City Council Member Pushes for Restaurant Health Inspection Transparency

In an attempt to increase transparency over the health inspection reports for the more than 5,700 restaurants in Baltimore City, Council Member Brandon Scott has introduced a bill requiring the establishments to post their most recent inspection results on the outside of their restaurants.

As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

The bill is the latest attempt in what’s been a four-year effort by Scott to let Baltimore customers know more about the cleanliness of the restaurants in which they eat. Unlike previous failed attempts, this version of the bill does not contain a letter grading system.

“This is about being transparent about the health of the citizens of Baltimore,” Scott said, citing restaurant grades in New York and elsewhere.

The article notes that the bill is raising concern restaurant owners who have opposed Scott’s prior legislative attempts to require them to post letter grades of their inspection reports. The current bill takes a different approach to transparency by requiring the full report to be posted. Council Member Scott has also introduced a bill requiring restaurants to offer healthy drink options with kids’ meals.

While his previous inspection transparency bills failed, he was successfully in passing a bill in 2015 that required restaurants that were forced to close due to health code violations to post signs noting why they are closed. Additionally the Baltimore City Health Department has launched an online database providing consumers with information regarding restaurant health inspections.

To learn more:

Baltimore councilman seeks to require restaurants to post health inspection results (The Baltimore Sun)


Lower Shore Gains New Homeless Shelter

A coalition in Somerset County has worked to open a new homeless shelter in Princess Anne, helping to ease the shortage of shelters on the lower shore.

The Delmarva Times reports:

In addition to being all new construction, one thing that sets this facility apart is its flexibility. Most shelters place strict limits on the length of time a guest may stay, but the Lower Shore Shelter plans to allow guests to remain up to 180 days if necessary, providing ample time to recover, and also providing case management and other services needed to get them back on their feet and ready to become more self-sufficient.

The article reports that about 247 homeless individuals are in Somerset County and that many of the homeless were sent to Wicomico or Worcester County when beds were not available locally.

To learn more read the full article in The Delmarva Times

Washington County Tackles Sex Trafficking with New Task Force

According to the Maryland Department of Services (formerly the Department of Human Resources), Washington County ranks fourth in the state in terms of suspected juvenile sex-trafficking victims. As a result, the county brought together a comprehensive team of government and community entities to form the Washington County Human Trafficking Task Force to help combat the issue.

Citing technology and location, Steven Youngblood, child welfare program manager for Washington County, explains in The Herald-Mail why the county has become a “hot bed” for sex trafficking:

“It’s fair to say that it’s increasing because of the information super highway — the internet — and all the social media sites,” Youngblood said of sex trafficking. “It’s a lot easier for (the perpetrators) to stay out of sight.”

Interstates 70 and 81 criss-cross the county. There are five major truck stops and multiple hotels, plus the county borders two other states. It’s within an hour of three international airports. There is a high population of runaways and the county has a growing heroin epidemic.

The article continues to explain to role the task force members will play in aggressively tackling this issue. It is also reported in the article that between June 2013 and August 2017, there were 44 juvenile sex trafficking in the county with 37 of those being from the county. Statewide, between 2012 and 2016, 201 of the 601 reported sex-trafficking victims were juveniles.

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

24/7 Opioid Addiction Hotline to Launch in Harford

Harford County officials have announced that they will use $140,000 of a  $170,313 grant administered to the county from the Maryland Opioid Operational Command Center to launch a 24/7 opioid addiction help line to connect individuals suffering from addiction with treatment services and information.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

The telephone line will be staffed by peer recovery specialists, with support from healthcare professionals throughout the County, including Addiction Connections Resources, or ACR, according to a news release.

“This team will serve as a well-publicized, easy-to-reach, central access point committed to assuring on-demand comprehensive screenings, assistance with navigation through the treatment system and follow-up with recovery support care coordination,” Moye said in a statement.

The article notes that the help line is expected to go live in 2018. Additionally, the remaining grant funds will be used to purchase naloxone for the county’s first responders.

For more information read the full article in The Baltimore Sun

New Law Offers Drug Treatment Over Jail, Can State Comply?

On October 1, 2017 the Justice Reinvestment Act went into effect. This new state law reforms Maryland’s criminal justice system, reduces needless correctional spending, and reinvests those savings into programs that reduce recidivism and improve criminal justice outcomes.

A news segment from WYPR reports on provisions of the new law that focus on ensuring individuals suffering from drug addiction are able to receive treatment rather than incarceration. The provision requires that the Department of Health fulfill a court order for treatment within 21 days. Individuals are often held in local jails while awaiting court ordered treatment.

The Department has reduced its wait time for treatment from an average of 167 days in years past to 57 days as of this August. However, citing problems with bureaucracy rather than a lack of resources, representatives are not sure they will be able to meet that 21 day requirement. Rather as Erik Roskes, Director of Forensic Services, states during the segment, “We’re gonna try.” Holding the Department’s feet to the fire is the ability for the court to hold the Secretary in contempt for failing to comply.

Listen to WYPR to learn more:

Or read the article:

Offenders Sentenced to Drug Treatment Have to Wait (WYPR)

Related coverage from Conduit Street:

Local Government Commission Convenes to Discuss Justice Reinvestment

Justice Reinvestment Oversight Board Gears Up For Act’s Implementation

Feds Push Return to ‘Drug War’, Maryland Officials Back Justice Reinvestment

State Health Officials Held in Contempt Over Psych Beds

Gov. Hogan Deploys National Guard To Puerto Rico

Governor Larry Hogan is sending a Maryland National Guard unit to Puerto Rico to aid in the recovery from Hurricane Maria. The 29th Combat Aviation Brigade will deploy with equipment that can purify 1,200 gallons of water per hour for drinking, cooking, and hygiene.

According to The Associated Press:

The governor’s directive on Friday came after conversations with the Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, and other communications between staff-level officials.

Maryland now has a mission deployed to Florida to support response and recovery operations there. The state has recently completed five support missions in Texas and Florida following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, respectively.

Read the full article for more information.

Montgomery County Names Dr. Travis Gayles as New Health Officer

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett has appointed Dr. Travis Gayles to serve as the County Health Officer and Chief of Public Health Services. The appointment was approved by the County Council and Dr. Gayles began his new position in mid-September.

As announced by a Montgomery County press release:

“I am pleased that Dr. Gayles has joined the leadership team in Montgomery County,” said Leggett.  “The health and well-being of our residents is of great importance and he has the combination of experience and training to be an important asset to our community.”

“We are very happy to welcome Dr. Gayles to his role,” said Uma S. Ahluwalia, director of the County’s Department of Health and Human Services.  “We are fortunate to have such an accomplished public health professional join our team.”

Gayles was most recently the chief medical officer for the HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and Tuberculosis Administration and division chief for STD-TB Control for the District of Columbia’s Department of Health.  Prior to joining the District, he served as the director of HIV Testing and Prevention for the Division of Adolescent Medicine at the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago/Northwestern where he served as primary care provider for adolescents and young adults living with HIV, as well as the Chicago House Social Service Agency’s Home for transgender women living with HIV.

Dr. Gayles replaces Uma S. Ahluwalia, Director of the County’s Department of Health and Human Services, who served as Acting Health Officer following the untimely passing of Dr. Ulder Tillman earlier this year.

Read the full press release to learn more.

City Library Partners with Social Workers for Citizen Support Services

The Enoch Pratt Free Library System in Baltimore City is partnering with social workers to provide services at four of their branches to help provide some counseling and support services.

As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

The social workers, who are graduate students from the University of Maryland School of Social Work, will be located at the Pennsylvania Avenue, Hamilton, Brooklyn and Southeast Anchor branches. Two interns will be available two to three days a week for several hours at each of the branches. A field instructor, who is a licensed social worker, will roam the branches and offer some counseling.

The article notes this is just but one example of how county libraries are expanding their services to help their patrons. Additional examples provided include training on the administration of naloxone to be provided at libraries in Harford, Anne Arundel, and Carroll Counties. The Pratt system also partners to provide career center services, yoga classes, and access to Maryland Legal Aid attorneys for legal advice.

Read The Baltimore Sun to learn more about the budding partnership.

State Health Officials Held in Contempt Over Psych Beds

A continued lack of available beds in State psychiatric hospitals has individuals court ordered to treatment stuck waiting in local jails until beds open, and has resulted in a judge holding State officials in contempt of court for failing to adequately address the crisis.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

Retired Judge Gale Rasin ruled Thursday that acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader and his top staff had failed to follow court orders to place criminal defendants in state psychiatric hospitals. In some cases, Rasin said, mentally ill defendants have languished in jails for weeks waiting for a bed at a state hospital.

The issue of mental health beds for criminal defendants has been a thorny issue for the State. As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Department of Health formed a stakeholder group in 2016 to analyze and make recommendations to remedy the lack of capacity at state mental hospitals. While some progress was made the backlog of available beds has persisted.

According to the Sun, the 42 page order that Judge Rasin wrote found that going back as far as 2012 state health officials have fallen short of heading warning and following through on action to expand the number of state hospital beds for criminal defendants. Consequently Judge Rasin is requiring a total of 40 new beds to be opened — 20 each in new admission units at the Clifton P. Perkins Hospital Center and at the Spring Grove Hospital Center — and full staffing of 20 beds recently added to the Clifton Center by December in order for the contempt order to be lifted.

This has been an important issue for county jails in Maryland and across the nation. The National Association of Counties (NACo) in partnership with the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation launched Stepping Up: A National Initiative to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jails in 2015. Since then over 365 counties have joined the movement.

For more information:

Judge holds Maryland officials in contempt, orders them to open dozens of psychiatric beds (The Baltimore Sun)

Related coverage from Conduit Street:

Mental Health Beds Backlog Reduced, Work Remains

Secretary Admits Mistake, Workgroup Develops Recommendations To Fix It

DHMH Workgroup Seeks to Remedy Lack of Criminal Justice Mental Health Beds

Report: Poor, Addicted and Mentally Ill Overcrowd Local Jails

Queen Anne’s To Host Opiate Town Hall

Queen Anne’s County has experienced at least four deaths resulting from heroin/opiate overdoses and 40 heroin/opiate overdoses since January 2017. Those statistics do not reflect Queen Anne’s County residents who overdose or die from heroin/opioids in another county or in Delaware, which, if included, would greatly increase the numbers.

According to a press release,

To raise awareness about the epidemic of overdoses and deaths from Heroin and other Opioids, the Coalition is hosting “QAC Heroin/Opiate Town Hall II: Not My Child? Think Again! Help is Available!” This dynamic town hall meeting will be held on Thursday, October 12, 2017 from 6-9 p.m. at the Stevensville Middle School in Stevensville, Maryland. Citizens are invited to browse various exhibits and displays from 6-7 p.m. The event will feature remarks beginning at 7 p.m. from Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Jim Moran, along with a keynote address from Ryan Helfenbein, representing Fellows, Helfenbein, and Newnam Funeral Homes. Mr. Helfenbein will speak about the impact of opioid deaths on family members, friends, and the community. Delegates Jefferson L. Ghrist and Steven J. Arentz confirmed their attendance.

QAC Sheriff’s Office 1st Sgt. Morris “Sonny” Jones will moderate the event. Other speakers are scheduled to assist participants in understanding opioid misuse, addiction and ways to respond if a loved one is suspected of opioid use. Parents and family members of individuals who have died from an overdose have volunteered to share their experiences, along with recovering addicts who will describe their journeys toward a drug-free lifestyle.

Another key component of the Town Hall meeting will be the presence of the Mock Teen Bedroom, from the Kent Island Methodist Church’s “Celebrate Recovery” program. A mobile unit containing a full sized bedroom has been created to teach parents how to search for drugs and drug paraphernalia that may be hidden in a child’s bedroom, when drug use is suspected by the parents. This tool was unveiled in early September and is already in great demand by counties throughout the state.

Three television stations have supported the QAC Heroin/Opiate Town Hall planning and these include QAC-TV, WBOC (Salisbury) and WMAR (Baltimore). Many other individuals and businesses have provided donations to assist with opioid awareness efforts. Linda Austin, owner of KI Rita’s coordinated numerous local businesses to donate the refreshments for this event.

Anyone desiring more information or who would like to provide a related display is encouraged to contact Kathy Wright at The Queen Anne’s County Drug-Free Coalition is comprised mostly of citizen volunteers. Members meet the second Wednesday of every other month (February, April, June, August, October, December) from 8-10 a.m. in Centreville at the Sheriff’s Office.

Read the full press release for more information.