The surge in overdose deaths from opioids and other drugs has dominated the local, state and national spotlight for several years now and resulted in task forces, advisory councils, committees, commissions and work groups convened by the General Assembly and elected officials. Sadly, the most critical and obvious solution to effectively addressing the opioid epidemic in a meaningful and sustainable way has been rejected time and again by our General Assembly since 2013.

Medicaid expansion offers the single most effective way to provide health insurance coverage to an estimated 500,000 people in our state, paving a way for them to access care and treatment. Without it, our state will continue to suffer thousands of preventable and unnecessary deaths.

North Carolina had the second-highest increase in the nation of overdose deaths in 2017. In that year alone, there were more than 5,000 visits to emergency rooms due to overdoses. Roughly 50 percent of the overdose survivors were uninsured. The vast majority of people who use substances cite an inability to pay for treatment due to a lack of insurance.

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