With many Guilford County Schools teachers heading back to school next week, the Teacher Supply Warehouse was busy on Monday. Teachers spend an average of $650 a year of their own money on classroom supplies, according to the Guilford Education Alliance, and the warehouse aims to ease that burden. GCS educators can shop for free new and gently used classroom supplies at the warehouse up to four times a year.
HIGH POINT — Friends and colleagues said Monday that Chief District Court Judge Tom Jarrell’s unexpected death has left “a big hole” in the courthouse community as they fondly remembered the 56-year-old’s friendship, leadership and stewardship of the judicial system.
The High Point native died Saturday night at his home, leaving behind more than two decades’ worth of public service.
“He gave a lot to the people of Guilford County,” said Howard Neumann, the former chief assistant district attorney.
Sharon Gladwell, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts, said Gov. Roy Cooper will appoint someone to fill Jarrell’s seat.
“We are deeply saddened at the sudden loss of Judge Tom Jarrell of Guilford County, who served justice and his community with unparalleled dedication,” Cooper said in a statement. “Our state has lost a true public servant.”
Jarrell celebrated his 20th year as a District Court judge this month, a position he was appointed to in 1999 following the resignation of Judge Charles “Chuck” White.
Jarrell served as president of the North Carolina Association of District Court Judges and on a variety of boards, including the N.C. Governors Crime Commission.
He also helped create Street Safe, a program that allows young people to learn proper driving techniques from law enforcement.
Jarrell is survived by his mother, Mary; wife, Cindy; and three sons: Thomas, Robert and David.
He also leaves behind friends and co-workers that respect and revere him.
Joe Craig is among them. The Guilford County Senior Resident Superior Court judge said Jarrell “was indispensable to the justice system.”
“I’m just devastated as is the entire courthouse personnel,” he said.
Craig said it’s even more of “a personal loss” because he wanted Jarrell to succeed him.
“I think that the county and the courthouse family lost one of the most important members of our group and it’s a terrible tragedy for me,” Craig admitted. “He’s one of those few people to me that seems irreplaceable.”
Jarrell got into politics following in the footsteps of his mother, a retired state legislator. Mary Jarrell’s last three campaigns were run by Guilford County Commissioner Kay Cashion.
“He was the epitome of what honorable stands for,” said Cashion, who choked up while recounting the judge’s contributions.
“I don’t think anyone ever questioned his judgement.”
Jarrell attended Guilford College and later Campbell University. He spent three years working in private practice before joining the Guilford County District Attorney’s office.
“He immediately proved himself as an effective prosecutor before continuing his career from the bench,” said Steve Cole, a chief assistant district attorney who knew Jarrell early in his career. “It is difficult to find the words that express how much he will be missed.”
Vic Maynard grew up with Jarrell and knew him since the fourth grade.
“He was an ally to all law enforcement and first responders,” said Maynard, a deputy chief colonel with the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office. “Most of all, he was a brother to me.”
Former District Attorney Doug Henderson remembered Jarrell for his enthusiasm both in the courtroom and in life.
“He had a good heart,” Henderson said. “It was probably his heart that gave out.
“He used it all up.”
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The second sign-up deadline for the controversial State Health Plan reimbursement contract came and went Monday with just one hospital agreeing to join during the 14-day period.
Only four out of 126 hospitals have signed the Clear Pricing Project contract backed by the SHP and state Treasurer Dale Folwell.
The initial sign-up period ended July 1. CaroMont Health of Gastonia signed on the first day of the second sign-up period, July 22. Of 61,000 providers statewide, 27,000 have sign up.
Hospitals and medical providers that do not sign the contract could become out-of-network for more than 727,000 SHP participants starting Jan. 1. The plan is North Carolina’s largest purchaser of medical and pharmaceutical services at $3.2 billion in 2017.
Cone Health said July 1 it was rejecting the contract. Novant Health Inc. said it continues to review the contract. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center said it will not discuss its plans.
Open enrollment for SHP participants begins Oct. 1. The SHP is expected to let participants know by open enrollment whether providers are in network or not.
Employers and health insurers negotiate rates that provide in-network discounts to individuals covered by an employer-based plan.
Without the negotiated discount, out-of-network costs can be significantly higher for most medical procedures. Some hospitals, including Cone, have encouraged SHP participants to consider signing up for their spouse’s or partner’s health insurance if it keeps them in-network.
As an enticement during the latest sign-up period, the SHP and Folwell raised reimbursement payments again.
UNC Health Care took a lead lobbying role with legislative leaders from both parties and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to get Folwell and the SHP to delay, if not halt, the contract roll out. Cooper’s office said it is reviewing the UNC Health Care proposal.
Folwell and UNC Health Care have held negotiations.
UNC Health Care said Monday that while it has not agreed to sign the contract, “board members had a good discussion (with Folwell) and we expect to engage in additional discussions.”
“We have the same goal as Treasurer Folwell — improving the health of employees, and that is accomplished through the provision of a sustainable health plan, implemented in a transparent fashion.”
Folwell took a less diplomatic stance on the current negotiations with UNC Health Care.
“Taxpayer-owned UNC Health Care has turned down a reasonable 100% profit and boycotts its own employees, and others, in favor of secret contracts and higher costs,” Folwell said.
“We can no longer be involved in activities that are designed to restrict competition and raise prices. We look forward to partnering with UNC Health Care when they are committed to the same.”
When asked about another deadline extension, Folwell said “deadline or no deadline, our responsibility is to figure out what we are spending $3 billion of taxpayer and employee money on.”
Cynthia Charles, communications director with N.C. Healthcare Association, said Monday that “we are not aware of any other hospitals having that level of discussions” as UNC Health Care.
“Decisions about whether or not to opt-in to the treasurer’s new offer remain up to individual hospitals and health systems.”
Folwell said he and the SHP have not received a firm counter-proposal from the NCHA.
Zagros Madjd-Sadjadi, an economics professor at Winston-Salem State University, said that “we are not going to see either side blink until much later in the year or perhaps even early next year.”
“This is a very high-stakes gamble by the treasurer and I predict that it will not end well if thousands of state employees find themselves out of network due to this.
“The hospital systems know this and are seeing how far they can push back,” Madjd-Sadjadi said. “Eventually, there will be a compromise, but the question is how bad the political damage will be.”
The Republican-controlled state legislature has given the treasurer the authority to decide on reimbursement cuts to hospitals and providers as part of a mandate to reduce overall SHP expenses.
House Bill 184, which would halt Folwell’s initiative for at least a year in favor of a legislative study report, cleared the state House by a 75-36 vote April 3.
It has yet to be acted upon in the Senate since being sent to the Rules and Operations committee April 4. Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, has signaled he has no desire to address HB184.
RALEIGH — Destiny Ivey knew something was up as soon as she got the text. Her friend had sent a message with just her mom’s phone number.
“You just kind of know your friends, and you know when something’s wrong,” Ivey said.
Another friend of theirs had been murdered recently, and Ivey’s friend could no longer afford the anti-depressants she needed.
Worried she might try to take her own life, Ivey and her friend’s sister began tracking her location through their phones. They found her in time to get her help.
Ivey, who will be a freshman at N.C. A&T in just a few weeks, said this wasn’t the first time she’d nearly lost a friend to suicide, and new research shows she is right to worry for some of her friends.
According to a new study, suicides among African American teenagers increased 60% for males and 182% for females from 2001 to 2017.
The study, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported over 68,000 black male and nearly 95,000 black female teens made a suicide attempt serious enough to require medical attention in 2017 alone. Most didn’t succeed, but more than 300 did. North Carolina is fourth in the nation for the number of black teens committing suicide, behind Georgia, Texas and Florida.
Jagdish Khubchandani, a professor of health sciences at Ball State University who led the study, said the researchers expected to see some increase in suicide rates, as suicide rates have risen country-wide. But Khubchandani was surprised at how dramatic the change was.
Ivey’s mom, LaTonya Summers, was a counselor in Charlotte before becoming a psychology professor. When training to be a counselor, Summers learned to take talk of suicide very seriously, especially among white men in their 40s with unstable careers or relationships.
“That was the profile, and we knew when that person walked in we needed to give it everything we got,” she said.
But by the mid-1990s, suicide had become the third leading cause of death for black youth 15 to 19 years old. In 2017, black high school students in North Carolina attempted suicide at more than twice the rate of white high school students (11.1% vs. 5.1%), according to the N.C. Child Health Report Card.
“We still believe that’s a white thing, that it doesn’t happen to us,” Summers said. “But these kids are showing us differently, that this is not just a white thing. And we know that anxiety and depression doesn’t discriminate.”
Henry Willis, a Ph.D. candidate at UNC-Chapel Hill who researches mental health among African American youth, is working on an app to help black teens connect with counselors and peers who understand what they’re going through. He said the stigma is compounded by a lack of awareness about mental health.
“Generationally, a lot of African American families just don’t know about mental health and mental health problems,” Willis said. “So it makes it hard when African American youth are experiencing a lot of different new stressors in addition to traditional things like regular discrimination.”
According to Khubchandani’s study, “the vast majority” of research on youth suicide prevention is focused on white students.
It’s impossible to draw an exact cause and effect relationship on suicide, Khubchandani said. A state’s general focus on mental health, child poverty, crime and household dysfunction likely all factor into different states’ suicide rates among African-American teenagers, he said.
And then there is the fact that this rise in suicide rates happened between 2001 and 2017.
Karla Sapp, a counselor in Georgia who helped her community recover from a teen’s suicide, said that immediately makes her think of social media. The pressures teenagers have always faced, such as searching for acceptance or dealing with bullying, don’t end with the school day anymore, she said.
Black teens today are also exposed to more racism through the internet, said Willis, whose research has shown teens who view racially motivated violence online are more likely to report symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder or depression.
“If you think about the types of videos people may see online or the types of experiences people may have on social media for example, it’s more constant or more pervasive,” Willis said.
As part of his master’s degree, Willis worked in a free mental health clinic. The neighborhoods around the clinic were mostly black and Latino, but Willis never saw people of color volunteering for their studies.
“This made me wonder if these different treatments that we were creating and trying would actually be effective for African Americans,” Willis said. “And it would be hard for us to know that because we weren’t recruiting them to our studies.”
Summers, who started the Black Mental Health Symposium four years ago, helps mental health providers of any race better understand their African American clients. Hundreds of mental health professionals gather in Charlotte every year to learn about interventions and techniques specifically designed for clients of color.
“If it’s hard for an adult person of color to live in America,” Summers said. “Imagine what the weight of it is on the children who might have less resilience or coping skills.”
Sometimes friends have told Ivey it’s even hard for their parents to imagine.
“You can talk to your friends about it, but when it comes to (their) parents, they don’t really take it as seriously as it should be,” Ivey said.
Sometimes, she sends struggling friends to her own mom when their parents don’t hear them.
For all the challenge, Willis is hopeful.
In his research, Willis found a sense of pride in their race can help teens of color build resilience, and his app will also promote those values. He sees people growing more comfortable talking about mental health. And he points to the internet as one of the greatest tools for these conversations.
“We talk a lot about the risk of this generation, with social media and online racial discrimination,” Willis said. “But one of the benefits is that we have more access to other people going through similar things, and I think that helps reduce the loneliness that usually accompanies mental health problems.”