate took up mostly non-controversial bills and adjourned early Thursday morning.

House Budget Proposal Highlights:

House Budget Money Report (special provisions, further descriptions about the budget)

  • No prior authorization for mental health medications (in Senate and Governor’s budget) or cuts to the medically needy on Medicaid (in Senate budget).
  • Medicaid Reform similar to Governor’s recommendation and funded at $1 million. (pg G-19 of Money Report)
  • Provides funds for implementation of drug screening and testing for Work First Program Assistance. This is only funded in the House budget. This comes from legislation passed in the 2013 long session but was never funded. (G-9 of Money Report)
  • Funds $750,000 to Critical Time Intervention (a social work supported model) to support short-term case management services for persons leaving inpatient psychiatric facilities, adult care homes, and other institutions. This is only funded in the House budget. (G-15 of Money Report)
  • Funds $300,000 for Child Protective Services (CPS) Initiative to help decrease caseloads to 10 per worker and other division changes. Additionally, the budget contains: $8.3 million in additional funding for CPS (same as Senate); $4.5 million for expanded in-home services (same as Senate); $750,000 increase for statewide oversight of child welfare services; $700,000 increase for CPS evaluation; and Foster Care Assistance is increased by $5 million. (starting on pg 81 of the budget)
  • Creates a strategic state plan for Alzheimer’s Disease including ways to improve research, awareness and education, caregiver assistance, long-term care, and more. (pg 88 of the budget)
  • Funds $5 million to expand community-based crisis intervention services. (pg 94 of the budget)
  • Funds over $2.3 million for Traumatic Brain Injury supports and services. (pg 91 of the budget)
  • Allows funding for Personal Care Services to residents in group homes that was provided in last year’s budget but will not all be spent by the end of the fiscal year, June 30th, 2014 to be extended until June 30th, 2015. This is approximately $2.2 million left from the $4.6 million appropriated.

While not perfect, the House budget is much better than the Senate budget put forth. You can visit this link to see a House and Senate Budget Comparison for the Health and Human Services Budget. We thank House members for taking our state’s most vulnerable populations into consideration while developing the budget and providing extra money to mental health, developmental disabilities, child welfare, and other necessary services.

Social Work and Social Media: Tools for Networking and E-Advocacy

There are lots of resources for individuals who are concerned about the fears and ethical use of social media in practice. However, there does not seem to be an equal amount of resources teaching social work and social media, and how they both can be combined for effective networking and online advocacy.

Technology has given us the ability to remove geographically boundaries and connect with others in way that is still very new to us.  However, this same technology has been exploited by the criminal element which has created many fears in using technology for its full capabilities.

Technology has the ability to create new ways of communication that has been previously denied to those without privilege or wealth such as the ability to self-publish, communication with someone abroad in real-time, and gather/organize resources quickly. How can our profession begin to adopt the technological tools utilized in the business world and adapt them to increase our ability to be more effective on the macro, mezzo, and micro practice levels?

There are instances where social work and social media, depending on your job descriptions and direct practice with clients, must adhere to a stricter standard due to safety concerns for the social worker and client confidentiality.

For those who are working on a policy and community practice level, social work and social media is essential in carving yourself as an expert in your field as well giving you the ability to mobilize resources quickly. NASW-NC gives five reasons why social work and social media is an essential combination to aid social workers in their networking potential which are listed below:

  • Opportunity: Anytime you are around others (virtually or in person), you have the opportunity to meet people and uncover what they make have to offer to your life!
  • Exposure: Have you written new research? Starting a new practice? Found a new technique to share? Networking provides the opportunity to expose others to the wealth of professional knowledge you have, and to be exposed to theirs!
  • Contacts and Relationships: Whether finding a new job, a resource for your clients, or simply someone who simplifies your life; contacts are an essential part of the social work profession. Most business is done through referrals!
  • Finding Common Ground: Everyone enjoys the company of others who are like-minded. Our common interests help ignite our passion for the profession and encourage personal growth.
  • Learning: In the line for breakfast at a NASW-NC Conference, or answering a post on LinkedIn; social workers who participate in networking gather information and ideas at a fast pace! knowledge is power!
  • See more at:

[gview file=”http://careers.socialworkers.org/documents/networking.pdf”]

Also View:
E-Politics.com Online Advocacy

photo credit: Intersection Consulting via photopin cc

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