New Resources on County Roles and Opportunities in Advancing Safety and Justice

As nearly 11 million people are admitted to county and other local jails every year, counties are uniquely positioned to lead efforts to advance safety and justice through reducing the misuse and overuse of jails. Five new issue briefs from the National Association of Counties (NACo) address key areas of local criminal justice systems that most affect counties and offer strategies counties can employ to address these issues, make their justice systems work more effectively and efficiently, and ultimately lead to safer and healthier communities. Click below to access all five resources.

Opioid Treatment for Justice-Involved Individuals

County Roles and Opportunities in Opioid Treatment for Justice-Involved Individuals outlines some of the challenges counties face when trying to treat opioid misuse and addiction in justice-involved individuals and highlights key strategies that communities have used to address this issue, including community-based treatment, treatment within the justice system, reentry planning and special considerations for rural counties.

Reducing Mental Illness in Jails

County Roles and Opportunities in Reducing Mental Illness in Jails outlines some of the challenges counties face when trying to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses entering jails and highlights key strategies that communities have used to address this issue, such as strong leadership and collaboration, efficient use of resources and effective data collection and sharing.

Collaboration Across Systems and Programs

County Roles and Opportunities in Advancing Safety and Justice Challenge through Collaboration explores some of the ways counties can develop and enhance collaboration within the justice system and between community-based resource and service providers in local efforts to enhance public safety and improve individual and community outcomes. Regardless of the reasons for collaboration, it inherently requires individuals and their departments to meet and work together to identify and solve problems. Collaboration enables counties to more quickly create a process needed to achieve change.

Pretrial Justice

County Roles and Opportunities in Pretrial Justice outlines some of the many proven policies and processes counties can implement to reduce pretrial jail populations, make more effective use of resources and maintain, or even improve, public safety.

Reentry Planning

County Roles and Opportunities in Reentry Planning outlines a few of the many strategies counties can employ to assist individuals returning to their communities, including improving access to stable and affordable housing, providing physical and behavioral health treatment, offering training and workforce development and increasing transportation options.

Visit the NACo website for more information.

Hogan Administration Launches New Web Portal to Provide Resources on Opioid Crisis

The Hogan-Rutherford administration today launched “Before It’s Too Late,” a new web portal designed to provide resources and raise public awareness of the rapid escalation of the evolving heroin, opioid, and fentanyl crisis in Maryland.

According to a press release,

“For nearly three years, our administration has been focused on combating the heroin and opioid crisis from every angle, including prevention, treatment, and recovery,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “This new web portal is another tool to raise awareness and provide critical resources to all Marylanders so that we can save thousands of lives, before it’s too late.”

The new website, BeforeItsTooLateMD.org, is a one-stop shop for individuals, families, educators, and health care professionals to get the educational resources they need to prevent this epidemic from spreading—because education goes hand-in-hand with prevention. This public awareness effort also includes a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter.

“Education and public awareness go hand-in-hand with prevention, and are an essential component of our efforts to turn the tide in this heroin and opioid crisis,” said Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford. “The Before It’s Too Late portal will provide addicts, family members, educators, and health professionals with the resources they need to get help, understand the disease of addiction, and reduce stigma, in order to save lives.”

The “Before It’s Too Late” tagline is derived from a PSA the governor released featuring actor Michael Kelly in March. The launch follows the Regional Opioid and Substance Abuse Summit, which featured Governor Hogan, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe as speakers, and the first-ever Maryland Heroin and Opioid Educational Forum for students at Westminster High School in Carroll County, hosted by Lt. Governor Rutherford.

In March, Governor Hogan declared a State of Emergency in response to the heroin, opioid, and fentanyl crisis ravaging communities in Maryland and across the country. This declaration activated the governor’s emergency management authority and enables increased and more rapid coordination between the state and local jurisdictions. The governor also announced $50 million in new funding to address the crisis, as well as the appointment of the governor’s senior emergency management advisor Clay Stamp to lead the Opioid Operational Command Center, which is mobilizing all available resources for effective prevention, treatment, and recovery.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street coverage: Governor Declares State of Emergency, Announces New Funding to Fight Opioid Epidemic

Previous Conduit Street coverage: DMV Officials Meet to Pool Resources in Fight Against Opioid Epidemic

Governor’s Office Press Release

Counties Left in the Dark When 911 Fails

County first responders to FCC, cell companies: Tell us when 911 goes out

The Federal Communications Commission is investigating an AT&T 911 outage March 8 that left counties across 13 states scrambling to get the word out to residents and deal with emergencies after the company failed to notify local governments or its customers in a timely manner.

According to NACo,

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai spoke with the company’s CEO the night of the outage and said he stressed to him the “urgent need to restore service and to communicate with first responders, as well as AT&T customers, about the status of operations.”

“I’m glad to see the FCC is looking into this issue,” said Orange County, Fla., Mayor Teresa Jacobs, who has aired her concerns in a letter to the FCC and in a conference call with the agency.

When the outage hit March 8, Orange County contacted AT&T and scrambled to get the word out to their residents, saturating the county with alternative emergency numbers via Twitter and crawls on local TV news stations.

The 911 outage not only put residents in danger, but tourists as well, Jacobs noted. Orange County’s population doubles when tourists hit the area looking for sun and fun and she notes it’s an “awesome responsibility” to protect them. “They need to know they’re arriving into a developed country,” she said.

When customers called 911 March 8, a few were helped by a backup system, but most — the FCC said 12,600 people tried to call — heard a busy signal or a ring that went unanswered across counties in California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington, D.C. and other states.

There does not appear to be a system in place to hold companies responsible for contacting local governments when an outage occurs.

Jacobs and other county officials hope to see that change.

“In addition to examining the actual malfunction of their system, I’d like to ask for a comprehensive review of AT&T’s failure to alert its customers and impacted public safety agencies in a timely fashion,” Jacobs wrote in her letter to the FCC.

The March 8 outage also hit the D.C. metro area. Local government officials worked to get the word out, just like Orange County. Public information officers in Northern Virginia’s Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William counties, and in Maryland in Prince George’s County and Montgomery County, as well as D.C. officials, took to Twitter to get word out to area residents. Residents’ options included calling 911 using another cell carrier, using a landline or dialing a local phone number.

After the FCC began its investigation, AT&T and Comtech suggested that the FCC “and other interested 911 entities and/or trade associations join in pursuing a solution to the notification database management problem.” The companies say it’s problematic for them to try to contact hundreds or thousands of public safety officials.

Jacobs, in her letter to the FCC, wrote that wireless carriers should be held legally responsible for immediately notifying their customers and impacted public safety agencies. She points out that if wireless carriers can send out messages letting customers know they’re about to reach their data limit, they can notify them when 911 service is out. “They have the tools at their disposal,” she noted.

In comments filed with the FCC as a result of the outage and investigation, AT&T said:

“A best-practices approach could yield more effective notice procedures, while maintaining the flexibility that carriers and PSAPs need to address the varying circumstances that could develop in the wake of an outage.

“To further facilitate timely communications to consumers in the event of an outage, the Commission should also consider creating and maintaining a database of PSAP contacts for use by providers. A centralized, coordinated effort could provide for accurate and consistent points of contact across industry, and facilitate timely notification to consumers in the event of a 911-impacting outage.”

Service outages are a major concern for 911 centers across the country. This issue can be addressed by ensuring a smooth transition to Next Generation 911 (NG911). NG911 will enable the public to make voice, text, or video calls from any communications device via Internet Protocol-based networks. These capabilities can make public safety both more effective and more responsive.

While the technology to implement NG911 is available now, there are many issues that local governments must work through relating to technology standards, the process of transition, governance, and funding. MACo supported Senate Bill 466, “Carl Henn’s Law,” a bill to streamline the transition to NG911. MACo worked with bill sponsor, Senator Kagan over the interim on ideas for the legislation and was pleased to have her support on several amendments to the bill.

As amended, the legislation expands the uses of a state funding mechanism for 9-1-1 upgrades and creates an advisory board that includes local 911 Center representation to help implement the next generation technologies throughout the State. SB 466, “Carl Henn’s Law,” passed the Senate but did not move in the House.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: “Carl Henn’s Law” to Advance 9-1-1 Heard in Senate

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Next Steps on Next Generation 9-1-1

Full Article from NACo

The Last Day: How Did Counties Fare?

With several issues coming down to the final day of the 2017 legislative session, here’s a quick wrap-up of their final disposition. As is almost always the case, the final results are a mixed bag of successes and disappointments.

ENERGY SITING BILL PASSESHB 1350 included a final compromise to grant counties greater input into the certificate process to approve large-scale energy generation facilities.

ATTORNEYS FEE LEGISLATION DEFEATED ON SENATE FLOORSB 705, a bill that spent most of the last three weeks of the session on the Senate floor, was defeated after several more “special order” motions to delay its consideration. MACo had opposed the bill, citing its broad effects and costs from lawsuits well beyond the targeted “access to justice” sphere.

NEXT-GEN 911 COMMISSION AND FLEXIBILITY BILL DIES IN HOUSE COMMITTEESB 466, an amended-down version of legislation to advance Maryland 9-1-1 call centers toward “next generation” technology failed to receive a vote in its House Committee, and was defeated. MACo had supported the modest bill, but questions kept the Health and Government Operations Committee from taking the bill up on Monday.

ELECTION SCANNERS COST SPLIT FAILS – A late session effort (SB 406) to codify the 50/50 state/county cost split passed the House, but failed to progress through its final procedural steps and was defeated as time ran out.

STORMWATER COMPROMISE STALLS IN SENATEHB 656 was a bill MACo initially opposed, but committed to lengthy negotiations and developed into a compromise to fairly apply government stormwater charges on properties owned by other governments. The House approved the compromise, but the Senate was unable to gather the support from the dually assigned committees, and the bill died. The framework of the bill, however, may offer a roadmap for county/municipal agreements in the future, even without passage.

AT&T Gets $6.5B to Build Nationwide Public Safety Network

AT&T has been hired by the U.S. Department of Commerce to build and manage a nationwide broadband network for public safety communication between first responders.

The $46.5 billion high-speed network aims to equip police, firefighters and emergency medical services with the tools they need for real-time communication during crises, such as natural disasters or shootings. It will cover all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and five U.S. territories.

According to Ars Technica,

The First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet, was authorized by the federal government in 2012 and operates as an independent authority within the US Department of Commerce. AT&T has just been selected by FirstNet to build the wireless network and said that construction will begin later this year.

“FirstNet will provide 20MHz of high-value, telecommunications spectrum and success-based payments of $6.5 billion over the next five years to support the network buildout,” AT&T said in its announcement. FirstNet’s spectrum is located in the 700MHz band often used for consumer LTE networks.

The Federal Communications Commission raised $7 billion to fund the network in a spectrum auction that concluded in January 2015. Some of that money came from AT&T itself, as the company led all bidders with $18.2 billion of winning bids.

AT&T’s contract with FirstNet is 25 years long. “AT&T will spend about $40 billion over the life of the contract to build, deploy, operate and maintain the network, with a focus on ensuring robust coverage for public safety users,” the company said. AT&T will also connect FirstNet users to the company’s existing network.

FirstNet will solve a few problems, AT&T said. First responders currently use the same commercial networks used by consumers and businesses for mobile Internet service. “That can be an issue when a significant public safety crisis happens and commercial networks quickly become congested. It makes it difficult for first responders to communicate, coordinate and do their jobs,” AT&T said.

Overall, “first responders use more than 10,000 networks for voice communications,” and “these networks often do not interoperate, which severely limits their ability to communicate with each other when responding to a situation,” AT&T said.

FirstNet will cover all 50 states, five US territories, and the District of Columbia, including coverage for rural and tribal lands, AT&T said. Besides basic voice and Internet service, AT&T expects the network to be used for applications “providing near real-time information on traffic conditions to determine the fastest route to an emergency.” The network will also help enable technology such as wearable sensors and cameras for police and firefighters, “and camera-equipped drones and robots that can deliver near real-time images of events, such as fires, floods or crimes.”

Read the full article for more information.

Gov. Hogan Appoints Lourdes Padilla Head of DHR, DoIT Secretary Resigns

Governor Larry Hogan has appointed Lourdes Padilla as secretary of the Maryland Department of Human Resources (DHR), effective Feb. 8th.

According to a press release,

Ms. Padilla has more than 28 years of experience in the human services field. She currently serves as the Deputy Secretary for Income Maintenance at the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, a role she is leaving to join the Hogan-Rutherford administration. In this capacity, she oversees operations for five bureaus under the agency, including Child Support Enforcement, Program Support, and Program Evaluation. She manages over 90 field offices with over 7,000 employees, and is responsible for an operating budget of more than $2 billion.

Governor Hogan also announced the departure of Maryland Department of Information Technology (DoIT) Secretary David A. Garcia, who tendered his resignation in order to attend to family and personal issues. He will remain in his position through the end of January, during which time a search will be conducted for his replacement.

Read the full press release for more information.

Riemer Snares FCC Advisory Appointment

Montgomery County Council Member Hans Riemer will serve as one of two local government advisors to the Federal Communications Commission.

From the FCC website, The Federal Communications Commission regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. An independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress, the commission is the United States’ primary authority for communications laws, regulation and technological innovation.

The FCC maintains an Intergovernmental Advisory Committee to:

…provide guidance to the Commission on issues of importance to state, local and tribal governments, as well as to the Commission. The IAC is composed of 15 elected and appointed officials of municipal, county, state, and tribal governments. The IAC provides ongoing advice and information to the Commission on a broad range of telecommunications issues of interest to state, local and tribal governments, including cable and local franchising, public rights-of-way, facilities siting, universal service, broadband access, barriers to competitive entry, and public safety communications, for which the Commission explicitly or inherently shares responsibility or administration with local, county, state or tribal governments.

From the Montgomery County press release:

I am honored to serve on the FCC advisory committee, and I intend to use this role to advocate for a more competitive and robust marketplace for broadband deployment,” said Council Vice President Riemer. “Local governments have a positive role to play in broadband deployment, and I look forward to bringing Montgomery County’s experience to the Commission.”

Vice President Riemer was nominated to serve by the National Association of Counties (NACo). In his letter recommending that Vice President Riemer serve on the committee, Matthew Chase, the executive director of NACo, wrote: “His experience and background uniquely qualify him to serve on the IAC. He is currently a member of both the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, as well as the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, for Montgomery County, Maryland. Through his work on these committees, he is responsible for oversight and the development of Montgomery County’s information technology and telecommunications infrastructure.”

LGIT Helps After St. Mary’s “Ransomware” Attack

Following a recent cyber attack on St. Mary’s County government, county professionals were aided by the Local Government Insurance Trust (LGIT) in the reaction. LGIT offers its members a no-cost Cyber Insurance Program, reacting to a demand from governments who are all too often targets of cyber threats.

stm-it-quoteCoverage of the cyber attack ran earlier this month in the St. Mary’s County Times, indicating “ten employees… were involved throughout the weekend (after Thanksgiving) and into the following week trying to restore the system.” The county reported that while the cyber attack managed to encrypt certain government computers, systems were successfully restored from backups and “no data was accessed from any of our servers.”

Read the full St. Mary’s County County Times article online.

In correspondence with LGIT, St. Mary’s County representatives noted “In this recent ransomware event, the Adjuster and Privacy Counsel was involved immediately to advise and prepare the appropriate notification required for County Employees and the citizens of St. Mary’s County, whether a regulatory requirement or voluntary notice.”

The County, by virtue of belonging to LGIT for its primary liability coverage, received numerous coverages:

  • A 24-hour data breach hotline
  • Immediate access to engage a privacy attorney to determine legal actions and response
  • Computer forensics
  • Public Relations or crisis communications professionals, if needed
  • Establishing a call center, if needed
  • credit or identity theft monitoring, if needed
  • Enrollment in the coverage also includes many pre-event services including resources, regulatory information, and articles on Cyber Risk.

    LGIT-logo-CLGIT is a member-owned association authorized by state law, wholly owned and managed by its local government members. The Trust’s main purpose is to provide joint self-insurance programs or pools for towns, cities and counties in the State of Maryland. The concept is simple – rather than paying premiums to buy insurance from an insurance company, local governments contribute those premiums into a jointly owned fund. The money in that fund is used to pay for the members’ claims, losses and expenses.

    MACo co-founded LGIT in 1987, and LGIT continues to support MACo as a Gold Corporate Partner.