Q&A With NC Gov. Cooper On The Opioid Crisis

Feb 2, 2018

Governor Roy Cooper is taking a leadership role in North Carolina - and in the country – in addressing the opioid crisis. He was one of six members of President Donald Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.

As part of our series "Hitting Home: The Opioid Crisis in North Carolina," Cooper sat down with WUNC reporters Jason deBruyn and Jeff Tiberii to discuss the crisis. Below is a portion of their discussion.

On the President's commission and what the Trump administration has done since the final report was submitted in November:

"They were looking at moving forward with a number of these proposals, and very little, if anything, has happened at this point. And there’s a lot that can be done – federal money can be freed up, action can be taken to make a difference in this arena. There’s still time for them to do it, but it’s disappointing that they haven’t yet."

Tell me why you think they haven’t acted. Because you made your recommendations. As I think any reasonable person can agree, this is a really serious issue, and something needs to be done. Why haven’t they moved on those?

"It is so frustrating because some of the things they could do that would alter rules that would not require that much appropriation of federal money. I think one of the reasons is that they are looking - the Trump Administration and Republican leadership in Congress is looking - at severely cutting back on domestic spending. And one of those areas is healthcare.

We saw the continued proposals to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, and to move to block grants, and clearly the long term goal was to significantly reduce investment in healthcare for people across this country. And we know that making sure that we deal with this opioid crisis is not an inexpensive proposition. We know that treatment is going to be required.

So I think they’re afraid of opening avenues that we know are going to cost money. They would rather give tax breaks to the wealthiest and the corporations instead of investing in the education and healthcare of people. That’s another topic altogether. But it does fit into what we’re talking about here and it does matter."

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center, chairs the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, during the first meeting on Friday, June 16, 2017, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington. Left to right: Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Bertha K. Madras; Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker; Christie; North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper; and former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy.
Credit Susan Walsh / AP

What about the 10 million residents in the state – what should we be doing?

"I’d like to see voices raised to get more people health insurance coverage. I’d like people to understand that this is a treatment oriented approach to saving lives. And they need to talk to their friends about it.

They need to rise up and make sure that every single person in North Carolina has access to quality healthcare coverage. And that includes treatment for substance use disorder. And once we realize that that is something basic that everybody ought to have, and we have to find ways to get there, then we’ve come a long way. And we certainly are not there yet."

To listen to the full conversation with Governor Roy Cooper about the opioid crisis, tune into this week’s episode of the WUNCPolitics Podcast.