NCDHHS to Provide Automatic Payment to Thousands of Seniors and People with Disabilities to Help with Winter Heating Bills
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today announced it will issue an automated payment to thousands of eligible households to help with winter heating expenses via the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program. The automated payment will be issued beginning Dec. 1 and is designed to help eligible seniors and people with disabilities access winter heating assistance in a safe and socially distanced manner during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"More of our neighbors may be facing financial hardships because of COVID-19, and this funding can help eligible households with their heating expenses this winter," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. "We want to ensure seniors and people with disabilities are healthy and safe during a difficult time of the year."
Eligible households may qualify to receive an automated payment for the 2020-2021 LIEAP season if a member of the household 1) is age 60 or older or a person with a disability receiving services through the Division of Aging and Adult Services, 2) currently receives Food and Nutrition Services and 3) received LIEAP during the 2019-2020 season. These households will be notified of eligibility in November and do not need to apply for this benefit.
Any household with a person age 60 or older or with a disability receiving DAAS services who does not receive notice of an automated payment is encouraged to practice social distancing and submit a paper application for LIEAP assistance through U.S. Mail or fax to their local department of social services. Applications may also be dropped off at the local DSS, and applicants may contact their local DSS for information on how to obtain a paper application.
Beginning Jan. 2, 2021, all other households may apply online through the ePASS portal at epass.nc.gov or submit a paper application through mail, fax or dropping it off at their local DSS, but they do not have to go into the agency to apply. Individuals may also contact their local DSS to apply. All household applications will be accepted from Jan. 2, 2020 to March 31, 2021 or until funds are exhausted.
To be eligible for the LIEAP program, a household must:
Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital (EWCH) and the Nurse Professional Practice Council honored three outstanding nurses at the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses ceremony on November 17.
The DAISY Award is a national award to honor nurses who exemplify extraordinary, compassionate care. Nurses can be nominated by anyone in the healthcare organization, including patients and family members.
At this year’s ceremony, all three nurses who were nominated were presented with the DAISY Award and recognized with stories detailing the outstanding patient-centered care they provide. The recipients of the 2020 EWCH DAISY award are Brittany Reid, Noley Sutton and Erica Wallace.
“We are honored and proud to present this prestigious award to all three of this year’s nominees,” said EWCH Director of Operations/Associate Chief Nursing Officer Teresa Bowleg, MSN, RN. “Brittany, Noley and Erica are nurses who go above and beyond for their patients. I’d like to congratulate all of them and offer my sincere appreciation for the compassion and dedication they exhibit in their work here every day.”
The DAISY Foundation was created in 1999 after Patrick Barnes passed away from Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura. His family wanted to honor his memory and show appreciation for the compassion and kindness shown by the nurses during Barnes’ eight-week stay in the hospital. Barnes’ wife, Tena, created the DAISY acronym, which stands for “diseases attacking the immune system.” For more information about the DAISY Foundation or the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses, please visit www.DAISYfoundation.org.
The Cherokee, Clay, Graham (CCG) Health Foundation recently donated $40 thousand to Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital (EWCH).
The donation to EWCH is the product of several fundraising efforts and events as well as individual donations from the western North Carolina community, local businesses, high school students and EWCH employees.
“The CCG Foundation has donated funds to help support this facility for many years,” said Chairman of the CCG Board Andrew Reichman. “We’ve even taken it a step further by employing a grant writer to apply for funds we hope to use for capital and equipment and facility improvements. As a standalone community foundation, the CCG Foundation is committed to serving the healthcare needs of Cherokee, Clay and Graham counties.”
EWCH will use the funds to purchase five automated external defibrillators (AED), a flexible fiber-optic ureteral scope for surgical procedures, a urine analyzer for the lab, a treadmill for the cardiac rehab department and a mobile computer workstation.
“We’re so grateful to the CCG Foundation for this donation,” said EWCH Vice President and CEO Stephanie Boynton. “Funds like these help us further our mission of compassionately caring for people. Both our staff and patients will benefit from the items we are able to purchase due to the generosity and kindness of the communities we serve.”
For more information about the CCG Foundation and ways to donate, please call 828-837-8161.
Ten More Counties Designated as Red for Critical Community Spread
Governor Roy Cooper today issued additional COVID-19 safety measures to tighten mask requirements and enforcement as cases continue to rise rapidly in North Carolina and across the country. Executive Order No. 180 goes into effect on Wednesday, November 25 and runs through Friday, December 11.
"I have a stark warning for North Carolinians today: We are in danger," Governor Cooper said. "This is a pivotal moment in our fight against the coronavirus. Our actions now will determine the fate of many."
In addition to extending Phase 3 capacity limits and safety requirements, the Order tightens the existing statewide mask requirement – making it clear that everyone needs to wear a mask whenever they are with someone who is not from the same household. The Order also adds the mask requirement to several additional settings including any public indoor space even when maintaining 6 feet of distance; gyms even when exercising; all schools public and private; and all public or private transportation when travelling with people outside of the household.
The Order also requires large retail businesses with more than 15,000 square feet to have an employee stationed near entrances ensuring mask wearing and implementing occupancy limits for patrons who enter.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, updated North Carolina’s COVID-19 County Alert System map due to the rapid rise in cases and hospitalization over the past week. Since introducing the system last week, ten more counties have moved into the red category indicating critical community spread. There are now 20 red counties and 42 orange counties. Read the update to see where each county stands and how the system was designed.
“The coming weeks will be a true test of our resolve to do what it takes to keep people from getting sick, to save lives, and to make sure that if you need hospital care whether it’s for a heart attack or a car accident or COVID-19, you can get it,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.
Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan spoke at today’s press conference to discuss what the city of Greensboro is doing to step up enforcement of existing, strong statewide safety rules. State officials have encouraged local governments to take action to require compliance and help lower COVID-19 numbers.
Dr. Cohen also provided an update on North Carolina’s data and trends.
Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days
Trajectory of Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days
Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days
Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days
In addition to these metrics, the state continues building capacity to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread in testing, tracing and prevention.
Personal Protective Equipment
Read Executive Order 180.
Read a Frequently Asked Questions document about the Order.
Read the slides from today’s briefing.
The State Highway Patrol is gearing up for the holiday season and for the increased number of roadway users expected across our state. Prior to traveling, the SHP strongly encourages the public to visit the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) for the latest to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Best practices during the holiday season and information on our state’s current response to COVID-19 can be found by visiting the DHHS website at https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/.
According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), more than 47 million people will travel by automobile across our nation representing a reduction from last year’s predictions. AAA relates this decrease in travelers to our country’s current public health landscape. Nonetheless, members of the State Highway Patrol will increase visibility on highly traveled corridors in an effort to promote safe driving habits.
“Although this holiday season might look vastly different for many families, a commitment to safe driving must be paramount for those traveling,” said Col. Glenn McNeill Jr., commander of the State Highway Patrol. “The safety and health of all across our state should guide our activities this holiday season and part of that equation is safety behind the wheel of a vehicle.”
The NCSHP will partner with the North Carolina Governors Highway Safety Program for the 2020 Thanksgiving “Click It or Ticket” campaign during this holiday period. The campaign will take place from Monday, Nov. 23 through Sunday, Nov. 29 with the ultimate goal of reducing preventable injuries and deaths in collisions due to a vehicle occupant’s failure to use a restraint device.
Motorists can partner with our lifesaving mission by practicing these safe driving principles:
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting the state’s highest one-day number of COVID-19 cases with 4,296 new cases reported. The record-high day follows several days of increasing trends in new cases, the percent of tests that are positive and hospitalizations. The weekly COVID-19 Surveillance Summary report released today on the number of people visiting the emergency department with COVID-like illness also showed an increase.
"I am very concerned. We are seeing warning signs in our trends that we need to heed to keep our family and friends from getting sick and ensuring our hospitals are able to care for those that have serious illness," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. "We can do that if each North Carolinian wears a face mask over their mouth and nose anytime they are with people they do not live with; waits six feet apart and avoids crowds; and washes their hands often. We have reasons for hope. With promising news on vaccines, this pandemic will end. Until then, North Carolinians need to do what we’ve done throughout this pandemic — take care of one another."
COVID-19 is highly contagious, and more than half of North Carolinians are at high risk for serious illness. Studies are also finding that some people, including those who had mild illness, experience symptoms for weeks or months following infection.
State health officials advise people to avoid travel over Thanksgiving and only gather with people in your household. For those that do plan to travel or get together with others, NCDHHS has issued guidance outlining steps to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, including getting tested three to four days ahead of time. A test can help someone know if they have COVID-19 even if they do not yet have symptoms. However, a test can miss some infections. Furthermore, a negative test only gives you information for that point in time. Community testing events and other testing sites are listed online at ncdhhs.gov/testingplace.
People who have been recently diagnosed with COVID-19, have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been around a person with COVID-19, should not host or participate in any in-person gatherings until they complete their isolation or quarantine period.
For a full list of guidance about traveling and gathering during the holidays, along with a chart outlining low, medium and high-risk activities, see the NCDHHS Interim Guidance for Thanksgiving Holiday.
NCDHHS and Livingstone College Launch Program to Help Churches and Nonprofits Address Food Insecurity in Communities Disproportionately Harmed by COVID-19
North Carolina communities hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic will have access to $5 million in grants to help address food insecurity needs, Governor Roy Cooper announced today. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services: Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities is partnering with Livingstone College to execute a community-based program to provide critical resources to vulnerable populations impacted by the pandemic.
“As we head into winter, it is more important than ever to ensure that people have access to food and this partnership will bring North Carolinians together to support those in need,” said Governor Cooper.
“This pandemic although unprecedented creates a unique opportunity to form unlikely partnerships to address food insecurity in the state of North Carolina,” Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr., Livingstone College President said.
Based on the U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey, 48% of NC households reported only somewhat or no confidence they can afford food for the next four weeks. Often, existing statewide infrastructure does not reach the most vulnerable populations.
Livingstone College will contract with the A.M.E. Zion Church to administer The Hurt & Hunger Initiative supporting congregations and non-profits who are providing meals and food distribution to vulnerable communities, with a special emphasis on children, the elderly, and the homeless. The General Baptist State Convention will administer the Food Related Hunger Initiative to provide two meals per day (breakfast & lunch) to churches and faith-based organizations serving as daytime learning centers for students under virtual curricula and working parents. And the Conservation Fund’s Resourceful Communities program will administer the Food Insecurity Wrap Around Services Initiative, which will address food insecurity for vulnerable populations by providing funding for community wrap around services such as food purchase and distribution, cold storage and transportation for food distribution.
“This opportunity highlights the importance of the needs of our community especially around food insecurity. Each family or individual that we can help feed, lifts a burden that we have seen before, during, and after COVID. We are excited to partner with community organizations and stakeholders to ensure people get the resources that they need not only to survive but to thrive.” Cornell Wright, Executive Director of the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities said.
“This is a great opportunity for a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to partner with the faith-based and nonprofit community to serve vulnerable people in vulnerable places. Unfortunately, this pandemic reminds us that there are people in this great State that are invisible, and their voices cannot be heard from the valley of despair,” Dr. Anthony Davis, Chief Operating Officer at Livingstone College said.
“COVID-19 has been devastating to the world, and as a Pastor, we have the heart to address these issues, but we do not have the resources. It’s great to be able to see Livingstone College play a major role along with the A.M.E. Zion Church, other entities, and state government coming together to address this major challenge,” said Dr. Dwayne Walker, Board of Trustee for Livingstone College and Pastor of Little Rock AME Zion Church in Charlotte.
Additional resources for those impacted by the pandemic are available through the NC Department of Health and Human Services and NC 211. Individuals and families can obtain information through the COVID-19 NC Information Hub at www.covid19.ncdhhs.gov/. NC 211 is an information and referral service provided by United Way of North Carolina. Families and individuals can dial 2-1-1 or 1-888-892-1162 to obtain free and confidential information on health and human resources within their community.
To learn more about this initiative, contact Livingstone College at 704-216-6044.
State to work with key counties to bring numbers down
To read more and see Frequently Asked Questions, visit the alert page.
Governor Roy Cooper and Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) announced a new COVID-19 County Alert System to pinpoint counties with the highest levels of viral spread and offer specific recommendations to bring numbers down. This system will help give local leaders another tool to understand how their county is faring and to make decisions about actions to slow viral spread. The map will be updated every four weeks.
“By pinpointing counties with high virus transmission and asking everyone in those counties to work with us and do more right now to slow the spread of the virus, we can succeed,” Governor Cooper said. “It can help bring down their case rates, keep their communities safer, save lives and keep their hospital systems working.”
“It’s going to take all of us working together to avoid tightening restrictions like so many states are now doing,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen. “The COVID-19 County Alert System gives North Carolinians an easy way to see how their county is doing and know what they can do protect their family and neighbors and slow the spread of this virus.”
The system uses metrics informed by the White House Coronavirus Task Force and North Carolina’s key metrics to categorize counties into three tiers:
Because no one metric provides a complete picture, the COVID-19 County Alert System uses a combination of three metrics: case rate, the percent of tests that are positive, and hospital impact within the county.
To be assigned to the red or orange tier, a county must meet the threshold for case rate for that tier AND the threshold for either percent positive OR hospital impact.
Counties that do not meet criteria for red or orange are categorized as being in the yellow tier (significant community spread) and should continue to be vigilant to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
The Alert System includes recommendations for individuals, businesses, community organizations and public officials in every county, as well as specific stepped-up recommendations for orange and red counties.
View the full COVID-19 County Alert System details here.
North Carolina Joins CDC Efforts for Comprehensive Suicide Prevention and Better Surveillance of Nonfatal Firearm Injuries in Emergency Rooms
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced it has received $870,000 per year over the next five years for suicide prevention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new Comprehensive Suicide Prevention Program is the first to take a comprehensive public health approach which addresses data-informed family, community and societal issues that contribute to suicide.
North Carolina, along with nine other states, received funding to improve the timeliness of state surveillance data on emergency department visits for nonfatal firearm injuries. The funding is part of a new cooperative agreement with the CDC's Division of Violence Prevention for the Firearm Surveillance Through Emergency Rooms (FASTER) project and includes partners at UNC’s Carolina Center for Health Informatics and Injury Prevention Research Center. With these grants, NCDHHS will be better able to gather and analyze data for use in support of evidence-based interventions statewide to reduce suicide deaths and nonfatal firearm injuries.
The collection and dissemination of near real-time data from emergency department visits for nonfatal firearm injuries overall and by intent (suicidal, unintentional, assault-related and undetermined) at the state and local level will improve state and local practitioners’ ability to identify and respond to emerging public health problems.
Prior to the pandemic, suicide was a leading cause of death and continues to be a concern due to the COVID-19 pandemic and North Carolina has seen an increase in phone calls into disaster crisis lines. This project is timely and can help to meet the needs through interventions focused on suicide prevention and to prepare for potential increased needs as the pandemic continues.
“It has only been in the past two decades that the concept of suicide prevention has expanded to recognize that positive changes in systems, communities and society can reduce suicide and suicidal injuries, said Assistant Secretary for Public Health Mark T. Benton. “Multi-tiered, coordinated efforts among stakeholders in the areas of research, surveillance and program and policy development is a promising approach to save these lives and prevent suicide attempts.”
A comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention supported by CDC’s funding includes:
Suicide is a growing public health crisis that took more than 48,000 lives in the United States in 2018, according to the CDC. In North Carolina, approximately 1,400 people died by suicide in 2018. North Carolina’s goal is to decrease suicide and self-inflicted injuries by 10% among our vulnerable populations, which have been identified as males, veterans and/or those living in rural communities, where the burden of suicide is disproportionately higher. The use of firearms is the leading method of suicide across these groups. Reducing suicide attempts and fatalities among these populations will substantially reduce the overall burden of suicide for North Carolinians. Our prioritized prevention strategies will focus on safe storage of lethal means (firearms) during periods of suicidal risk, increasing health care provider training and other interventions as identified.
In response to increasing pressures placed on individuals and families due to COVID-19, NCDHHS is partnering with the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center to build the capacity of community teams to enhance prevention of and response to suicide and adverse childhood experiences by leveraging systems thinking tools and remote collaboration platforms.
To find out more about what the CDC is doing to prevent suicide, visit CDC’s Suicide Prevention webpage.
Need Help? Know Someone Who Does? Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat. Both are free and confidential. You will be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Rural Health is proud to recognize the innovation, quality of care and dedication of health professionals and volunteers in communities during National Rural Health Day 2020. National Rural Health Day falls on the third Thursday in November each year and recognizes the efforts of those serving the health needs of an estimated 57 million people across the nation.
Rural populations continue to lag behind their urban counterparts on many health measures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found rural communities had a higher rate of unhealthy behaviors, less access to health care and less access to healthy foods compared with urban areas. In North Carolina, where 41 percent — or 4 million people — live in rural areas, the study has larger implications.
"Health disparities have devastating consequences. People in rural communities are dying at a higher rate than some of our other communities," said Maggie Sauer, director of the state’s Office of Rural Health.
Lowering the rate of death in rural areas will take a variety of interventions, including reducing the number of uninsured people, increasing access to healthy food and affordable housing, and addressing economic factors that contribute to disease.
"North Carolina’s rural communities are resilient and strong. They face adversity head on and show up for their neighbors. That is the power of rural we are celebrating," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.
You are invited to participate in the following planned National Rural Health Day activities to celebrate the “Power of Rural.”
The Power and Joy of Rural
Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, 11 a.m.– noon
As part of National Rural Health Day, this virtual event will "Celebrate the Power and Joy of Rural" by honoring the selfless, community-minded, "can do" spirit that prevails in rural America. This event will spotlight the responsiveness and resiliency of rural communities and highlight the joy and benefits of choosing to live in a rural community.
A special presentation of the National Rural Health Day Gubernatorial Proclamation will be made, and Matthew Hoagland, author of "Think Small: A Millennial’s Guide to Building a Meaningful Life in Rural America" will speak, among others. The event is sponsored by the NC Rural Health Leadership Alliance, NC Office of Rural Health, NC Rural Center and Hometown Strong.
To register for the event, click here.
Surviving and Thriving: The Power of Rural is 100% Community
Thursday, Nov. 19, 2 – 3:15 p.m.
Katherine Ortega Courtney, Ph.D., and Dominic Cappello, authors of "100% Community: Ensuring 10 Vital Services for Surviving and Thriving," will discuss their groundbreaking research & roadmap they've created to help rural counties learn how to work together in new ways to create local systems of health, safety, education and economic stability.
To register of the event, click here.
Rural health stakeholders can explore a partnership pledge, showcase individuals and organizations selected as 2020 Community Stars, and provide visitors with a variety of tools, including social media posts to help #PowerofRural trend in outlets such as Twitter and Facebook at www.PowerofRural.org. The website also shares how rural communities across the country will be celebrating National Rural Health Day.
For additional information about National Rural Health Day, visit www.PowerofRural.org. Stakeholders can contact Dorothea S. Brock for more information about Thursday’s events.