As an October baby, this is my favorite time of year. The days leading up to Halloween are always jammed packed with excitement and community events, and this year is no exception. In addition to community staples like Hill-o-ween, which is tonight, I also want to flag for you all that this Sunday is also the Marine Corps Marathon. Lots of street closures will be in effect, so please plan ahead and be mindful while you’re out and about. This edition of the newsletter provides a brief update on what I’ve been working on legislatively and within the community.
I’ll start with an update on our work around the opioid and drug crisis we are facing. The much-anticipated Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission’s first public meeting on Wednesday, October 25. Members of the Commission received an overview of our charge, what our current landscape looks like, and how it will organize its work to make meaningful recommendations on how to spend approximately $80 million the District is expected to receive over the next few years. These meetings are open to the public and will meet again on Wednesday, November 8. The day after the Commission met, the Committee on Health held another public oversight hearing on the topic, including the Sense of the Council on the Opioid and Fentanyl Epidemic Resolution of 2023 - a piece of legislation I introduced to urge the Mayor to declare the opioid and fentanyl crisis in the District of Columbia a public health emergency. Both Maryland and Virginia have already done so, providing their officials with much needed tools to more readily combat this crisis in our region. Lastly, on Monday, October 30, I'll be joining the Mayor, as well as my colleagues, in the ceremonial ribbon cutting to mark the official opening of the District's first and long-awaited Stabilization and Sobering Center.
Although October has been filled with great strides toward reversing opioid deaths in the District, I recognize that upending the opioid crisis also requires creating an environment where residents feel safe. I am taking a hard look at newly introduced legislation like the ACTIVE bill and the ACT Now bill aimed at addressing significant public safety concerns. This week in particular was quite tough after learning of the attack on a couple of preschool teachers while they walked with a class of toddlers through their neighborhood. We’ve al1 seen little kids walking through neighborhoods in buggys or their little hands holding on to a rope. It brightens my day every time I see it, and it is enraging and scary to think that the littlest among us cannot do this without fear of safety. In addition to working to connect the childcare center with appropriate supports in the aftermath of the incident, I’ve also been in contact with U.S. Attorney’s Office, the DC Attorney General, and the Director of the Department of Behavioral Health about what happens next. I raised at my hearing this week the need for more targeted public saftey and outreach teams on the ground in areas where we know there is high opioid usage and individuals struggling with mental health. I will also raise my concerns about this at the Joint Public Oversight Roundtable on violence reduction programs on Monday, October 30.
There’s lots more covered in this newsletter. Please read on...
Health Committee Updates
Public Roundtable on Board Nominees
On Tuesday, October 24, the Health Committee held a Public Roundtable on nominees for the Board of Optometry, the Board of Psychology, the Board of Occupational Therapy, and the Health Benefit Exchange Executive Board.
Public Roundtable on Sense of the Council on the Opioid and Fentanyl Epidemic Resolution of 2023
On Thursday, October 26, the Committee on Health held a Public Roundtable on Councilmember Henderson’s Sense of the Council on the Opioid and Fentanyl Epidemic Resolution of 2023. During the hearing, community members provided testimony on how the opioid crisis in the District has affected them personally either in their professional capacity or via their work. Many spoke about the need for more youth education, trainings on Narcan, a more robust public awareness campaign, and funding for staff on the ground. Further, the need for better coordination and direction from DC government. The Committee also heard from the Department of Behavioral Health Director Bazron, DC Health Director Ayanna Bennett, and DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services Medical Director Dr. Robert Holman. Information and testimony from the hearing can be found here, and a recording of the hearing can be found here.
Key Legislative Updates
Committee on Recreation, Libraries and Youth Affairs Public Hearing
On Wednesday, October 18, the Committee on Recreation, Libraries and Youth Affairs held a Public Roundtable on Acting Director of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) Sam Abed and Acting Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) Thennie Freeman. During the first half of the hearing, Councilmember Henderson discussed recruitment efforts to fill key vacancies and plans to improve the quality of medical services at DYRS with Abed. DYRS has been without a consistent Medical Director for several months.
During the second half of the hearing which focused on the DPR nominee, Councilmember Henderson discussed plans to improve the registration system for high-demand classes and activities, a timeline for filling vacancies, a potential Park Manager position at DPR, and ways to establish clear communication between DCPS and DPR regarding field and gym space for sports and recreational activities. Information and testimony from the hearing can be found here, and a recording of the hearing can be found here.
Committee on Public Works and Operations Public Hearing
On Thursday, October 19, The Committee on Public Works and Operations held a Public Hearing on the following measures, the first of which was introduced by Councilmember Henderson:
In her opening statement, Councilmember Henderson called for a more efficient waste management system and addressed a need to remove equity gaps for District homeowners. During the hearing, which was attended by members of the public, ANC Commissioners, and agency leaders from the Department of Public Works (DPW), Councilmember Henderson discussed the potential impact of the TRASH Act, plans to examine and potentially adjust the current solid waste tax credit, and ways to ensure smaller homes receive timely and efficient trash collection services from DPW. Information and testimony from the hearing can be found on the Council’s new Hearing Management System here, and a recording of the hearing can be found here.
This week Councilmember Henderson introduced three new bills on food access and transit:
The Council has a NEW centralized system for signing up for hearings. Check it out here: https://lims.dccouncil.gov/hearings/
. Christina in the Community
Regional College Conference on Hunger
On Monday, October 23, Councilmember Henderson joined Capital Area Food Bank and the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area for their panel on hunger among college students. As a panelist, Councilmember Henderson spoke about her food policy work including delivering increased funding for DC Health’s Healthy Food Access grants such as Healthy Corners, Home Delivered Meals, Produce Plus, Joyful Food Markets by $375,000 and her Universal Free School Meals Amendment Act of 2022, Give SNAP A Raise Act of 2022, and the Food Access by Public Transit Study Act of 2023.
She also discussed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposed changes to expand access to the Community Eligibility Provision, which allows high-poverty schools to serve free meals to all students without requiring families to file an application. If enacted, the minimum threshold of the “Identified Student Percentage” would go from 40% to 25% for a school or district to qualify for CEP, thus granting more students access to free meals.
In Case You Missed It: Councilmember Henderson in the News
Constituent Services Corner