The segments below provide a brief overview of MACo’s work in the area of health and human services in the 2022 General Assembly.
Each county in Maryland has a local health department that plays a role in providing essential public health services to residents, even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also county agencies that provide human or citizen services for children, families ad persons with special needs. MACo advocates actively for policies that continue to confront the opioid crisis and to support county health and social services programs.
The unique circumstances surrounding the 444th legislative session, including necessary health and safety measures, posed a challenge for lawmakers and advocates alike. Yet, despite the unusual circumstances, MACo’s advocacy still led to more positive outcomes for its members.
MACo supported legislation with amendments that would, among other provisions, revise the Behavioral Health Crisis Response Grant Program to require proposals detailing how law enforcement interaction with individuals in crisis will be minimized. MACo worked with the bill sponsors on amendments regarding proposal requirements over police interactions with individuals in crisis- moving away from “minimizing” interactions with the police to “prioritizing” behavioral health over law enforcement interactions. HB 129 / SB 12 Behavioral Health Crisis Response Services and Public Safety Answering Points – Modifications passed the General Assembly and awaits the Governor’s signature.
MACo supported legislation to require Maryland Medical Assistance to reimburse behavioral health crisis response services including crisis call centers, mobile crisis services, and stabilization services. HB 935 / SB 637 Health and Health Insurance – Behavioral Health Services – Expansion (Behavioral Health System Modernization Act) failed in the General Assembly.
MACo supported legislation to establish the Behavioral Health Screening Grant Program, which is intended to assist local jurisdictions in identifying and treating Marylanders with substance use disorders. HB 1018 / SB 781 Public Safety and Behavioral Health Improvement Act passed the General Assembly and awaits the Governor’s signature.
MACo supported legislation to authorize a county or municipality to enact and enforce local laws regulating the sale and distribution of cigarettes, other tobacco products, and electronic smoking devices, subject to certain exceptions. HB 477 / SB 99 Cigarettes, Tobacco, and Electronic Smoking Devices – Local Law Authorization failed in the General Assembly.
Opioids and Overdose Awareness
MACo supported legislation to require the Governor annually to proclaim August 31 as Overdose Awareness Day as part of a global event that aims to raise awareness of drug overdoses, reduce the stigma of drug-related death, and acknowledge the grief felt by families and friends of those who have died or been injured as a result of a drug overdose. HB 319 / SB 100 General Provisions – Commemorative Days – Overdose Awareness failed in the General Assembly.
MACo supported legislation to extend the scheduled sunset of the Data-Informed Overdose Risk Mitigation (DORM) report, which contains information that has proven very useful to county health officers and others who continue to struggle in the fight to combat opioid misuse and overdoses. SB 196 Maryland Department of Health – Overdose Report passed the General Assembly and awaits the Governor’s signature.
MACo supported with amendments legislation to establish the Opioid Restitution Fund Advisory Council to provide specific findings and recommendations regarding the allocation of money from the Opioid Restitution Fund. MACo’s amendment to include county representation on the Council was included in the final legislation. HB 794 Public Health – Opioid Restitution Fund Advisory Council passed the General Assembly and awaits the Governor’s signature.
MACo supported legislation to authorize certain emergency medical services providers to provide naloxone, free of charge, to individuals who have an opioid use disorder or are at risk of experiencing a drug overdose. HB 408 / SB 394 Statewide Targeted Overdose Protection (STOP) Act of 2022 passed the General Assembly and awaits the Governor’s signature.
MACo supported legislation allowing counties and the City of Baltimore to serve as the first bodies, in addition to Maryland district courts, to hear an appeal of a civil citation issued based on local law. HB 1448 District Court – Concurrent Civil Jurisdiction – Violation of Ordinances passed the General Assembly and awaits the Governor’s signature.
MACo initially supported with amendments legislation allowing counties to terminate their health officers for only one of five possible reasons and establishing procedures for a health officer to appeal their termination to the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health. Amendments proposed by MACo concerned the limited “for cause” reasons under which a county could terminate their health officer. MACo later took no position on the amended legislation, which removed the five acceptable “for cause” reasons for termination. HB 609 / SB 548 Local Health Officers – Removal – Grounds and Process passed the General Assembly and, although vetoed by the Governor, was subject to a veto override.