Double loss

North Carolina lost two of its foremost advocates for the state’s underserved populations last week.

Jim Bernstein, a former assistant secretary with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and an expert and pioneer in rural health care, died June 12 of bladder cancer at age 62, The News & Observer reported June 14.

Deborah Greenblatt, an advocate for people with disabilities and head of Carolina Legal Assistance, a Raleigh group providing legal assistance to low-income and disabled children, died June 13 of breast cancer at age 58, The News & Observer reported June 14.

Bernstein retired from the state last year after 31 years, the newspaper said, having established the first statewide rural health office in the U.S. and helping create 83 health clinics in rural communities throughout North Carolina.

“He was the father of rural health nationally,” Tork Wade, Bernstein’s successor as head of the N.C. Office of Research, Demonstrations and Rural Health Development, told The News & Observer. “It’s not just North Carolina,”

Greenblatt served as executive director of Carolina Legal Assistance for 23 years, where she fought to reform laws affecting disabled people and received the Bertha Holt Juvenile Justice Award for her efforts days before her death, presented by the Juvenile Justice & Children’s Rights branch of the N.C. Bar Association, the newspaper reported.

“She is a warrior for justice,” said Christine Trottier, a senior attorney with Carolina Legal Assistance.  “She spearheaded and nurtured major disability law reform.”

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