January 9, 2019
By Josh Stein
As we begin 2019, I want to highlight some of the work the North Carolina Department of Justice has done in the past year to prevent crime, support law enforcement, safeguard consumers and defend North Carolina and its people.
When I took office in 2017, I highlighted our responsibility to fight the opioid epidemic as part of our work to protect families and fight crime. Today, opioid overdoses kill five North Carolinians every day.
In 2017, my office helped draft and pass the STOP Act and the Synthetic Opioid Control Act to help restrict the flow of opioids into our state. In 2018, we helped draft and pass the HOPE Act. This law will help give law enforcement officers more tools to keep opioids off the streets and hold drug traffickers accountable.
Corporate accountability is also an important part of confronting this crisis. In 2018, I filed four lawsuits against drug companies over irresponsible and deceptive marketing practices that I believe helped fuel the opioid crisis in North Carolina. I’ve also continued to hold roundtables across the state to understand how communities are being affected by the epidemic and what they’re doing to find solutions that help North Carolinians. There is still so much work left to do to fight the epidemic, and we all have a role to play. This work will continue in 2019.
Hurricane recovery was another big issue for my office last year. The Consumer Protection Division has looked into the more than 900 price gouging complaints. These complaints cover many concerning scams, including tree removal and home repair. I filed three price gouging lawsuits against companies and individuals for taking advantage of North Carolinians working to rebuild after disasters.
While the cases are ongoing, the courts have ordered these bad actors to stop operating in our state. Price gouging is immoral and illegal, and I will do everything in my power to prevent people from scamming North Carolinians recovering from serious storms.
We’ve also taken several actions to protect our state and North Carolinians from federal actions that could harm them. We’re working vigorously to protect our environment and North Carolina’s coast from federal rollbacks of critical environmental protections.
We reached a major proposed $13 million settlement with chemical company Chemours to resolve our lawsuit on behalf of the Department of Environmental Quality against the company for violating North Carolina’s water quality laws, contaminating the Cape Fear River, and polluting drinking water for area residents. We’re also pushing back against efforts to begin offshore drilling off our coast, which would cause irreparable harm to our beautiful coast and the coastal economy.
I’m also fighting to protect people’s health care coverage. The Affordable Care Act helped more than 550,000 North Carolinians gain health insurance coverage and allowed another 70,000 young people to stay covered on their parents’ insurance. More than 4 million North Carolinians benefit from protections against discrimination against pre-existing conditions, and approximately 1.8 million seniors in North Carolina save more than $1,000 a year on drug prices as a result of the ACA.
In 2019, we’ll continue our work to test untested sexual assault kits, support and bring justice to crime victims and survivors, improve the criminal justice system, defend the state of North Carolina, protect taxpayers, and prevent scams and frauds.
As always, my office is here to serve. Those who think they have been a victim of a crime can file a complaint with our Consumer Protection Division at http://ncdoj.gov/complaint or by phone at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.
Josh Stein is North Carolina’s attorney general.