Justice Reinvestment Oversight Board Briefed on Opioids, Implementation

The Justice Reinvestment Oversight Board held a quarterly meeting on Monday April 24, in Annapolis.

Senator Michael Hough and Delegate Kathleen Dumais shared relevant updates from the 2017 General Assembly session. Hough noted legislation that was amended to avoid mandating Justice Reinvestment funds be spent in a certain way. Dumais discussed bills related to pretrial services that did not pass, but noted grant funding that will be available to local jurisdiction interested in starting a pretrial program.

Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) Executive Director Glenn Fueston spoke about the state’s Opioid Operational Command Center (OOCC). The OOCC is a multi-disciplinary, data-based team created by the Governor to help coordinate state and county response to the opioid crisis. It is directed by Talbot County Director of Emergency Services Clay Stamp and operates out of Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). Fueston also briefly updated the Board on the annual report each county must provide on inmates detained in jail awaiting trial. Data included total pretrial detention population, average length of stay, reason for not securing release, primary offense and status of the case.

Webster Ye, Director of Governmental Affairs, and Dr. Barbara Bazron, Deputy Secretary for the Behavioral Health Administration, provided updates from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH). Ye discussed bills relating to opioids that were passed during the session. Included was the Prescriber Limits Act, Start Talking Maryland Act, HOPE Act, as well as bills addressing distribution of controlled dangerous substances, telehealth, recovery residences, prior authorizations for opioid disorder treatment, and coverage requirements for behavioral health services. In response to a question about the burdens faced by the state’s medical examiner office, he noted that the DHMH is working on hiring more examiners.

Bazron shared a presentation on BHA’s progress on §8-505 and §8-507 placements. Under the Justice Reinvestment Act, the department is required to make these placements for individuals court ordered to treatment within 21 days. She noted that the department is adapting their process to meet the placement deadline, which goes into effect July 1. Bazron also discussed how as of FY 2018 residential treatment for substance use disorders, including the §8-507 placements, will be partially Medicaid reimbursable through a federal waiver.

Patricia Goins-Johnson presented on the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) progress on implementing Justice Reinvestment noting benchmarks that have been met, challenges that have arisen, and work that remains ongoing. Judge Kathleen Cox, Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger, and Public Defender Paul DeWolfe updated the Board on a process being piloted to promote efficiency in the review of mandatory minimum sentence modifications for eligible persons serving time for drug offenses.

Before concluding the meeting it was briefly mentioned that the Justice Reinvestment Local Government Commission has been fully appointed but has not yet met.

The 25 member board, chaired by Judge Daniel M. Long, is charged with overseeing the implementation of the Justice Reinvestment Act (SB 1005), the law passed during the 2016 outlining comprehensive state criminal justice reform. Duties include collecting and analyzing data, creating performance measures, and making recommendations for reinvestment of savings. The board meets quarterly.

For more information about the JRCC visit the GOCCP website.

Previous coverage on Conduit Street:

Justice Reinvestment Oversight Board Begins Work


Maryland Gets High Scores for Public Health Preparedness

State bests national average in survey ranking preparedness for public health emergencies.

Maryland scored a 7.5 — above the national average of 6.8 — on the 2017 National Health Security Preparedness Index, a nationwide report designed to “assess preparedness for ‘community health emergencies’.

As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

On a 10-point scale, Maryland rates 7.5 for its efforts to prepare for and respond to such emergencies, according to the 2017 National Health Security Preparedness Index.

The index is compiled annually by the nonprofit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to assess preparedness for “community health emergencies.”

The foundation looks at more than 100 measures, such as monitoring food and water safety, flu vaccination rates, and numbers of paramedics and hospitals. The measures are grouped into six categories that are given a ranking on the 10-point scale.

Maryland came in better than the national average of 6.8.

Maryland also outranked most of its neighbors: West Virginia (6.7), the District of Columbia (7.0), Pennsylvania (7.0) and Delaware (7.2). Virginia also scored 7.5.

Vermont scored highest at 7.8, while Alaska ranked as least-prepared with a score of 5.9.

Maryland scored best for the ability to mobilize resources to deal with a health emergency, where the state earned a 9.3.

For more information read The Baltimore Sun and the 2017 National Health Security Preparedness Index.

County Council Approves New Microloan Program for Entrepreneurs

The Montgomery County Council has passed a bill creating a microloan program to help entrepreneurs start small businesses. A county council press release states:

“Our County has a growing number of individuals who possess both the skills and desire to start small business enterprises, but lack access to the small amount of necessary seed capital,” said Council President Berliner. “This legislation will help ensure that those individuals have every opportunity to succeed and prosper, and I look forward to seeing the positive real life impacts it will make.”

The amended legislation calls for the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation to administer a “culturally proficient” program. Loans would be limited to no more than $15,000, with the expectation that most loans will initially be in the $500 to $5,000 range. Loans would be limited to County residents who headquarter their business in Montgomery County. Loan recipients would be required to participate in educational and technical assistance that would be part of the program.

“Bill 49-16 serves an important purpose for entrepreneurs in the County by providing critical access to funding and technical assistance, as well as opening the door to opportunity that leads to self-sufficiency and job creation,” said Councilmember Navarro. “I am proud to have been a lead co-sponsor of this bill. As I met with local entrepreneurs and non-profit micro-lending providers who are already carrying out this vision, I got the chance to hear their stories of success and resiliency. The drive to thrive, grow and participate in the local economy is palpable and inspiring.”

For more information read the press release release.

Supreme Court: Exonerated Defendants Deserve a Refund

The Supreme Court ruled 7-1 in the case of Nelson v. Colorado that individuals who have had wrongful convictions overturned are entitled to a refund of fees, court costs and restitution from the state.

As reported on Governing:

“They are entitled to be presumed innocent” once their convictions are thrown out, said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the state “has zero claim” to their money.

The 7-1 decision orders the state of Colorado to refund several thousand dollars to two defendants, a woman and a man, who were convicted of sex crimes but had their convictions reversed. Shannon Nelson, who was charged with abusing her children, was acquitted in a retrial, and the prostitution-related charges against Louis Madden were dropped.

In both instances, the state insisted on keeping the restitution they had paid.

Colorado had adopted an Exoneration Act that allowed “an innocent person who was wrongly convicted” to file a civil suit to seek refunds, but only if they could prove they were innocent of the crime. Most states allowed exonerated people to file a motion with a trial judge seeking a refund.

Ginsburg said Colorado’s scheme violates the 14th Amendment’s protection for due process of law because it presumes the exonerated defendants are still guilty.

For more information:

Wrongfully Convicted Entitled to Refunds, Rules Supreme Court (Governing)

Supreme Court Voids Colorado’s ‘Presumption of Guilt’ (Washington Post)

Opinion Analysis: States Can’t Keep Money They Collect Pursuant to Subsequently Overturned Convictions (SCOTUS Blog)


Prospective Officers Face Rule Change Regarding Marijuana Use

The Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission voted to approve changes to state policy regarding prior use of marijuana by prospective police officers. The rule change would ease restrictions on how much of the drug a potential officer may have consumed prior to being hired.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

The new rule, which received final approval from the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission on Wednesday, bars the hiring of any prospective officers who have smoked marijuana in the past three years. It replaces a state policy dating to the 1970s that had disqualified police applicants who had used marijuana more than 20 times in their lives, or five times since turning 21 years old.

The rule was reviewed by the Office of Attorney General Brian E. Frosh. It takes effect June 1.

The training and standards commission, part of the state corrections department, regulates police hiring in the state. The panel voted 16-1 to approve the change, spokesman Gerard Shields said.

The commission had recommended the change at its inaugural meeting in October. A legal review and a public comment period followed. Officials said they received no comments.

The new rule allows individual police chiefs to hold applicants to their agencies to a stricter marijuana standard if they choose, officials said.

While the move would help jurisdictions such as Baltimore City where Police Commissioner Kevin Davis strongly supported the change, it is not without opposition. The article notes that Vince Canales, president of the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police, was the lone vote in opposition to the change citing the illegality of marijuana at the federal level and the uncertainty of state laws regarding the drug.

Read The Baltimore Sun to learn more.

Montgomery Passes Bill to Enforce Foreclosed Property Registry

The Montgomery County Council has unanimously passed a bill imposing a civil penalty on property owners that do not register a foreclosed property purchase as required under state law.

As announced in a county council press release:

“This bill will address the ongoing problems many of our neighborhoods confront from foreclosed and neglected properties that are often in persistent disrepair, hurt home values, attract crime and force the County to expend limited resources to enforce code violations,” said Councilmember Hucker. “Bill 38-16 provides the County with new tools to enforce current law, ensure homes are properly maintained and taxes are paid, and encourage delinquent or absentee owners to rent, occupy or sell the property.”

The bill will impose a civil penalty for the failure to register a property that is purchased by foreclosure. By Maryland law since 2012, the purchaser of a foreclosed property must register the property with the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLRR) and the Maryland Foreclosure Task Force within 30 days of the property’s foreclosure sale. The law authorizes local jurisdictions to enact legislation to impose a fine of $1,000 for failing to register.

The law was meant to address the period of nine to 18 months that frequently occurs between the date of a foreclosure and the date that the property title is transferred. During this time, local jurisdictions have a hard time identifying the party responsible for maintenance, security and taxes. To date, Montgomery County has not enacted any punitive fine and hundreds of foreclosed properties have gone unregistered since the General Assembly approved the law.

Read the full press release to learn more.

Overdose Deaths Tax State Medical Examiner Resources

The State Medical Examiner’s Office is short staffed and overburdened; an issue the has been intensified by an increase in opioid overdose deaths. The office is in the precarious position of exceeding the national caseload standards for autopsies performed per pathologist which threatens the loss of its accreditation and hampers the flow of information to prosecutors, public health officials, and other agencies that rely on the office.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

State pathologists are performing about 40 percent more autopsies than in 2010 — almost 100 more apiece — and the toxicology lab now runs nearly nonstop, officials say. But the office has not significantly boosted the ranks of examiners, and is struggling to hold on to support staff.

“Maryland is currently fully accredited,” Peterson said. “But as is the case with many offices, it might be facing loss of that accreditation due to the intersection of caseload and staffing level.”

The agency is part of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Medical examiners investigate deaths caused by injury, homicide or suicide, and those that are untimely, suspicious or not attended by a physician. In Maryland, that’s about a third of all deaths. The office handled 14,385 cases in fiscal year 2016, and performed 5,439 autopsies.

The office began exceeding the national standard of 250 autopsies per examiner per year in fiscal 2013, according to the state health department. Its inability to meet that standard has led to its designation as deficient.

After the first quarter of fiscal 2017, the pathologists were on target to perform 328 autopsies — exceeding the limit of 325 for maintaining accreditation.

The article notes the increase in opioid overdose deaths is stressing already overburdened examiners and lab resources:

But there were far more deaths from overdose: 1,468 statewide in the first nine months of 2016, up from 1,259 for all of 2015, and more than twice as many as in 2010. Maryland was one of 30 states to report a large increase in overdose deaths.

More than 900 of the fatal overdoses in 2016 were related to heroin. More than 700 were related to fentanyl, a far more powerful opioid that is often mixed with heroin, unbeknownst to users.

Read The Baltimore Sun to learn more.

Montgomery County Planners Finalize Draft Airbnb Guidelines

Montgomery County planners have finalized draft guidelines to regulate Airbnb and similar shortterm rentals that are currently not allowed to operate within the county. The proposal will need to go before the County Planning Board and the County Council for approval.

As reported on Bethesda Beat:

The final draft of a proposal to regulate Airbnb-style rentals would let Montgomery County hosts accommodate guests for up to 30 days at a stretch, so long as they secure a special license.

County planners have been working for months to craft the guidelines, and their final draft will come before the Montgomery County Planning Board on May 4.

Under the final draft, hosts must be licensed through the county and apply for a renewal each year. The homeowners should demonstrate that they’ve notified their neighbors of the rental activity and maintain a log of all their guests. They can’t rent their homes for more than 90 days out of the year and must provide at least one off-street parking space for each rental contract. Each rental can accommodate up to six overnight guests who are 18 or older.

Read the full article on Bethesda Beat for more information.

Baltimore City to Launch Mobile Job Center

Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh has announced a mobile jobs center that will begin visiting high unemployment neighborhoods in May. The Mayor hopes to expand the fleet of vehicles before the end of the year.

As reported by The Baltimore Sun:

Paid for by the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and administered by the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the 38-foot recreational vehicle will travel to neighborhoods with the highest unemployment rates to help people, create resumes, connect to training programs and apply for work.

“We need to get people working in our city,” Pugh said Monday. “We need to get out into the communities and go where the unemployment is at its highest.”

Pugh said she expects to raise enough money to launch “one or two” more mobile jobs centers before the end of the year. Her goal is to have seven fan out across the city to combat Baltimore’s 6.6 percent unemployment rate. Officially, 19,500 people are out of work, but officials say the number is dramatically higher when discouraged workers who are no longer considered part of the workforce are included.

Each neighborhood stop is expected to last four hours. The vehicle will travel through the city four days a week and two Saturdays a month.

The mobile jobs center is believed to be the first in the Baltimore region. There are similar programs in Southern Maryland, and cities including Atlanta and Memphis, Tenn.

For more information read the full article in The Baltimore Sun

Stabilization Center to Open in Anne Arundel

As Anne Arundel County continues to see a rise in opioid overdoses — ranking third in the state for overdose deaths over the past couple of years — a new stabilization center offers a tool to help address the crisis.

The Capital Gazette reports on the new center and opines as to the impact it will have on the county:

But later this month the county will be able to celebrate some good news. Robert A. Pascal Youth and Family Services is about to open a new “stabilization center” at the former state psychiatric hospital in Crownsville. Many hope this will be a game-changer.

This is a joint venture between the nonprofit and Gaudenzia, which operates a drug and alcohol treatment center out of the same location.

The idea is to give police officers, often the first people on the scene of an overdose, another option besides putting those involved in jail, dropping them off at an emergency room or just walking away.

Officers will be able to take overdose victims to the center for an evaluation and guidance on the best course of action. The 5,000-square-foot, 16-bed facility will have mental health clinicians who can determine what level of treatment is needed, using emergency psychiatric assessment.

It is a similar approach to the county Crisis System, created to help police deal with people suffering severe mental health problems. That’s not a coincidence, as the executive director of Pascal Youth and Family Services is Katherine Bonincontri, a former director of the Crisis System.

The article notes that work at the center is slated to begin on April 24, 2017.

Read The Capital Gazette to learn more.