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!
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.
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.
The next two bills will benefit our students throughout the District:
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.
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: https://bit.ly/HealthHearings. 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.
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
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).
Thank you for reading! Please stay in touch.
Chief of Staff
Deputy Chief of Staff
Constituent Services Director
Senior Policy Advisor