Two Departments Reunite as One in Queen Anne’s

Steve Chandlee, New QAC Parks and Recreation Department Director (photo courtesy Queen Anne's County)
Steve Chandlee, New QAC Parks and Recreation Department Director (photo courtesy Queen Anne’s County)

After 15 years apart Queen Anne’s County’s (QAC) Parks Department and the County’s Recreation Department will once again be united as one. The new QAC Parks and Recreation Department will be led by Steve Chandlee, a familiar face who brings years of experience running recreation programs and managing parks for the county.

As announced by Queen Anne’s County:

“The year and a half that I was Chief of Recreation here in Queen Anne’s County gave me a good understanding of this community and its needs,” said Chandlee.

He said his first priority since accepting the director’s position is to unify parks and recreation as a whole. “You can’t have one without the other. By recombining them, there will be great efficiencies.”

The departments were split apart in during the recession when many county jobs were eliminated due to the budget crisis. “I want us to make improvements where possible, to bring up both divisions and be a voice for what we need,” Chandlee said.

For more information read the county’s news flash.

City Council Introduces Bill to Fund Affordable Housing

A bill before the Baltimore City Council proposes to raise taxes on certain property sales in order to fund affordable housing projects. It is estimated that the tax would raise $20 million and be a dedicated funding source for the affordable housing trust fund that was approved in 2016 without a designated revenue source.

From The Baltimore Sun:

A bill being introduced in the City Council on Monday would increase the city’s 1.5 percent transfer tax to 2.1 percent and the recordation tax from 1 percent to 1.4 percent. The increases would apply only to properties sold to owners who intend to rent the buildings, not to buyers who intend to live in them.

Matt Hill, an attorney at the Public Justice Center and a member of the group, said the tax represents a small proportion of each property sale but would have a big effect in Baltimore’s blighted neighborhoods by creating jobs, eliminating vacants and building permanent affordable homes.

To learn more read The Baltimore Sun

Maryland Congressman Proposes Comprehensive Federal Opioid Crisis Funding

Proposed CARE Act Funding: $4B to states; $2.7B for hard hit local governments; $1.8B for research; $1B for expanded services; $500M for naloxone; and $400M for CDC.

Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings in partnership with Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is planning to introduce the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency Act or CARE Act. Modeled after the 1990’s Ryan White Act, the CARE Act would provide $10 billion in annual federal funding to state and local government to tackle the opioid crisis.

As reported by The Baltimore Sun:

Cummings and Warren say the overdose epidemic must be dealt with in the same way the health crises of the past were. The Ryan White Act of 1990, they say, helped turn around the AIDS crisis and reduced deaths dramatically.

Cummings said he and Warren got the idea to fund a massive public health campaign against opioids from Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen and her staff, who pitched the lawmakers on the need for increased funding.

“We have been calling for the same thing all along: Sustained funding,” Wen said. “It needs to be a proportional amount to the size of the epidemic. The funding needs to be given directly to the highest-need jurisdictions.”

Read the full article in The Baltimore Sun to learn more.

Baltimore County Passes “Oscar’s Law” to Protect Pets from Elements

The Baltimore County Council has unanimously passed “Oscar’s Law”, a bill that sets the conditions in which it is unsafe to leave animals outdoors. The bill was introduced following the death of a dog due to hypothermia after being left alone outside.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

Oscar’s Law defines “adverse environmental conditions” that are unsafe for animals to be left outside without shelter, including temperatures below 32 degrees or above 90 degrees, wind, rain, snow, ice, sleet, hail and exposure to direct sunlight or hot pavement. Under those conditions, pets would have to be brought inside within 30 minutes of the onset of those conditions.

Oscar’s Law also clarifies that either an animal control officer or a police officer can investigate animal cruelty cases.

The article notes that County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has announced the creation of a special police department unit that would manage cases of animal abuse.

For more information read:

Baltimore County Council OKs ‘Oscar’s Law,’ outlining unsafe outdoor conditions for animals (The Baltimore Sun)

City Launches Fall Reduction Initiative for Older Adults

Fast facts: In Baltimore injuries from falls cost $60M annually; fall rates are 20% higher and hospitalization rates are 55% higher statewide average.

Baltimore City will launch an initiative to reduce falls as well as the high costs and hospitalizations that result from them. A key part of the initiative will focus on education and prevention for older adults. The goal is to reduce the rate of falls by 20% over the next 10 years.

As announced by the Baltimore City Health Department:

The public health falls prevention strategy will focus on three major components: mapping where falls are occurring throughout the City using near real-time hospital data; targeting fall prevention activities in ‘hotspots’—the areas of high fall numbers and rates; and educating the general public that falls are preventable and resources are available.

In Baltimore City, nearly 5,000 older adults visited the ED last year due to a fall. Falls-related ED visits in Baltimore City are more than 20% higher than the statewide average, and the city’s rate of falls-related hospitalizations is 55% greater than the state’s. The average cost of a hospitalization due to a fall is $39,000, or $60 million annually in Baltimore City.

“Our Citywide strategy uses innovative, evidence-based methods to go to where people are, by using science to map out where falls are occurring, providing holistic services such as help with medications and housing interventions, and educating residents on how to prevent falls,” said Dr. Leana Wen. “The Baltimore City Health Department is glad to convene partners across all sectors and lead this collective impact strategy to improve health. I thank Mayor Pugh for her steadfast leadership and for being such a tremendous advocate for our seniors.”

For more information:

Baltimore City Officials Announce Citywide Falls Prevention Strategy for Older Adults (Baltimore City Health Department)

 

General Assembly Passes Bill to Expedite Inmate Mental Illness Placements

The General Assembly has passed a bill that provides an accelerated process for placing defendants unable to stand trial because of serious mental illness into treatment instead of being held in jail.

MACo supported HB 111, sponsored by Delegate Erek Barron, as it addressed the crucial issue of lack of treatment beds and prompt placement of defendants court-ordered into treatment due to serious mental illness. These defendants are often held in county jails awaiting a treatment bed — an unfortunate and unacceptable situation that is bad for the defendants in need of treatment and problematic for the jails.

As passed by the General Assembly, the bill expands the types of facilities the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) may place an individual for treatment, recognizing the efforts the MDH has made to contract with hospitals and other private facilities for beds. Additionally instead of the court specifying a placement date, it sets an “as soon as possible, but no later than 10 days” time frame for placement. Finally, sanctions are limited to any that are reasonably designed to compel compliance, including reimbursement to the jails for holding a defendant beyond 10 days.

From The Baltimore Sun :

The 10-day requirement represents a compromise between proponents of the bill and the department. Barron’s original bill called for immediate admission once ordered by a judge.

Barron, a Prince George’s County Democrat, called the bill’s passage “a significant step toward relieving a longstanding issue of healthcare treatment, due process and public safety.”

“I’m hopeful Maryland is now trending towards being a national model for the decriminalization of mental illness,” he said.

For more on this and other legislation, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

For more information:

Maryland legislature OKs deadline for state-run psychiatric hospitals to admit patients from jails (The Baltimore Sun)

Bill Fast-Tracking Inmate Psych Bed Placements on the Move (Conduit Street)

Accelerate Placement of Defendants With Mental Illness (Conduit Street)

Fed Ban Hinders Methadone Treatment Vans

Since 2007 the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has not licensed any new methadone vans citing concerns over drug diversion. These mobile units have been used for decades to provide the FDA approved addiction treatment medicine to individuals in high-need, underserved areas.

As Route Fifty reports this has led to SAMHSA and local agencies across the nation, including some in Baltimore City, to urge the DEA to remove the ban so that they may expand current mobile methadone operations or launch new ones as they continue to battle an opioid epidemic.

In 1990, opioid treatment centers in Baltimore and Boston became the first in the nation to expand their urban drug treatment operations by outfitting vans to serve high-demand neighborhoods.

The drug treatment program in Baltimore, the Institutes for Behavior Resources, operated a DEA-licensed van and a backup van to dispense methadone to hundreds of patients for about 10 years, and then purchased new vans and used them for another 10 years before parking the vehicles and letting their licenses expire.

Two years ago, Behavior Resources leased one of those vans to another nonprofit program, the Behavioral Health Leadership Institute, which is using the vehicle to provide buprenorphine instead of methadone. Although the DEA also has authority over buprenorphine, it has not banned licensed prescribers of the medication from working out of a van.

Equipped with a bathroom and private counseling rooms, the van allows Behavioral Health Leadership to offer low-income residents drug screenings, addiction assessments, counseling and pre-paid prescriptions for buprenorphine.

Read Route Fifty to learn more.

City Council Advances Private Rental Housing Inspection Bill

A Baltimore City Council bill to require inspections of private rental housing is on the move having received preliminary approval from the council.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

The bill, introduced by Councilman Bill Henry and housing officials, would expand oversight starting next year to include one- and two-unit rental properties — not just larger buildings with three or more units governed by current law.

Those smaller properties generate the most complaints, but have been exempted from mandatory inspections, city officials say.

The article explains that rental licenses will fall into three tiers with problematic landlords requiring more frequent inspections than compliant landlords.

Read The Baltimore Sun to learn more.

 

Howard County Ranked in Top 20 Healthiest Communities in Nation by Aetna

Howard County awarded high health and wellness marks from among nearly 3,000 counties ranked across 10 categories with 80 indicators. 

U.S. News in collaboration with Aetna, a MACo Gold Corporate Partner, has released their 2018 Healthiest Communities rankings. Howard County came in at number 20 in the nation and was the only county in Maryland to crack the top 50.

The U.S. News Healthiest Communities rankings measure crucial health-related components of society with the aim of empowering citizens, health care leaders and officials to make decisions about policies and practices that can improve health outcomes for all. Guided by a pioneering framework developed by a committee appointed to advise the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the project scores nearly 3,000 counties on approximately 80 indicators across 10 categories that drive health outcomes. Population health and equity are the most heavily weighted categories, based on the assessments of more than a dozen leading experts on what matters most to a community’s health.

Top honors went to Falls Church City, Virginia, with Emmet County, Iowa rounding out the top 500.

To learn more visit U.S. News and Aetna’s 2018 Healthiest Communities rankings.

More info on MACo Corporate Partnerships.

Washington County to Launch Adult Drug Court, End Juvenile Program

By January 2019, Washington County plans to launch the 21st adult drug court program in the state. A move the county hopes will help address problems stemming from the opioid crisis.

The county is also in the process of phasing out its juvenile drug court program. Participation in the program has declined as teens are more willing to choose and successfully complete less intensive traditional probation programs.

As reported by The Herald-Mail:

Bricker said an adult program will have a greater chance to succeed because there’s a significant opioid problem in the area and adults have a lot more to lose. They could lose their job, leading to another set of problems, if they don’t address their addiction.

Adults who participate in a drug-court program were less likely to test positive for drug use, reported less criminal activity, and had fewer rearrests than comparable offenders, according to a 2011 Multi-Site Adult Drug Court Evaluation available at the National Criminal Justice Reference Service’s website.

The article notes that three other counties, Allegany, Harford and Somerset, are also considering creating adult drug courts.

For more information read the full article in The Herald-Mail