The following remarks were delivered by Executive Director Jennifer Copeland at a press conference earlier today on Medicaid expansion and raising awareness of the opioid crisis.
In 1935 the North Carolina Council of Churches was founded to address issues of racial inequality. We were not popular with a lot of church folk, particularly white folk, but now everybody is paying attention. In the last few years, how many workshops have you attended or heard about using words like:
- Racial Equity,
- Racial Justice, or
- White Privilege?
We were trendsetters 85 years ago, but not because we’re trendy. We were calling out racial disparities because our faith tradition summons us to see the Image of God in the face of everyone. We were doing what God’s people have been doing from the dawn of time.
And that, my friends, is how the Council decides to act. We listen to the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament gospel when debating the issues people face in the public square.
- Do the prophets have anything to say about the opioid crisis?
- Does the gospel have anything to say about Closing the Medicaid gap?
Actually, yes, quite a lot. When we’re sick we don’t feel like going out with our friends, to say nothing of the fact that we shouldn’t be spreading our sickness around town. In the Bible we have a lot of stories about people who are isolated because they are sick. Sickness creates separation.
But our God is a God of community and humans are relational beings, leading to the simple conclusion that God does not want us to be sick. God wants us to be well. God wants us to have access to healthcare. Period. Not if we can afford insurance premiums or are fortunate enough to land a job with health care benefits. Not if we are over 65 and qualify for Medicare or make less than 100% of the poverty level and qualify for Medicaid. God wants us to have access to healthcare always and everywhere because God want us to be well all the time.
You might say, Jesus was the original universal healthcare provider, offering healing to all who came his way, restoring them to their communities and their families, ending their separation. We’re not talking about healing miracles here today. We’re talking about basic access to basic healthcare, including the care necessary to treat addictions and overdoses. For some that would be a miracle. For all, it should be a fundamental part of life.
Four years ago this week, I called my son about midnight. I called him because I didn’t think I should email or text the news I had just received, the news that his childhood best friend had died that night of a heroin overdose. The boy who had sat at my supper table more meals than I could count, played more video games in my den than I could remember, the boy who—running alongside my son—wore a path in the yard between our respective back doors. That boy. Dead.
My story is not unique and that’s a big part of the sadness. We all know someone and many of us love someone who has been sacrificed on the altar of this addiction. Many of those loved ones would not have died with access to the proper care. Some would, for sure. But not all of them.
This crisis is not going to resolve itself. It will be resolved by allocating the necessary resources. We can start by closing the Medicaid gap, providing treatment for those who seek it and life-saving intervention for those who need it.
We can start by heeding the prophetic call for justice and the gospel claim for wholeness. Thank you.