Whew! It has been quite the week – from the second vote on the budget to the Code Purple for our air quality to a brown bear on the loose in Brookland, and everything in between. Amid all of this excitement, June 1st kicked of Pride Month here in the District and across the country. It is a celebration of the activism, existence, and contributions of those who identify as LGBTQIA+.
In DC, we have come a long way in our fight for the humanity of queer residents. We have a rich history of District political leaders, community organizers, educators, and artists who have fought for the rights and freedoms of all DC residents, and those nationwide. Whether it was the ClubHouse on Upshur St. NW providing community and trend setting House music in DC, or continuous activism to get the government to act in the 1980s on HIV/AIDs, or breakthroughs made in medical and legal research that supported equitable rights, our city has been one of progression when it comes to queer activism. I was excited to be able to add to that history this week when the Council approved my legislation Expanding Access to Fertility Treatment and Diagnosis Amendment Act of 2023. Among its provisions, the legislation requires private insurance to cover the transfer of an embryo to a third-party surrogate, which is a step towards LGBTQIA+ equity in fertility care. My hope is that once implemented, this bill will significantly alleviate the financial burden of loving individuals who want to start families but can’t accomplish that without help.
Of course, the District is not an island and we are all aware of the recent legislative attacks on LGBTQIA+ people in other jurisdictions. It has deepened our resolve to make sure that District is as welcoming and inclusive as we can possibly be, for all. I hope you all get out and enjoy the festivities this weekend and throughout the month. Happy Pride! As always, the work continues…
This week, Councilmember Henderson introduced B25-317: Extended Students’ Right to Home or Hospital Instruction Amendment Act of 2023. The bill would add pre-birth complications, childbirth, and postpartum recovery to the list of health conditions which render students eligible for home or hospital instruction under the Students’ Right to Home or Hospital Instruction Act of 2020. This bill is necessary because students experiencing health conditions such as pre-birth complications, childbirth, and postpartum recovery are excluded from home and hospital instruction programs under the law as interpreted by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE).
Health Committee Updates
5/31 Markup of Expanding Access to Fertility Treatment and Diagnosis Amendment Act of 2023
The bill would expand Medicaid and Alliance coverage for the diagnosis and medication treatment of infertility and fund the study of expanding coverage to IVF and fertility preservation services by 2025. Although private insurers would absorb the cost of the majority of the bill, we would need local funding to cover the expanded coverage for members of Medicaid and the DC Healthcare Alliance program.
The Committees on Health and Business & Economic Development held a markup on the bill last week. The Committee Report details the changes made from the introduced bill.
Thank you to all those who testified about their fertility experience this past October during the hearing.
5/31 Confirmation Hearing for Board of Massage Therapy: Last week, the Committee on Health held a confirmation hearing for two additional members of the Board of Massage Therapy. Johanna Brooks and Maisha Goss-Johns were confirmed as a licensed therapist member and consumer member, respectively. Watch the full hearing here.
6/8 Performance Oversight-Health Professional Licensing Boards: The Committee on Health conducted performance oversight hearings for the Boards Dentistry, Optometry, Respiratory Care, Professional Counseling, and Marriage and Family Therapy. A common theme among the Board Chairs was a need for more licensed professionals to join each Board. The Chairs also discussed how they are working to support young residents in DC through their professional services.
Dr. Iris Jeffries-Morton, vice chair of the Board of Dentistry described the work of the Board regulating oral health professionals, challenges of access to services in Wards 5, 7, and 8, and recent significant declines in the number of licensed dental assistants. She emphasized that dental care is an important part of preventive health care and that District residents should focus on catching up on any dental care that may have been delayed during the COVID pandemic.
The Chair of Optometry, Dr. Johnson, was concerned about the lack of licensed Optometrists performing initial vision screenings for students and said many students are struggling in school because they cannot see the board or their assignments. She supports mandating vision screenings as a part of enrollment in school.
The Board Chair of Respiratory Care, Ms. Williams, highlighted the increased need for Respiratory Therapists in the District as a result of the complications from long COVID, while acknowledging the current burdens placed on the 750 licensed therapists.
The Committee learned about important updates from Board of Professional Counseling Chair, Victoria Sherk. Specifically, one of the possible updates we might see is the consolidation of some Boards that overlap in licensing and practice.
The Chair of the Board of Marriage and Family Therapy stated that though a degree in the allied fields is required to be a Marriage and Family therapist, the Board also takes a deep dive into the course work one takes to prepare them for their licenses. This ensures that therapist is prepared to enter the practice. Watch the full hearing here.
6/7 Out of School Time Special Education Inclusion and Standards Amendment Act of 2023
On Wednesday, the Committee of the Whole held a hearing on the Councilmembers legislation to 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 (IEPs).Public witnesses agreed with the language and intent of the bill. They applauded the changes to the bill that would allow any student with a disability, rather than only students with IEPs, to access and enroll in the participating Out of School Time programs.Government witnesses from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), Deputy Mayor for Education (DME), and the Office of Out of School Time Programs testified that their agencies are currently working on updating the sign-up database and that for FY24, the grants application makes some mention of how a program would serve students and how many of their students have special needs.
Upcoming Health Hearings
Thursday, June 22, 2023, at 10:00am, Joint with Committee On the Whole regarding:
Wednesday, June 28, 2023, at 10:30am regarding:
Thursday, July 6, 2023, at 9:30am regarding:
Thursday, July 13, 2023 at 10:00am regarding:
Christina Around the Wilson Building
Mikva Challenge “Elections in Action” Meeting
Councilmember Henderson met with students from Mikva Challenge this week. The group is a civics education organization that develops young people to be empowered, informed, and active citizens who will promote a just and equitable society. The students were from high schools throughout the city and had common-sense action items for issues involving police brutality, community/gun violence, homelessness, and sexual assault.
Christina in the Community
DC Appleseed “Seeding Change” Luncheon
This week, Councilmember Henderson participated in a panel entitled “Equity in Practice." DC Appleseed has worked for over 25 years to make the District a better place to live and work through litigation, teamwork, and advocacy to address the toughest challenges and to develop solutions. Councilmember Henderson shared legislative accomplishments that are targeted at addressing health disparities and described upcoming initiatives from the Committee on Health to improve equity across the District.
The Politics Hour with Kojo Namdi Last Friday, Councilmember Henderson was interviewed on The Politics Hour at WAMU studios. She spoke about capping rent increases, the need for an independent Parliamentarian for Council, and provided details about upcoming legislation to hold dangerous drivers accountable. Catch the full interview, beginning at the 25:38 mark.
DPR Annual “Jump In” Councilmember Henderson attended the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Jump In at Randall Pool. At the beginning of pool season each year, the Mayor’s Office and DPR host a party to celebrate summer. Families enjoyed DPR swag, food, snacks, and snow cones. Children were excited to jump in with Mayor Bowser.
In Case You Missed It
Councilmember Henderson was featured in several articles over the past two weeks:
Constituent Services Corner
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