Spring has sprung! Pollen has made its annual resurgence, and the Cherry Blossoms reached peak bloom. I hope you have had a chance to see them, whether you went to the Tidal Basin or took a stroll through the many DC neighborhoods blessed by their presence.
Last week marked the end of FY 24 Budget Oversight Hearings for the Health Committee. The next step is the Committee markup, which takes place in one week. The Committee heard from over 200 public witnesses who provided testimony about budget requests and priorities. Thank you to every single person who took the time, energy, and resources to advocate for themselves and their neighbors.
As I reflect on the budget hearings, I’m thinking about National Black Maternal Health Week, which was also last week. Improving maternal health is a cause I’ve been championing since I ran for office. Starting a family should be one of the happiest times for a family. And yet, here in the United States, we have the highest maternal mortality rate among affluent countries, in part because of the disproportionate mortality rate of Black women. It spans across income levels, education levels, and socioeconomic status.
While DC has excellent health insurance participation, accessing quality perinatal care is still a struggle for residents in “healthcare deserts.” According to DC Health, of Black women who gave birth between 2019 and 2020, 10 percent did not initiate prenatal care until their third trimester or had none at all, and 29 percent did not initiate prenatal care until their second trimester. I pressed the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services on our need to do more – like holding our Medicaid managed care organizations more accountable for maternal health outcomes. I also introduced and worked with my colleagues to pass the Black Maternal Health Week Ceremonial Resolution at our last Legislative Meeting. We need to continue to sound the alarm about this public health crisis and support the advocates, organizations, and DC agencies working to improve health outcomes not only for our Black birthing population, but for all of DC.
On April 4, Councilmember Henderson introduced a Ceremonial Resolution to recognize April 11th-17th asDC Black Maternal Health Week. This resolution aims to raise awareness around Black maternal health disparities, amplify community-driven policy and care solutions, and honor birth workers, maternal care providers, and Black maternal health advocacy groups for their selfless work. For more information, read the bill.
March 30- United Medical Center (UMC) Hearing: The Committee held an oversight hearing on the FY 2024 proposed budget for the Not-for-Profit Hospital Corporation – United Medical Center (UMC) on March 30. We had a dynamic conversation with Dr. Jacqueline Payne-Borden, UMC Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer, and Ms. Lilian Chukwuma, UMC Chief Financial Officer, regarding the proactive approaches the hospital has taken to address staffing shortages, their commitment to maintaining a balanced budget, and their plan for closure in early 2025 once the new Cedar Hill Regional Medical Center in Ward 8 opens its doors. Notably, we learned that UMC board members have been working with Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners and community leaders to address concerns regarding a methadone clinic located on Good Hope Road. Watch the full hearing here.
March 30- Health Benefit Exchange (HBX) Hearing: Along with public testimony about the important role HBX plays in connecting DC residents with health insurance via the exchange marketplace, we had an exciting discussion with Executive Director Mila Kofman and Chair of the HBX Executive Board, Diane C. Lewis. Specifically, we heard about important work to improve health equity by eliminating cost-sharing requirements for Type 2 Diabetes care (e.g., insulin, lab work, eye and foot exams, prescriptions, and supplies), and by reducing cost sharing requirements to a $5 copay for pediatric mental and behavioral health services. We also discussed the success thus far of HealthCare4ChildCare that helps OSSE-licensed early child development facilities provide affordable health insurance for their employees, and Chairperson Henderson encouraged Director Kofman to work with OSSE to assure potential participants in the program that the funding will be sustainable and enduring. Watch the hearings here.
March 30-Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) Public Witnesses Hearing: The Committee held oversight hearings on the FY 2024 proposed budget for the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH). Public witnesses, including students, community-based providers, and advocates, requested increased resources for the School Based Behavioral Health Program, mobile services for youth experiencing homelessness, and harm reduction centers.
April 5-Department of Healthcare Finance (DHCF)/Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Hearing: The Committee held an oversight hearing on the FY 2024 proposed budget for the Department of Health Care Finance (DHCF) on April 5. Along with a large group of public witnesses, we had a lively conversation with DHCF Director Wayne Turnage, Medicaid Director Melisa Byrd, and their staffs. We spent significant time discussing the unwinding of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency and the related Medicaid recertifications to ensure DHCF is doing everything possible to connect individuals with the appropriate health insurance provider. We also asked the agency about long-term care needs, salaries for direct service providers including home health aides and home visiting programs, and the performance of the DC Access System (DCAS) that connects individuals to all health and social services available in the District. We heard a progress report on the construction of the Cedar Hill Medical Center hospital that will enhance access to services in Wards 7 and 8. Finally, we discussed the budget to fund proposed rate increases for mental and behavioral health service providers and the Budget Support Act subtitle that would limit Medicaid managed care organization (MCO) payments to hospitals and reduce overall payments to hospitals by approximately $37 million, $11 million of which is from local funds. Watch the full hearing here.
April 6-Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) government witness Hearing: We had a robust discussion with Dr. Bazron and her team about their plans for expanding their work, especially their plans to open the District’s first Stabilization and Sobering Center. Notably, we learned that this spring, DBH plans to release a Request for Applications for the District’s first community-based, level 3.5 substance use disorder treatment facility for youth. In FY 2024, the agency also plans to fund Youth Peer Recovery Coaches who will work out of the four DC Prevention Centers.Watch the full hearing here.
April 10-DC Health public witness Hearing: The Committee heard from 48 witnesses. Many of them requested that the funds for local home visiting, workforce retention and Child and Family Services (CFSA) workforce retention be restored to the budget to support families and youth transitioning out of foster care. Watch the full hearing here.
April 12- DC Health government witness Hearing: During the hearing, the Committee and public learned from Dr. Lewis that DC health applied for Federal funding to cover the Fresh Produce program for seniors. They are also rolling out an electronic health form portal for schools and families to upload documents. Watch the full hearing here.
Did You Know?
Dialing the Crisis Prevention Number 9-8-8 will route you to resources based on your phone number’s area code, not your location?
It costs DC roughly $750,000 for the District’s Department of Transportation (DDOT) to operate one Open Streets event?
Christina in the Community
The Festival Center
Serving as a workspace for several social justice and faith-oriented organizations, the Festival Center in Adams Morgan opened in 1989. They recently underwent major renovations and have reopened as of the end of last month. Councilmember Henderson was impressed with the sustainability efforts reflected in the new building and the spirit of advocacy that was present.
Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington
Located on Benning Road, the Richard England Clubhouse #14 of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington serves students from across the District. They boast extended hours of operations for teens and are open at 7:30am during the summer to provide mentoring, resources, and programming for our city’s young people. They also offer leadership development, career exploration, healthy living, civics engagement, and character development programs. Previously, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) operated these clubhouses across the city. To sign your young person up or to volunteer, visit their website.
Councilmember Henderson met with Dr. Wayne Frederick, the President of Howard University and spoke with him about his tenure as President and his philosophy on running the university. Dr. Frederick is preparing for retirement and came to Howard as a 16-year-old International student from Trinidad.
University of the District of Columbia (UDC)
Councilmember Henderson took a tour of UDC’s Van Ness Campus last week. She got an opportunity to see some of the laboratory classrooms, the greenhouse, and the “Heritage Tree”. Having been in this role since 2015, the President of UDC, Ronald Mason, is the longest tenured president in UDC’s history.
Breakfast at Hayes Wellness Center
Councilmember Henderson attended the Annual Pancake Breakfast at Hayes Senior Wellness Center in Ward 6. She had some great pancakes-and conversations about what the community needs, including their hopes of turning some of the green space into a community garden. Did you know that while Hayes is in Ward 6, neighbors from other parts of the city visit the center daily?
Cedar Hill Hospital Construction Site
Councilmember Henderson and Health Committee staff visited the site of the Cedar Hill Regional Medical Center on St. Elizabeth’s campus in Congress Heights. Cedar Hill will be a full-scale academic community hospital with 136 beds, a Level 3 Trauma Center, and adult and children’s emergency rooms, and it will include comprehensive surgery, cardiac rehabilitation, outpatient nephrology and dialysis, labor/delivery and postpartum care, a neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and outpatient cancer care, among other services. The Medical Center will also include an Ambulatory Center with offices for primary care providers, specialists, cardiac surgery, and dermatology.
Ward 8 Women’s Symposium
Councilmember Henderson was invited to the Ward 8 Women’s Symposium at the new Bard Early College High School in Congress Heights. The event was hosted by Councilmember Trayon White and featured local, Black-women-owned businesses and products. Attendees were serenaded by saxophone, highlighting the talents of our Ward 8 residents. Councilmember Henderson spoke to the guests and discussed how to manage a busy work and personal life. She stressed the importance of telling people “no” and blocking out time for yourself and the things you enjoy, no matter what others may be demanding from you. You cannot pour from an empty cup!
DC Central Kitchen Healthy Corners
Councilmember Henderson visited Newton Food Mart and Brookland Supermarket & Deli to learn about how they have been participating in the Healthy Corners program. Healthy Corners delivers fresh produce and healthy snacks to corner stores in food scarce neighborhoods in DC. The stores sell the produce at below-market prices so that they are more affordable for customers. Several participating stores also offer a “SNAP match” coupon, which allows customers to receive a $5 coupon for free fruits and vegetables every time they spend $5 using their SNAP/EBT card. To learn more about SNAP Match and Healthy Corners and to find participating stores in your neighborhood, visit the Healthy Corner’s website.
Washington Teachers’ Union Shared Vision Conference
Councilmember Henderson spoke on a legislative panel with several State Board of Education (SBOE) members and fellow Councilmembers at the annual Shared Vision Conference at Kimball Elementary School. She agreed with the audience’s concerns about staff shortages, especially as it pertains to school-based mental health clinicians. She also encouraged educators to continue advocating for their school communities and mentioned the need for us to get more creative to recruit and retain school nurses.
Parents Amplifying Voices in Education (PAVE) Budget Forum
Councilmember Henderson spoke on a panel at the Pave Budget Forum. PAVE focuses on engaging parents and ensuring they have a seat at the table during legislative and policy decisions. She spoke about the need for DC statehood so that we can support our students entering post-secondary education and training without Congressional meddling.
ANC 6B Transportation Committee Meeting
Councilmember Henderson was invited to the monthly meeting for ANC 6B’s Transportation Committee. Residents and commissioners asked about the status of the Rock Creek Parkway traffic accident investigation, updates on Vision Zero, and how we can work as a community to get dangerous drivers off the road. The Committee also forwarded a Traffic Enforcement Resolution that calls for tying nonfinancial penalties to traffic violations, reporting traffic violations to insurance companies, requiring driving lessons for offenders who have amassed a substantial number of violations, and for the Mayor to discuss reciprocity with Maryland and Virginia to hold unsafe drivers accountable. For more information on the conversation, check out the Capitol Hill Corner write up.
Constituent Service Corner
Kids Eat Free for Spring Break: D.C. Central Kitchen’s mobile meals trucks will make daily stops in neighborhoods to ensure students and families have free meals while school is out.
Department of Parks and Recreation Summer Camp Lottery Results are LIVE: If you were selected for a program you chose, your receipt will indicate an enrollment status of “Enrolled”; if you were waitlisted, the enrollment status will indicate so; and if you weren’t selected for a camp, the enrollment status will be “cancelled”. For more information on the lottery and how to accept your camp slot, visit DPR’s website.
Earth Day Resource Fair: Councilmember Henderson is joining ANC 4B's Executive Committee in hosting the Earth Day Resource Fair on April 29 from 11 am - 2 pm at Whittier ES. Join government agencies, non-profits, neighborhood groups, student organizations and more with the goal of sharing resources and opportunities for engagement around environmentalism! To see the full list of participating organizations and agencies and to RSVP, click here.
Sales tax change effective April 1: The DC Council passed legislation increasing the sales and use tax rate on the gross receipts from the sale of or charges for any room or rooms, lodgings, or accommodations furnished to a transient by any hotel, inn, tourist camp, tourist cabin, or any other place in which rooms, lodgings, or accommodations are regularly furnished in the District. The total sales and use tax rate imposed on such gross receipts is increased from 14.95% to 15.95% percent during the time period of April 1, 2023, through March 30, 2027. Visit the Office of Tax and Revenue’s website for more information.
Check your tax refund status: You can get information about your tax refund online. This site allows you to determine if your return has been received, if your final refund amount matches the amount you claimed, and if your refund has been mailed. Simply log on using your social security number and the refund amount you requested on your tax return. To check your refund status visit https://mytax.dc.gov. The Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR) also has a plethora of resources available to help you figure out your tax bracket, what you may owe, and much more. Visit their website for more information.
The DC Tax Revision Commission Stakeholder Meetings: As part of their stakeholder meetings, the Commission is inviting brief statements or letters outlining priorities for DC tax policy and for the work of the Commission. If you would like to upload a statement or review what others have written, please visit this site: https://www.dctaxrevisioncommission.org/participate. For more information on the Commission, visit their website.
Medicaid Renewal, Don’t Wait to Update: Beginning April 1, all DC residents with Medicaid, Alliance, or the Immigrant Children’s Program must renew their coverage again. Please visit the District Direct website to update your address, phone number, and/or email so that the Department of Healthcare Finance (DHCF) knows where to send your Medicaid renewal letter. If you require assistance, please call the Public Benefits Center at 202-727-5355.
My School DC Lottery Results are Live: As of March 31, the My School DC Lottery results have been released. Families who are matched must enroll in their selected school by May 1, 2023. For more information on the My School DC lottery, visit their website.
Post Lottery Application: If you missed the lottery application deadline or want to add schools to an existing application, you can add your child to a school’s waitlist by submitting a post-lottery application.
Enrollment Saturday: On April 29, My School DC is hosting Enrollment Saturday, where schools will be available from 9:00 a.m. - 12 p.m., in addition to their regularly scheduled hours, to provide enrollment support to new and returning families. For a list of participating schools and times, visit the Enrollment Saturday page on the My School DC website.
Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) Dual Enrollment Application is live: The DC Dual Enrollment Consortium Program allows participating high school students to enroll in approved college courses at a postsecondary institution and potentially earn college and/or high school credit. Applications are currently being accepted for the program through May 18. Students must be enrolled in an eligible District of Columbia public or public charter school and pursuing a secondary credential such as a high school diploma or GED. To learn more about the program and its eligibility requirements, visit OSSE’s website.
Office of Unified Communication (OUC) Junior Academy Fall Cohort application: The next cohort for the Junior Academy will begin on September 21, 2023! The program will consist of 5 once a week sessions aiming to familiarize youth with OUC career opportunities. We are accepting interested forms on a rolling basis. To learn more information, visit their website to complete the form.
Spring Services at Department of Public Works (DPW): DPW began posted residential street sweeping on Wednesday, March 1. The program will run through October 30, and motorists are asked to obey posted signs indicating the schedule of parking restrictions to ensure streets are swept thoroughly. DPW will begin cleaning residential alleys from April to October by Ward. For a full list of spring services performed by DPW, visit their website.
Department of Energy and Environment’s (DOEE) Green Pathways Program is hiring: Are you interested in a career, fellowship, internship, summer job, or volunteer experience in the field of energy and the environment? The goal of DOEE’s Green Pathways is to provide students, young adults, and those interested in energy and the environment with jobs and opportunities in this field. Several positions are available and starting pay is $17/hour. To get more information and to apply, visit DOEE’s website.
Have a constituent service need related to the Health Committee or any of the other agencies in DC Government? Want Councilmember Henderson to come to your community event or meeting? Don’t hesitate to reach out to Constituent Services Director Ana Berrios-Vazquez during regular business hours (9:00am - 5:30pm) at 202-724-8105, or ABerriosVazquez@dccouncil.gov.