I often think of a photograph I took back in 2017 outside the United Methodist Building next to the Supreme Court. They change their marquee with messages reflecting the moment, and at the time it read: “How long, O Lord, must we grieve lives lost to gun violence?” Six years later, as the District hit an unfortunate milestone of its 111th homicide, there is still too much unimaginable loss to gun violence in our city.
As the chairperson of the Committee on Health, I recognize that gun violence is a public health crisis. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health recently released a report finding that in 2021 guns were the leading cause of death for children and teens 1-19, as well as young adults under age 25. Young Black males ages 15-34 were most at risk, accounting for 36% of gun-related homicides while only being 2% of the total population in the US. Yes, we have work to do addressing the root causes that lead to crime, but we also must address the proliferation of guns in our community and the swiftness with which people use them in conflict.
Gun violence has ripple effects across communities and our city. To curb this tide of violence, we need cross-agency collaboration and partnership from all community stakeholders. Legislatively, the Council has done several things to contribute: we passed the NEAR Act which established the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement; we started the hospital-based violence interruption program to stop cycles of trauma; we’ve funded expanded out-of-school time programming and provided funding to keep recreation centers and libraries open longer; and we’ve supported major investments in MPD, including expanding the cadet program. Next week, I’ll be adding to these efforts by introducing legislation to pilot a program for youth ages 11-13 to provide them with volunteer opportunities, soft skills training, and the chance at an incentive at the end. This age group in particular feels like they are too mature for DPR summer camps (they’re not), but they are not old enough to participate in the Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program. We need to capture their attention before the streets do.
Mayor Bowser has also introduced the Safer, Stronger Amendment Act of 2023. Our team has reviewed the legislation, and the measure is certainly worthy of debate. One thing I’ll note is that it’s not a prevention bill – approximately 95% of the bill deals with pre-trial detention and sentencing enhancements after a crime has already been committed. The Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety will hold a hearing on the Mayor’s legislation on Wednesday, June 27, and you can sign up to testify by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
As part of the public safety conversation, next Thursday, June 28, the Committee on Health will be holding a roundtable on Combatting the Opioid and Fentanyl Crisis in DC. According to the CDC, the District currently ranks first in all drug overdoses and second in opioid overdose deaths per capita. In 2022, there were 448 opioid overdose deaths with 96% involving fentanyl or a fentanyl analog. After this roundtable, we’ll be setting forth a plan of action. More information on signing up for that hearing is below.
We cannot act alone when it comes to preventing crime and improving life outcomes for all of our communities. It something I work on daily because I know the future of our city depends on it.
Councilmember Henderson’s legislation Fairness in Renting Clarification Amendment Act (B25-74) was approved by the Committee on Housing on Thursday, June 22. This legislation limits the amount of fees that a housing provider may charge a prospective tenant associated with processing an application for rental housing and increases the notice period for rent increases from 30 days to 60 days. It will be considered by the full Council at our July 11 meeting.
Health Committee Updates
6/20- Expanding Access to Fertility Treatment Amendment Act of 2023 has been approved by the full Council! The bill would expand insurance coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of infertility, among other things.
6/22- The Committee on Health and Committee of the Whole conducted a joint hearing on B25-0278- School Student Vaccination Amendment Act of 2023 and the School Nurses Roundtable. Student witnesses testified that they felt safe knowing that their school required them to be vaccinated during the pandemic, which allowed them to keep the rate of infection extremely low. Government witnesses discussed the changes coming to the School Nurse program and highlighted the additional staff that would be hired to support the medical needs of DC’s public and charter school students. Watch the full hearing here.
Upcoming Health Committee Hearings
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 in the Community
Capital Pride Parade 2023 Team Henderson was OUT and about during the Capital Pride Parade. Joining the other Councilmembers and staff, our team handed out beads, smiles, and pride, while marching in the parade. It was amazing to see and hear constituents thanking our team for the work we’ve been doing.
Georgetown Cancer Prevention Center Part of the Lombardi Cancer Center, the Navy Yard location conducts a large number of preventative screenings, and they also have a legal medical partnership for cancer patients. The University has been working tireless on cancer research and the technology needed for various types of treatment.
DC Hospital Association Networking Dinner Councilmember Henderson joined with the members of the DC Hospital Association to discuss the work of the Committee on Health thus far and how they can help us on three priority areas: combating substance abuse disorders, improving maternal health outcomes, and strengthening our healthcare workforce and infrastructure.
In Case You Missed It
Councilmember Henderson was featured in several articles over the past two weeks:
Constituent Services Corner