• By Todd Luck
  • Posted Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Forsyth County Commissioners Attend Washington Conference

Forsyth County Commissioners met with lawmakers and other county officials from around the country at the National Association of Counties (NACo) Legislative Conference in Washington, DC that took place March 2-6.

More than 2,000 county officials from across the United States attended the conference. While Commissioner Gloria Whisenhunt attended NACo committee meetings, Commissioners Dave Plyler, Don Martin, Fleming El-Amin and Tonya McDaniel visited the offices of lawmakers Virginia Foxx, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis.

Whisenhunt who is among the state’s representatives on the national Board of Directors for NACo said most of her time was spent in meetings discussing the nationwide opioid addiction problem.

“Just about everything I did were classes and meetings pertaining to the opioid crisis and best practices that are going on across the nation for that,” she said.

One big issue discussed during the conference and with lawmakers was changing a policy that takes away Medicaid benefits for those who are in jail awaiting trial, which costs counties millions in medical expenses.

“That affects everybody in North Carolina and may affect everyone in the country,” said Martin.

Commissioners met with local lawmakers to discuss the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) legislative goals, which includes supporting programs like Stepping Up that address addiction and mental illness in county jails, more funding for programs for mental illness and addiction in general and opposing unfunded mandates and changes in programs that shift costs to counties. All the commissioners described the talks as being productive.

Local issues specific to Forsyth County were also discussed. Plyler said that the meetings help commissioners know what’s happening in Washington, but also provides vital insight into local issues for legislators as well.

“We learned a lot, but also had an opportunity to help our senators and congresswoman learn a lot as well,” he said.

This was the first NACo conference that McDaniel has attended since she became a commissioner in December.

“Attending the conference and going to Capitol Hill to lobby was very helpful in terms of putting things in perspective,” she said.

The commissioners said they learned a lot from NACo workshops that were held by experts on policy issues. They also had the opportunity to engage with other commissioners from urban and rural counties on the common issues that they all face like education, mental health, opioids, broadband access and healthcare.

El-Amin called all the things he learned from networking with other commissioners an “unspoken curriculum” that compliments what they learn in the workshops.

“The impact is multidimensional when it comes to these types of conferences,” said El-Amin.

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