Our Opinion: Health foundation helps local agencies invest in well-being

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THUMBS UP to the Healthcare Foundation of Wilson, which awarded nearly $700,000 in grants split between a dozen Wilson County nonprofits and public agencies. The money will pay dividends in our community’s health and well-being in the months and years to come.

Projects receiving 2019 grant funding are targeted to reduce Wilson County’s four chief health concerns — teen pregnancy, alcohol and substance abuse, obesity and sexually transmitted diseases. These are serious issues, and grant recipients have anted up with serious solutions.

Two public agencies, the county Department of Social Services and county Health Department, received the largest slices of the pie at $150,000 apiece. The DSS agency will expand its Eat Smart Move More program. County health officials will use their grants to continue operating school-based health centers at Forest Hills Middle and Beddingfield High. The public health agency also received a separate $10,000 grant to provide long-acting reversible contraceptives to uninsured women under 26.

The United Way of Wilson received a $120,000 grant to grow its participation in AmeriCorps’ Volunteers in Service to America program. The nonprofit that serves as an umbrella group and fundraising engine for dozens of local charities will field four VISTA members, one for each of the foundation’s four areas of health concern.

The Healthcare Foundation of Wilson formed in 2014 when the county sold 80% of its stake in Wilson Medical Center to Duke LifePoint. After absorbing the former WilMed Foundation and its assets, Wilson Medical Center’s cash reserves after debt and a portion of Duke LifePoint’s $56 million purchase price for controlling interest in the hospital, the foundation began managing an estimated $73 million. Yearly grants come from the investment income on that sizable nest egg.

The grantmaker and the agencies it funds are working diligently to make Wilson County a healthier and happier place. Our hat’s off to them.

THUMBS DOWN to Gov. Roy Cooper for declining to debate state Senate leader Phil Berger on Medicaid expansion, the issue that’s left North Carolina without a 2019-20 state budget a full month into the fiscal year.

Cooper, a Democrat, vetoed the Republican-majority General Assembly’s budget because it doesn’t fund expansion of the Medicaid program under a federal-state partnership outlined in the Affordable Care Act. Republicans don’t have the votes to override Cooper’s veto and neither side has been willing to budge. So the state’s two largest newspapers asked the political heavyweights to debate the issue.

In a joint editorial, the News & Observer of Raleigh and The Charlotte Observer invited Berger and Cooper to make their best case to the public. The papers offered to host the debate and provide a venue. An editorial board representative would co-moderate with a person of Berger’s choosing, a concession to fairness since both newspapers have endorsed Medicaid expansion.

Berger jumped at the chance to debate. Cooper brushed the idea aside. According to the unofficial rules of political gamesmanship, that makes Berger the winner by forfeit.

We don’t fault the governor for his stance on Medicaid, but if it’s worth blocking the state budget over, it’s worth discussing in a moderated public forum.

The Observer newspapers called on Cooper to reconsider. We think he ought to.

THUMBS UP to state Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, who updated more than two dozen Wilson County residents on her work in Raleigh during a legislative information exchange held Sunday at the Wilson County Public Library.

The session was a dialogue, not a monologue, giving constituents the chance to offer input to their representative in the N.C. House. Attendees told Times reporter Olivia Neeley they felt empowered and engaged with the legislative process.

“Politics are important to me,” Wilson resident Daketia Lucas said. “I feel like coming to these meetings is a way for me to be involved.”

Farmer-Butterfield, D-Wilson, also held a meeting of her Wilson County Citizens Legislative Advisory Council. That fulfills a campaign promise — she suggested forming the group last year while running for re-election — and more importantly, it gives local residents a say in their representation.

We’re glad to see Wilsonians involved in their government, and we applaud Farmer-Butterfield’s efforts to be accessible and accountable.