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Councilmember Henderson's Newsletter

January 17, 2023
Councilmember Henderson


It is a new year and a new Council Period, which means lots of change is happening down at the Wilson Building. As you may know, a couple of weeks ago, my colleagues confirmed my appointment as chair of the Council’s Committee on Health—an incredible responsibility and one I’m proud to take on. Though the District has made important strides in access to health insurance coverage, inequities in terms of access to care and health outcomes persist. Just last week, I reviewed a recent report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner showing deaths due to opioid use in DC is trending upwards and is also most prevalent among Black men ages 50-69 – not a demographic we often hear about in opioid-related news.I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Bowser Administration on that issue and others, like enhancing our health system infrastructure, strengthening our school-based mental health program, improving our maternal health outcomes, and addressing gun violence as a public health issue. I have already started meeting with agency directors and stakeholders, and the Committee on Health hearings will begin later this month. You can read about those later in this newsletter, as well as new members of Team Henderson.This edition of my newsletter also includes information on recent bill introductions, upcoming community events that I will be participating in, and other important updates. I hope you don’t mind that this year we’ll start sending these updates bi-weekly. With so much going on, we want to make sure you stay informed!

In service,

Christina Henderson

Councilmember, At-Large

Upcoming Events with Councilmember Henderson

On Sunday, January 22, I will participate in a panel discussion at Trinity Washington University’s O’Connor Auditorium (125 Michigan Ave NE) following the exclusive screening of the new documentary, Birthing Justice. You can find more information and register for this free event here.

Join us at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (901 G St NW) on Saturday, January 28, from 3:00 – 4:00pm for an author talk with Helena Andrews Dyer on her book The Mama's: What I learned about Kids, Class, and Race from Mom's Not Like Me. This is the kickoff to DC Public Library’s Black History Month programming (Yes, we’re starting early!). You can learn more about Helena and register for the event on DCPL’s website.

Legislative Updates

Last week, I introduced several bills that will significantly benefit District residents. The first three are bills that had hearings during Council Period 24, where residents, advocates and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners expressed strong support.

  • Expanding Access to Fertility Treatment Amendment Act of 2023 would expand coverage provided through private insurers, Medicaid, and the DC Healthcare Alliance to include diagnosis and treatment for infertility. This bill would mandate private insurers, Medicaid, and the DC Healthcare Alliance to offer coverage for diagnosis and treatment of infertility. It also explicitly prohibits health insurers from imposing additional costs, waiting periods, or certain limitations on coverage for the diagnosis of infertility.
  • Commission on Public Compensation Establishment Amendment Act of 2023 would establish a Commission on Public Compensation to review and make recommendations on the compensation and stipend levels for the members of the Council of the District Columbia, the Mayor, the Attorney General, the members of the State Board of Education, and several public commissions and boards.
  • New Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights Amendment Act of 2023 would grant additional protections to student loan borrowers in the District by expanding protections against unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices for student loan servicers and incorporating a private right of action to student loan borrowers similar to what is offered under existing DC consumer protection law.

The next two bills will benefit our students throughout the District:

  • Universal Free School Meals Act of 2023 would institute universal free school breakfast, lunch, and snacks for all students attending District public and charter schools and participating private schools. Students who receive free school meals have shown improved academic achievement, experienced lower obesity rates, consumed more fruits and vegetables, lowered risk of behavioral issues, and experienced reduced nutrition deficiencies.
  • Out of School Time Special Education Inclusion and Standards Amendment Act of 2023 would require the Office of Out of School Time Grants and Youth Outcomes, in coordination with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, to develop standards to train or recruit out of school time providers for students with Individualized Education Programs and conduct a study to determine appropriate financial standards to attract and retain qualified providers by March 2024.

Council Period 25 Updates

Council committees look a little different than they did in Council Period 24, including the rotation of committee Chairs. See the list below, and those that are bolded are committees on which I proudly serve.

  • Committee of the Whole, Chairman Phil Mendelson (At-Large)
  • Business and Economic Development, Chairperson Kenyan McDuffie (At-Large)
  • Executive Administration and Labor, Chairperson Anita Bonds (At-Large)
  • Facilities and Family Services, Chairperson Janeese Lewis George (Ward 4)
  • Health, Chairperson Christina Henderson (At-Large)
  • Hospital and Health Equity, Chairperson Vince Gray (Ward 7)
  • Housing, Chairperson Robert White (At-Large)
  • Judiciary and Public Safety, Chairperson Brooke Pinto (Ward 2)
  • Public Works and Operations, Chairperson Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1)
  • Recreation Libraries and Youth Affairs, Chairperson Trayon White (Ward 8)
  • Transportation and the Environment, Chairperson Charles Allen (Ward 6)

See the full list of committees, agencies under their purview, their membership, and staff contacts here.

Part of being a Councilmember involves the ability to swear in Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) members, which honestly is kind of great! ANC’s are usually sworn in en masse after the Mayor and Council on January 2nd. But sometimes there are scheduling conflicts that require members to be sworn in at a later time. I was proud to give the oath to several incoming commissioners over the last two weeks.

Meet the Committee on Health Staff

Ona Balkus, Committee Director

For the past four years, Ona served as the Food Policy Director within the DC Office of Planning. In this role, Ona advised the Mayor, District agencies, and DC Council on food policy in the District and led the DC Food Policy Council (FPC).  Previously, Ona served as Legislative Counsel for the DC Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment, where she developed and moved several significant pieces of legislation. Ona holds a J.D. and Masters of Public Health from Harvard University. Ona was raised in the DC area and currently lives with her family in Ward 5.

Marcia Huff, Senior Policy Advisor

Throughout Marcia’s 20 years in DC, she has worked to increase youth employment opportunities, improve DC’s child welfare system, and increase equity in education. Marcia previously worked with the Council’s Committee on Labor and Workforce and the Young Women’s Project. She is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, and the Howard University School of Law. Marcia, her husband, and their two children live in Ward 7.

Ashley Strange, Legislative Assistant

Ashley Strange is a Ward 3 resident attending Catholic University in their MSW program. She completed her undergraduate degree in Communication from Trinity Washington University in 2016. She serves as a Legislative Assistant. Prior to joining team Henderson, she spent two years at Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Children of DC where she managed the Preparing Youth for Adulthood Program. Ashley is excited to join Team Henderson in advancing legislative priorities for the Committee on Health.

Upcoming Hearings for the Committee on Health

Here is a list of upcoming hearing for the Committee on Health. If you would like to testify, feel free to sign-up using this link: Please note we require all witnesses to sign up at least 2 business day before the hearing, so we can ensure proper accommodations if necessary. All hearings below will be hybrid.

  • January 27 at 9:30am: Various Nominees of Health Boards
  • February 1 at 9:30am: DC Health Benefit Exchange Performance Oversight
  • February 1 at 2:00pm: Department of Behavioral Health Performance Oversight (Public)
  • February 9 at 9:30am: Not-For-Profit Hospital Corporation Performance Oversight
  • February 9 at 2:00pm: Department of Behavioral Health Performance Oversight (Government)
  • February 16 at 9:30am: Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services and the Department of Health Care Finance Performance Oversight
  • March 2 at 9:30am: Department of Health

Transportation Planning Board

Last month,I was selected to be the 1st Vice Chair of the Transportation Planning Board (TPB). Working with local, state, regional, and federal partners, the TPB coordinates future planning, provides data and analysis to decision makers, and coordinates regional land use programs to advance safety. I will also chair the Access for All Advisory Committee (AFA), which advises the TPB on issues, programs, policies, and services important to traditionally underserved communities, English learners, low-income communities, and seniors.

Constituent Service Corner

  • Holiday Tree collection is occurring through March 3, 2023. Trees and greenery can be placed curbside if you receive DPW trash and recycling collection services. After March 3, composting is not guaranteed for trees and greenery because they are then collected with residential trash. Read more here.
  • The Department of Public Works (DPW) will provide leaf collection service through January 28, 2023, for residents who receive trash and recycling services. Visit DPW’s Leaf Collection page for more information.
  • Do you have a New Year’s resolution to be more attentive to your heath? DC Health has created a resource portal to help you learn practical ways to get healthy It has information for residents, Health Professionals, and Community-Based Organizations to improve the health outcomes of the DC community. Visit the Living Well DC page for more information.
  • Have a constituent service need related to the Health Committee, or any of the other agencies in DC Government? Don’t hesitate to reach out to our Constituent Services Director Ana Berrios-Vazquez, during regular business hours (9:00am - 5:30pm) at 202-724-8105, or

Happy Founders’ Day to all the December & January birthdays: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (December 4, 1906), Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (January 15, 1908), Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. (January 5, 1911), Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (January 13, 1913), Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. (January 9, 1914), and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. (January 16, 1920).

Stay Connected

Thank you for reading! Please stay in touch.

Christina Henderson
At-Large Councilmember

Mike Shaffer
Chief of Staff

Heather Edelman
Deputy Chief of Staff

Gabrielle Rogoff
Legislative Director

Ana Berríos-Vázquez
Constituent Services Director

Nicholas Pcholkin
Legislative Assistant

Chantal Fuller
Communications Director

Health Committee

Ona Balkus
Committee Director

Marcia Huff
Senior Policy Advisor

Ashley Strange
Legislative Assistant