October is Youth Substance Use Prevention and Substance Misuse Prevention Month. Last month, all of my colleagues joined with me in introducing the Sense of the Council on the Opioid and Fentanyl Epidemic Resolution of 2023 to urge the Mayor to declare the opioid and fentanyl crisis in the District of Columbia a public health emergency.
In 2018, DC launched LIVE.LONG.DC, a strategic plan designed to combat opioid use, misuse, and related fatalities. At the time, the District reported 213 opioid-related fatal overdoses. By 2021, this figure doubled to 430, with a staggering 95% of these cases involving fentanyl or fentanyl analog. Since then, we have experienced a steady increase. As of September 2023, there has been a total of 238 opioid-related fatal overdoses in the District and thousands of suspected opioid cases responded to by the District Fire and EMS Department. To put this in perspective, just nine years ago, in 2014, the District recorded only 83 opioid-related fatal overdoses. We are very much at a crisis moment.
On Thursday, October 26, the Committee on Health will hold a second public oversight hearing this year to discuss the state of the District’s comprehensive response plan to the opioid crisis, as well as the Council’s Resolution. The day before, on October 25, DC will finally launch the long-awaited Opioid Abatement Commission, which is charged with making recommendations to the Mayor and Council regarding the use of opioid litigation settlement proceeds. Later this year, the Department of Behavioral Health will be granting funds for 2 programs started by the Committee to address substance abuse targeted outreach and the rise in mental health issues in young people. I know that some communities have been experiencing the outwards effect of substance abuse disorders and we are working diligently to improve DC government’s response to this crisis.
I want to share resources for anyone who comes in contact with young people. Most young people don’t realize that fentanyl is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, but education is key. You can register for a Narcan administration training, schedule an appointment for counseling related to youth substance abuse, and find a DC Prevention Center near you. There are new harm reduction vending machines at the following Fire and EMS stations and clinics: Engine #7: 1101 Half St. SW, Washington, DC 20024, Engine #33: 101 Atlantic St. SE, Washington, DC 20032, Whitman Walker Health Center: 2301 Martin Luther King Jr Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20020. Anyone can call numbers listed on vending machines at any time and get a one-time access code for Naloxone (Narcan) and Fentanyl strips, along with hygiene and wellness products.
While my team and I continue to search for paths to health and safety for District residents, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the current conflict between Israel and Hamas. The District of Columbia is home to many individuals, both Jewish and Muslim, with deep ties to the region. My thoughts are with all those affected by the act of terrorism committed against Israeli civilians. I mourn for the innocent lives lost both in Israel and Gaza, and especially for the terrified children trapped in the crossfire. It is my hope that a sense of shared humanity will prevail among adults to foster peace and put an end to the violence and terror.
Health Committee Updates
Public Roundtable on the Nomination of Ayanna Bennett to serve as the Director of the Department of Health
On Thursday, October 5, the Health Committee held a public roundtable on the nomination of Acting Director Ayanna Bennett. In her opening statement, Bennett highlighted her experience addressing maternal and child health, food security programs, HIV services, and environmental health at the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s office of Office of Health Equity.
Councilmember Henderson discussed recruitment efforts to fill key DC Health vacancies, the importance of timeliness for the release of public health data and reports from DC Health, and interagency collaboration efforts with Acting Director Bennett. Councilmember Henderson also discussed the Acting Director’s previous public health experience.
October Legislative Meeting
On Tuesday, October 3, the Council approved ten Health Commitee measures on first reading at a legislative meeting. These measures include Board of Medicine, Board of Physical Therapy, and Board of Occupational nominations and legislation that reforms patient access to medication and care. Nine measures passed unanimously:
Public Hearing on Home Visiting Reimbursement Act of 2023 and Childhood Continuous Coverage Act of 2023
On Wednesday, October 4, the Health Committee held a public hearing on the Home Visiting Reimbursement Act of 2023 and the Childhood Continuous Coverage Act of 2023.
Health Committee Markup
On Tuesday, October 10, the Health Committee held an additional meeting to vote on 3 measures, including reforms to provide safe albuterol and glucagon administration in schools. All three measures were approved unanimously by the Committee:
Key Legislative Updates
Performance Oversight Roundtable on the Office of United Communications 911 Center
On Thursday, October 5th, the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety held a hearing on the Operations of the Office of Unified Communications’ 911 Call Center and the Office of Unified Communications Transparency and Accuracy Amendment Act of 2023. Members of the public testified about their personal experiences with the 911 call center and ANC Commissioners and First District Chair of the Police Citizens Advisory Council Robert Pittman testified on behalf of their constituents. DC Auditor Kathy Patterson and OUC Director Heather McGaffin testified about the 911 Center's challenges, accomplishments, plans to reduce 911 call center staffing ratios, and to improve 911 dispatch accuracy. Councilmember Henderson discussed staffing shortages, recruiting efforts, alternatives for non-emergency dispatches, corrective action for inaccuracies in dispatches, and OUC's preparedness for dispatches during power outages with Director McGaffin. 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.
Transportation and the Environment and Committee of the Whole Joint Hearing
Also on Thursday October 5th, the Committee on Transportation and the Environment and the Committee of the Whole held a Joint Public Hearing on the Climatizing Our Overheated Living Spaces Regulation (COOLS) Amendment Act of 2023, a piece of legislation introduced by Councilmember Henderson. This legislation would require owners of rental habitations who provide air conditioning to tenants to have individual air conditioning units or central air conditioning systems inspected by April 1 of each year and correct any defects by May 1 of each year.
In her opening statement, Councilmember Henderson acknowledged the impact of climate change on the District, particularly rising heat levels. During the hearing, the government witnesses, Department of Energy and Environment Deputy Director Lorenzo, and the Department of Buildings Acting Director Hanlon, shared recommendations to improve the bill, agreeing that we are united in our desire to maintain internal temperatures that are comfortable in all seasons, and that our policies moving forward must allow for flexibility as we navigate the new normal of environments affected by climate change.
Give SNAP A Raise Amendment Act of 2022
The CFO recently released the September revenue estimate which indicates that nearly $40 million in excess revenue is available to temporarily fund the Give SNAP a Raise Amendment Act of 2022, which Councilmember Henderson authored and passed late last year. This funding provides a 10% local enhancement to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for District residents between January 1, 2024, and September 30, 2024. The District increasing its local contribution at this time is even more critical as Congress threatens to slash federal funding for this safety net program.
Over 140,000 District residents will be impacted by an increase of roughly $47 in SNAP benefits per month. Research has demonstrated that SNAP is an effective tool to lift families out of poverty, reduce hospitalization and healthcare costs, and improve mental and physical health. Further, SNAP has an economic multiplier effect: for every dollar invested in SNAP in the District, up to $1.79 is generated in the local economy. Increasing the purchasing power of SNAP recipients can also help in our efforts to attract and retain grocery stores in areas of the city in desperate need of access to fresh food options.
Upcoming Health Committee Hearings
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
DC Nightlife Council Award
Last Monday, October, 2, Councilmember Henderson and Councilmember Pinto accepted an Industry Ally Award for their progress on reforming liquor liability laws in the District. The DC Nightlife Council is an association that provides advocacy, support, and representation to the nightlife and restaurant community.
ANC 8A Meeting
Last Tuesday, October, Councilmember Henderson met with all ANC 8A Commissioners to listen to community safety concerns and discuss Medicaid recertifications, the community impact of new GIVE Snap A Raise funding.
Georgia Avenue Open Streets
Last Saturday, October 7, Councilmember Henderson joined DC Health at Georgia Avenue Open Streets where the agency passed out thousands of free COVID-19 rapid tests. Despite the ever changing weather, bikers and walkers came together and many enjoyed the free yoga and dance classes.
Black Nurse Collaborative
On Tuesday, October 10, Councilmember Henderson met with the Black Nurse Collaborative, an organization that advocates for career opportunities, scholarships, and professional wellbeing for Black nurses, as well as health equity and high-quality care for patients. Councilmember Henderson discussed workforce development and improving maternal and infant health outcomes with BNC nursing experts and Founder Meedie Bardonille.
Children’s National Hospital Visit
On Wednesday, October 11, Councilmember Henderson met with the new CEO of Children’s National Hospital, Michelle Riley-Brown, MHA, FACHE and toured the hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, diabetes clinic, and new on-site food pharmacy.
Literacy Lab Advocacy Day
Also on Wednesday, October 11, Councilmember Henderson met with The Literacy Lab, a non-profit organization committed to bridging the literacy gap for children from low-income communities to discuss the organization's mission, vision, and the success they have had in improving literacy rates and educational outcomes for thousands of students in the DC area.. Literacy Lab programs focus on fostering a love for reading, building strong language skills, and instilling confidence in young minds.
So Others Might Eat New Affordable Housing
On Thursday, October 12th, Councilmember Henderson joined other Councilmembers and District officials, for a ribbon cutting hosted by So Others Might Eat. The ribbon cutting marks the official opening of the Roberts Residences, a 14-story affordable housing development that includes junior 1-bedroom apartment units, with access to additional amenities including a rooftop gathering space, computer lab, study rooms, and fitness rooms. The development will provide homes to our neighbors in Ward 5.
Whitman Walker Tour
After attending the Whitman-Walker Max Robinson Center opening in Ward 8 last month, Councilmember Henderson returned on Thursday, October 12 for a full tour inside the health center. She appreciated the chance to learn more about the HIV research and care, preventative cancer screenings, and behavioral health care being offered there.
In Case You Missed It: Councilmember Henderson in the News
Constituent Services Corner