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State budget funds new DSS positions, EMS station in the Cape Fear region

The North Carolina Legislative Building, a tall building with a teal roof and white Grecian pillars, pictured from a low angle on a dark and stormy day.
The North Carolina General Assembly passed the state budget last September. Now, state funding is making its way towards healthcare in Cape Fear.

Pender County and Columbus County both secured state funding for healthcare.

After much ado, North Carolina legislators finally passed the state budget in September. Now, long-awaited state funding is making it to communities throughout the Cape Fear region, including Pender County and Columbus County.

At a county commission meeting last night, the Pender County Board of Commissioners voted to approve $1.3 million in state funding. The money will be used to build a new EMS station.

David Dudding, who is the assistant chief of Pender County EMS, said at the meeting that western Pender has needed the new station for quite some time.

"You guys know we see most of our fatalities on 421," he said.

Right now, the plan is to build the facility on Malpass Corner. Board chairwoman Jackie Newton thinks it's the best spot.

"I'm sick and tired of seeing our EMS trucks sit at the Scotchman and all along places in between," she said. "They need a house to serve our communities."

The state budget also enabled North Carolina's Medicaid expansion, which, according to Gov. Roy Cooper, will bring health insurance to 600,000 North Carolinians. Currently, there are 1.2 million uninsured North Carolinians. According to the 2020 Census, over 8,000 of them live in Columbus County. With Medicaid applications opening on Dec. 1, the local Dept. of Social Services (DSS) is bracing for thousands of applications for Medicaid.

So on Monday night, the Columbus County commission approved four new positions with the local DSS. Director Algernon McKenzie thanked the commission at the meeting, saying the expansion will make a huge impact on Columbus County.

"That's going to mean a lot for our employees and for our citizens as we gear up for medicaid expansion," he said.

Nikolai Mather is a Report for America corps member from Pittsboro, North Carolina. He covers rural communities in Pender County, Brunswick County and Columbus County. He graduated from UNC Charlotte with degrees in genocide studies and political science. Prior to his work with WHQR, he covered religion in Athens, Georgia and local politics in Charlotte, North Carolina. In his spare time, he likes working on cars and playing the harmonica. You can reach him at nmather@whqr.org.