Tell us about yourself
I was raised on a farm in southeastern Georgia and attended college locally at Georgia Southern College (now University) where I received a B.S. degree in chemistry. I worked at a textile mill while in college and continued there after graduation. After my husband’s graduation, we moved to Winston-Salem where I continued my textile career at Hanes Dye and Finishing and later at Hanes Hosiery.
My husband and I opened a hair salon in Raleigh in the late 1970s which grew to include four locations. After leaving the salon business, I worked for the John Locke Foundation for 16 years in a number of capacities, including finance manager and event coordinator before running in 2006 for the House District 40 seat located in the community where we have lived for the past 33 years.
One problem that a lot of Wake County families are forced to deal with is a loved one with mental health or addiction issues. How would you address the great needs for mental health beds in the county?
During the past session, significant progress was made to increase the number of mental health beds in Wake County with funds from the sale of the Dorothea Dix campus being used to convert excess local hospital beds to serve the citizens of the county. Another project underway is to create additional crisis facilities to serve adolescents.
North Carolina is one of just a few states with certificate of need (CON) laws that limit doctors and medical practices from expanding. Explain how the CON process affects health care in Wake County. Would you be in favor of abolishing these laws?
I sponsored HB 200 during the 2015-16 session which would have exempted diagnostic centers, ambulatory surgical facilities, gastrointestinal endoscopy rooms, and psychiatric hospitals from Certificate of Need (CON) review. I plan to file the legislation again in the 2017-18 session.
North Carolina requires a CON review for 24 various medical facilities and services and if a provider wants to add new services or expand an existing one, they must get permission from the state after a lengthy and expensive application process. Even after the state approves the application, there could be challenges from competitors that delay access for citizens and add costs to the healthcare system. Another advantage, in particular for removing the CON from ambulatory surgical facilities, is a reduction in cost of 40-50 percent when compared to a hospital without compromising patient safety.
What would you do to address the heroin drug overdose issue in Wake County?
The heroin epidemic is driven by the addiction problem with prescription medications. There is no single action that will solve the problem. Solutions will include better prescribing procedures and monitoring by physicians, the availability of evidence-based treatment programs, and enhanced law enforcement efforts to cut down on the flow of heroin into the country.
What are your top two priorities for the next session?
1. Complete the successful implementation of the state-wide traumatic brain injury waiver. This waiver will focus on the needs of individuals suffering from TBI with long-term care needs and more intensive rehabilitative needs.
2. Pass the Raise the Age legislation in North Carolina. New York and North Carolina are the only states that sentence 16- and 17-year-olds to the adult criminal justice system. The RTA legislation would sentence the youth charged with non-violent offenses to the juvenile system where there are services to deal with underlying issues of immaturity, anger, mental illness, and other factors leading to criminal behavior.
What makes you the best candidate for this office?
The experience and knowledge I have gained over the past six years in Health and Human Services leadership give me the tools to continue to work toward improving healthcare for North Carolinians through increasing access, improving outcomes, and maximizing the return on the investment of money spent.