North Carolina State Representative Joe Sam Queen

State Representative Joe Sam Queen’s office submitted these responses to the American Opioid Podcast on 3/11/2019 7:13:12 AM.

What district of North Carolina do you represent?

119 - Haywood, Jackson, and Swain

Briefly, how would you describe the opioid crisis in your state?

The opioid crisis is one of the most important threats facing our state--especially our state's rural communities. The crisis has been compounded because the legislature has refused to expand Medicaid coverage, denying quality, affordable healthcare to hundreds of thousands of individuals across the state.

What are the two or three most significant bills that have been introduced in your chamber to help alleviate the opioid crisis in your state?

House Bill 5, which would expand Medicaid coverage, is the number one most important bill we have to impact the opioid crisis. Beyond HB5, HB185, the SAVE Act, would modernize nursing regulations, allowing for more affordable care practices. I believe this bill will also help alleviate the opioid crisis in the state.

What was your involvement, if any, in those bills (e.g., introduction, advocacy, vote pledge)?

I have co-sponsored both HB5 and HB185. I have been a consistent and strong proponent of Medicaid expansion, and I have worked hard to advocate for treatment options for those who suffer from addiction. We need to stop locking people up for addiction, it only makes the problem worse.

Have any of the bills passed? If not, why?

Neither of these bills has seen a vote. HB185 was recently proposed, and HB5 is not favorable to our current legislative leadership. We are working hard during the budget process to include a Medicaid expansion component.

What was the most memorable experience you had while learning about the opioid crisis in your state?

I have worked closely with my sheriffs in Haywood, Jackson, and Swain counties. The most consistent thing that I have heard from our law enforcement is that they want treatment options to be available. They are overwhelmed by the amount of individuals suffering from addiction that they encounter, and they currently don't have any options besides throwing these people in jail, which doesn't solve the problem they are facing.

If you had a magic wand that allowed you to pass any legislation you wanted in order to help alleviate the opioid crisis in your state, what would that legislation look like?

The legislation would be clean Medicaid expansion, without any work requirements or other harmful stipulations.

Are there any additional thoughts you would like to share?

Medicaid expansion has the potential to save more than 1000 lives each year in North Carolina. In my district alone, we lose ten lives every year that we could have saved with the expanded healthcare options.