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DHMH Press Releases :

February 20
Maryland Releases Updated Chartbook of Minority Health and Minority Health Disparities Data

BALTIMORE (February 19, 2013) — The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and its Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities (MHHD) have released the newest edition of the Maryland Chartbook of Minority Health and Minority Health Disparities Data as part of the state’s expanded effort to eliminate health disparities and achieve health equity.  Efforts in Maryland to address health disparities include the Health Enterprise Zone program, the implementation of the coverage expansion under the Affordable Care Act, the State Health Improvement Process, and others.
 
This is the third edition of the Chartbook, which highlights health disparities data from 2005 to 2010. Previous versions were published in September 2007 and December 2009.  The Chartbook provides essential information for identifying and measuring disparities, determining the causes of disparities, planning interventions that work, and tracking progress.  The new edition of the Chartbook is available online at http://dhmh.maryland.gov/mhhd.
 
Data highlights from the Chartbook include:
Compared to Whites, the Black or African American death rates for the period of 2007-2009 were:
1.2 times higher for heart disease
1.2 times higher for cancer
1.3 times higher for stroke
1.8 times higher for bloodstream infections
2.0 times higher for kidney diseases
2.3 times higher for diabetes
7.7 times higher for homicide
10.9 times higher for HIV/AIDS
The cost of the Black vs. White disparity in admission rate and severity disparities was about $800 million in Maryland for 2011.
Heart disease was the leading cause of death for all women.  Heart disease had the largest Black-to-White mortality rate disparity for women.
Black men’s prostate cancer mortality rate was 2.0 times higher compared to White men, while the Black prostate cancer incidence was 1.4 times higher.
The HIV incidence rate was 2.2 times higher for American Indians or Alaska Natives than for Whites in 2009.
The proportion of adults unable to afford health care in the prior year was 1.4 times higher for Asians or Pacific Islanders than for Whites in the period 2006 to 2010.
The rate of new AIDS cases among Hispanics or Latinos was 4.7 times higher than for Whites in 2009.
The Chartbook highlights reduction of Black vs. White mortality disparities across major chronic conditions in the last 10 years. For example, the heart disease mortality disparity between Blacks and Whites was reduced by 29.1 percent, and the cancer mortality disparity between Blacks and Whites was reduced by 64.7 percent.
 
One new feature of this Chartbook is a more comprehensive approach to racial and ethnic population data.  In addition to presenting data grouped by persons reporting a single race (and a group for multiracial responses), this edition also contains data for the number of persons reporting that race as any portion of their heritage.  This second approach, a standard method used by the Census Bureau, provides an expanded picture of Maryland’s American Indian and Alaska Native populations.  The third edition of the Chartbook also highlights demographic information for each of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions.
 
For questions regarding the Chartbook, or for general questions about minority health and health disparities, contact the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities at www.dhmh.maryland.gov/mhhddhmh.healthdisparities@maryland.gov, or 410-767-7117.
 
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February 14
State Launches Online Resource Database for Children and Youth
BALTIMORE, MD (February 14, 2013) - The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) is launching a new online resource database for children and youth with special health care needs.
In Maryland, over one third of families of these children report that they cannot easily access needed community based services and half of the same families report that they need help finding services for their youngsters.  For families in rural areas of the state, it can be even more difficult to find specialty services.
 
“This database provides a wealth of information for families in need of specialized health care services,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, DHMH Secretary.
 
In order to improve access to information about needed services and resources, Maryland’s Office for Genetics and People with Special Health Care Needs created the resource database, the Maryland Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs Resource Locator. The database is available at http://specialneeds.dhmh.maryland.gov.
 
“The database features information about more than eight hundred resources for Maryland families, said Dr. Laura Herrera, Deputy Secretary of Public Health Services. “It is accessible in over 50 languages, and offers user-friendly features including helpful search features, interactive maps and directions to each resource, and is 508-compliant for those with visual impairments."
 
“The database was developed in partnership with Maryland families is designed to assist parents, caregivers, families, providers, and youth in locating needed resources,” says Josie Thomas, Executive Director of The Parents’ Place of Maryland.  “This gives families a convenient, easy-to-use way to find needed services in their communities. It’s wonderful and we are so excited!”
 
For more information about the Maryland Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs Resource Locator, please visit the online database at http://specialneeds.dhmh.maryland.gov or contact Angela Sittler, Parent Resource Coordinator, at 1-800-638-8864 or by email at angela.sittler@maryland.gov. To learn more, visit the Office for Genetics and People with Special Health Care Needs website at http://fha.dhmh.maryland.gov/genetics/SitePages/Home.aspx .
 
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February 13
MD Million Hearts Symposium Unites Efforts for Heart Health

State joins nationwide effort to reduce heart disease and stroke

BALTIMORE, MD (February 13, 2012) – The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), in partnership with the Delmarva Foundation, today brought together public and private partners for the first Maryland Million Hearts Symposium to discuss public health solutions to fighting heart disease and stroke, two of Maryland’s leading causes of death.

Million Hearts™ is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nationwide initiative to focus, coordinate, and enhance heart disease prevention activities across public and private sectors. The goal of this unprecedented effort is to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes over five years and demonstrate to the American people that improving the health system can save lives. In 2012, Maryland became the first state to sign its own Million Hearts commitment.

“Preventing heart disease is a top priority in the effort to improve health across communities,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of DHMH. “The Million Hearts initiative brings together existing efforts and new programs to help Marylanders live longer, healthier lives.”

More than one out of every four deaths in Maryland is due to heart disease. Every 33 minutes, someone in Maryland dies from heart attack, stroke or other heart disease complication. The costs of heart disease are tremendous. In 2010, heart disease and stroke accounted for $1.23 billion of hospital expenses in Maryland (Health Services Cost Review Commission inpatient data accessed via MATCH) (Maryland Vital Statistics Administration).

Maryland’s commitment to the Million Hearts™ initiative has 5 core components: improving clinical care, strengthening tobacco control, promoting a healthy diet, encouraging workplace wellness, and incentivizing local public health action. Progress on those components is tracked through StateStat.

The Million Hearts™ initiative aims to prevent heart disease and stroke by:

  • Improving access to effective care
  • Focusing clinical attention on the prevention of heart attack and stroke through the ‘ABCS’-- aspirin when appropriate, blood pressure control, cholesterol management and smoking cessation
  • Activating the public to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle, including physical activity and healthy food choices
  • Improving prescription adherence to appropriate medications for control of risk factors

  • The Maryland Million Hearts Symposium featured presentations on workplace wellness, healthcare reform, creating healthy environments in schools and childcare settings, and improving cardiovascular health through collaboration of health professionals.

    Dr. Sharfstein and Frieda Wadley, MD, MSPHA, CEO of the Delmarva Foundation, delivered welcoming remarks at the event.

    Janet Wright, MD, FACC, executive director of the Million Hearts initiative, delivered the keynote address, It Takes a Village, and Gail Mates, a heart disease patient, shared her inspirational story with the audience.

    For more information on the Symposium and other Million Hearts™ goals and activities, please visit: http://fha.dhmh.maryland.gov/hdsp/SitePages/Million%20Hearts.aspx

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      February 01
      NATIONAL BLACK HIV/AIDS AWARENESS DAY

      Working Together For a Maryland with No New HIV Infections! 

      Baltimore, MD (February 1, 2013) – The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) joins the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African American organizations, and local public health agencies’ in observing National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NHBAAD) on February 7, 2013. This year’s theme is “Our Ancestors Fought That We Might Be Free - Even from HIV.”
       
      The CDC, estimates more than 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the United States.  On December 31, 2010, Maryland had 30,132 total living HIV cases; 78 percent of the cases were among African Americans, of which 61 percent were male and 39 percent were female. The three highest modes of HIV transmission for African Americans in Maryland were injection drug use (39 percent), heterosexual exposure (34 percent), and male homosexual exposure (22 percent).
       
      “African Americans continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, DHMH secretary. “We are working together towards the goal of a Maryland with no new HIV infections.”
      “Residents 13 years of age and older are reminded to get tested for HIV,” said Prevention and Health Promotion Administration Director Michelle Spencer. “It is crucial for Marylanders who test positive for HIV to avoid sharing drug needles, inform sexual partners about their HIV status, avoid unprotected sex, seek treatment, and follow treatment regimens.”
       
      On February 6, 2013, DHMH will support Coppin State University, Bowie State University, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in hosting the NBHAAD commemorative events at the following locations: Coppin State University, Talon Center Atrium, 2500 W. North Avenue, Baltimore Maryland, from 10 am to 3 pm; Bowie State University, Wiseman Student Center, Room 102, 14000 Jericho Park Road, Bowie Maryland, from 12 pm to 3 pm; and University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Student Center, Princess Anne, Maryland, from 6 pm to 8 pm.
       
      For information about HIV education, testing, treatment and support services in Maryland, please call 410-767-5132, or go to http://ideha.dhmh.maryland.gov.

       

       

      January 30
      GOVERNOR MARTIN O’MALLEY HIGHLIGHTS “BETTER CHOICES, BETTER RESULTS”

      ANNAPOLIS, MD (January 30, 2013) – Governor Martin O’Malley today delivered his seventh State of the State address before members of the Maryland General Assembly, invited guests, and the citizens of Maryland.  In his address, Governor O’Malley focused on the better choices made to achieve better results for our job creation, Maryland schools, and a strong and growing middle class. The Governor highlighted the tough decisions made in the midst of a national recession that enabled Maryland to protect priorities while creating jobs and expanding opportunity. 

      Tough, Fiscally Responsible Choices
      • We constrained budget growth and cut the size of government: We cut more than any administration in Maryland history; there are fewer executive branch employees now than there were in 2007; on a per capita basis, there are fewer executive branch employees than at any time since 1973; and we’ve constrained growth more than any administration in modern Maryland history.
      • We instituted reforms: We reformed hundreds of pages of regulations; streamlined permitting; fast-tracked projects that create jobs; eliminated paperwork and waste in State government; advanced public-private partnerships; and used smart maps to target our resources.
      • We made tough choices: While other states tried to cut their way to prosperity, we used a balanced approach. We made better choices that included new revenue to bolster schools.

      Today, we’re on the verge of having closed the structural deficit, we’ve protected our AAA bond rating - certified by all three ratings agencies - and we’ve strengthened our Rainy Day Fund.
       
      While Being Fiscally Responsible, We Still Achieved Results
       
      • We’ve made our schools better: We have the #1 schools in the nation for the 5th straight year; record student achievement; record high school graduation rates; narrower achievement gaps between white and non-white students; the nation’s best Advanced Placement scores; and the highest participation rate in AP science, technology, engineering, and math exams in our state’s history.
      • We’ve kept college affordable: Since 2007, we’ve done a better job than any state in the nation in holding down the cost of college tuition.
      • We’ve helped businesses create jobs: The U.S. Chamber ranks us as #1 state in the nation for entrepreneurship and innovation because of our high concentrations of high-tech activity and research; we’ve recovered a higher percentage of jobs after the national recession than any other state in our region; and we’ve exceeded our highest-in-the-nation goals for empowering women and minority-owned businesses by awarding state business.
      • We’ve helped keep families safe: We’ve driven down violent crime down nearly 25% since 2006, and even in light of population growth, incidents of violent crime are below where they were in 1977.
        We are improving sustainability: We have made the Chesapeake Bay healthier; rescued the Blue Crab; restored our Native Oyster; and signed up more farmers than ever before to plant cover crops.
       
      “As we emerge from the toughest of economic times, the state of our State is strong and we are growing stronger,” said Governor O’Malley.
       
      For the Governor’s complete remarks, as prepared for delivery,click here.
       
      The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development works with partners to finance housing opportunities and revitalize great places for Maryland citizens to live, work and prosper. To learn more about DHCD programs, log on to www.mdhousing.org .
       
      To learn more, follow Community Review, DHCD's blog (http://blog.mdhousing.org). News updates also are available by following DHCD on Twitter (http://twitter.com/MDHousing) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/MarylandHousing).

       

      January 28
      WEINBERG FOUNDATION ADDS $1 MILLION TO ITS INITIAL INVESTMENT IN RENTAL

      Initiative Addresses the Needs of Disabled Who Declare, "We Want A Place Of Our Own!"

       

      CROWNSVILLE, MD (January 28, 2013) - The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation announced it will expand its initial funding for the Maryland Affordable Rental Housing Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities initiative, providing an additional $1 million investment in the program.

      Governor Martin O'Malley joined Weinberg Foundation Chairman Donn Weinberg and Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Raymond A. Skinner in May 2011 to announce the landmark partnership to finance affordable, quality, independent, integrated housing opportunities for very low income persons with disabilities who meet certain eligibility criteria. The additional funding doubles the Weinberg Foundation's total commitment for the initiative to $2 million.
       
      "The Weinberg Foundation has long been one of Maryland's great partners in creating and preserving safe, decent, and affordable rental housing," said Secretary Skinner.  "This additional funding will enable us to further expand housing opportunities that support independent living for individuals with disabilities."
      "The Weinberg Foundation is especially proud of this program and its partnership with the State of Maryland as we work to provide persons with disabilities greater choice and independence in their daily lives," said Donn Weinberg. "We are also thrilled to announce a $1 million grant for similar deeply-affordable housing in Illinois, reinforcing what the foundation hopes will become a national trend."
      Stan Goldman, Weinberg Foundation program director for disabilities, added, "Our focus groups with young people with multiple disabilities reveal the same desire: 'We want a place of our own.'"
       
      The 2011 "Weinberg Apartment" initiative was facilitated by the Maryland departments of disabilities, housing and community development and health and mental hygiene.  As part of the original agreement, the Weinberg Foundation provided $1 million over two years to be used as grant funds to cover capital costs for properties approved for other DHCD rental housing financing, including federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits.  The designated "Weinberg Apartments" will have very low rents so that they are affordable to non-elderly disabled households with incomes at 15 to 30 percent of the area median. Those households will be referred to the program by the department of health and mental hygiene.
       
      "Lack of affordable housing is one of the most critical issues facing individuals with disabilities who want to live and work more independently," said Maryland Department of Disabilities Secretary Catherine A. Raggio.   "The Weinberg Foundation's investment is helping Maryland create an exciting model program that will produce more affordable housing for people with disabilities."
       
      Currently, there are two developments that have been accepted as part of the Weinberg Apartment initiative.  Hudson Townhomes, a 48-unit townhouse community in Cambridge, is an affordable housing community that features two, three and four bedroom townhouses.  Two Hudson Townhomes units have been reserved as Weinberg Apartments for persons with disabilities.  The project is scheduled for occupancy in early 2013.  Parkview Towers is an existing apartment complex located in Takoma Park that is being renovated as an affordable rental property.  Renovations to the 125-unit building will begin in early 2013 with occupancy scheduled for summer 2013.  Parkview Towers features efficiencies, one and two bedroom apartments.  Five of the units will be reserved for Weinberg Apartments for individuals with disabilities.
       
      "Individuals who are ready to live on their own need a place to call home", said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, secretary of the department of health and mental hygiene. "With this grant, we can help make that a reality."
       
      Under the initiative, the departments of disabilities and health and mental hygiene target eligible disabled households and refer tenants to the units on lease-up and turnover. DHCD is responsible for closing the financing, disbursing the funds for construction, and monitoring the projects for compliance with the long-term Weinberg unit requirements. This process ensures that the Weinberg units are made available to very-low income persons with a range of disabilities who are prepared and ready to be successful living independently.
       
      Persons interested in applying for a Weinberg apartment should contact John Brennan of the Department of Disabilities at (410) 767-3660.
       
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      January 25
      FREE CAR SEAT INSPECTION EVENT AT ANNE ARUNDEL COMMUNITY COLLEGE

       

      Baltimore, MD (January 25, 2013) —The Anne Arundel Child Passenger Safety Team will hold a free car seat inspection event on Wednesday, January 30, from 2:00 to 5:00 pm at the Anne Arundel Community College, 101 College Parkway, Arnold, MD.  No appointment is needed to attend this event.
       
      Parents and other caregivers will have the opportunity to work with nationally certified child passenger safety technicians to ensure they are installing and using their car seat(s) properly, and learn more about how to keep children safe in the car. Participants should arrive with car seats already installed to the best of their ability, and they should bring both the vehicle and safety seat owner’s manuals with them.
       
      Participants are encouraged to bring their children, so that child passenger safety technicians can assess how the child fits in the seat. If the child(ren) will not be present for the car seat inspection, place a piece of tape on the car seat, at the level of the child’s shoulders, so that technicians can accurately assess the child's position in the seat. Participants should be prepared to ask questions and be involved in the seat checking process, and may want to bring an additional adult to supervise children while they work with seat technicians.
       
      To learn more about this event or other seat check events in Maryland, call Kids In Safety Seats at 800-370-SEAT, or visit their Web site at www.mdkiss.org
       
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      January 24
      LT. GOV. BROWN ANNOUNCES MARYLAND’S FIRST FIVE HEALTH ENTERPRISE ZONES

      ANNAPOLIS, Md. (January 24, 2013) — Today, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown announced the designation of the State’s first Health Enterprise Zones (HEZ) in five locations: Capitol Heights in Prince George’s County, Greater Lexington Park in St. Mary’s County, Dorchester and Caroline Counties, West Baltimore, and Annapolis. Community coalitions in each area will receive a range of incentives, benefits, and grant funding to address unacceptable and persistent health disparities.

      Championed by the Lt. Governor and jointly administered by the Community Health Resources Commission (CHRC) and Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), the HEZ Initiative is a four-year pilot program with a budget of $4 million per year. The purposes of the HEZ Initiative are to: (1) Reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic minority populations and among geographic areas; (2) Improve health care access and health outcomes in underserved communities; and (3) Reduce health care costs and hospital admissions and re-admissions.

      To receive designation as an HEZ, community coalitions identified contiguous geographic areas with measurable and documented economic disadvantage and poor health outcomes and proposed a creative plan for targeted investments in community health. Nineteen coalitions submitted proposals in fall 2012.

      Representatives from each of the five HEZ coalitions were present at the event including Christine Wray from MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, Roger Harrell from the Dorchester County Health Department, Pam Creekmur from the Prince George’s Health Department, Tori Bayless from Anne Arundel Health System and Dr. Sam Ross from Bon Secours Baltimore Health System. Numerous elected officials from these areas joined the announcement.

      “Health Enterprise Zones are a new and innovative way of addressing the health disparities that have plagued our communities for too long,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “My father was a doctor, and growing up, I had the opportunity to see first-hand the tremendous impact that quality affordable, healthcare can have on families and businesses. By establishing Health Enterprise Zones, we will be able to use incentives and innovation to expand access to care and address the geographic and racial disparities that exist in our most underserved communities.”

      “Today’s announcement about five Health Enterprise Zones is a positive step forward in improving community health, reducing overall health care costs, and eliminating racial and economic health disparities in communities across our state,” U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski said. “Study after study has shown that where you live matters in how long you live. Marylanders living in Baltimore’s lower-income neighborhoods have worse health outcomes and lower life expectancies than those in more affluent communities. For instance, people who live in Upton/Druid Heights live 30 years less than those who live in the greater Roland Park area of North Baltimore. This is not only incredibly troubling, it’s unacceptable. We must do more to improve the overall health and well-being of individuals living in these communities. We must better ensure access to medical care and healthy food, while also working to limit exposure to violence and environmental hazards.”

      "I am commtted to better health for all Marylanders and addressing disparities is critical to that effort," said U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin, who authored provisions in the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) to eliminate health disparities. "I want to thank Lt. Governor Brown for his leadership and innovation on this truly unique approach, which I believe should serve as a model for the rest of the nation."

      “I am very pleased to hear that the West Baltimore Primary Care Access Collaborative will be one of the first Health Enterprise Zones in the State of Maryland,” commented Congressman Elijah E. Cummings. “I commend all of the partners for their exciting proposal, and I thank Governor O'Malley, Lt. Governor Brown, and the State of Maryland for supporting this creative approach to addressing unacceptable health disparities.”  

      Specific HEZ proposals included:

      • MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, Greater Lexington Park: The proposal for the Greater Lexington Park seeks to improve public health outcomes in the Lexington Park, Great Mills, and Park Hall communities of St. Mary’s County, areas experiencing a dearth of primary care physicians. The proposal includes a new community health care center and five new primary care practitioners, one psychiatrist, and two licensed social workers in the Zone. Innovative strategies include the development of a “health care transportation route” to address barriers to accessing health care in this rural area of the state.
      • Dorchester County Health Department, Competent Care Connections: The proposal for Competent Care Connections seeks to improve public health outcomes in Dorchester and Caroline Counties, two jurisdictions with some of the worst health outcomes in the state, by adding 18 new providers in the Zone, and creating a new mobile mental health crisis team. The proposal is innovative in its focus on targeting individuals who visit hospital emergency departments for behavioral health conditions, and efforts to build a new community health workforce in the Mid-Shore region.
      • Prince George’s Health Department, Capital Heights: The proposal submitted by Prince George’s County Health Department focuses on Capitol Heights, a neighborhood that leads the county in poor health outcomes, including low birth weight, late/no prenatal care, and teen births, and is comprised of 95 percent racial/ethnic minorities. This proposal would create five new patient-centered medical homes in the Zone to serve a minimum of 10,000 residents, and would add a total of 25 new providers.
      • Anne Arundel Health System, Annapolis: The Anne Arundel Health System proposal focuses on a specific underserved area in downtown Annapolis with high rates of emergency room utilization, hospital admissions and re-admissions, and a large volume of medical 911 calls. This proposal establishes a new patient-centered medical home (PCMH) inside of a senior housing complex by adding one full-time physician, two full-time medical assistants, and one full-time case manager.
      • Bon Secours Baltimore Health System, West Baltimore Primary Care Access Collaborative: This proposal focuses on expanding access to primary and preventative care and creating a community health infrastructure to serve residents in West Baltimore, a community facing some of the highest disease burden rates and worst social determinants of health care in the state. The proposal would support the recruitment of 18 new primary care professionals, deployment of eleven community health workers, and would build access to community health resources in the Zone, including access to healthy food retailers and exercise facilities.

      “Lt. Governor Brown has been working tirelessly to ensure that there are no forgotten communities in Maryland, and these Health Enterprise Zones are going to make a significant impact on cities and towns throughout our state,” said Delegate Shirley Nathan-Pulliam. “As a Registered Nurse, I’ve seen first-hand the impact that quality, affordable health care can have on a neighborhood and this program is going to put resources into the neighborhoods that need them most. Over the past 18 years in the House of Delegates, I’ve focused on ending health disparities in Maryland, and thanks to this legislation and the Lt. Governor’s leadership, I believe we are one step closer to finishing that important work.”

      “Chronic diseases, rising health care costs, and health disparities are national problems,” said Dean E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A. of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Chair of the Health Disparities Work Group that proposed the development of the HEZ initiative. “Health Enterprise Zones are a unique, community-based intervention that can serve as a model for the rest of the country and illustrate the solutions to national problems can be found locally.”

      The HEZ program was established by the Maryland Health Improvement & Health Disparities Reduction Act, signed into law in April 2012. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Community Health Resources Commission issued a Call for Proposals in October 2012 through which community organizations and local health departments could apply for HEZ designation status, to be awarded on a competitive basis. Applications were evaluated based on a set of 13 review principles by an independent HEZ Review Committee comprised of experts in the fields of public health, health disparities, and health care delivery. Areas designated as HEZs will have access to a range of incentives that include state income tax credits; hiring tax credits; loan repayment assistance; priority entrance into the state’s Patient Centered Medical Home Program; priority for available state electronic health record grant funding; additional grant funding from the Community Health Resources Commission; and capital grant support.

      “It's inspiring to see communities come together to tackle unacceptable health disparities,” said DHMH Secretary Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein. “With the implementation of these first five Health Enterprise Zones, Maryland is investing in smart ideas to improve health and reduce costs.”

      "The Commission is delighted and honored to support the Health Enterprise Zone Initiative," commented John A. Hurson, Chairman, Maryland Community Health Resources Commission. "These designations will expand access to health care in underserved areas of the state." Over the last seven years, the Commission has awarded 110 grants, totaling $26.2 million, supporting programs in all 24 jurisdictions of the state. The programs have collectively provided access to health care services for more than 105,000 Marylanders.

      For additional information about the HEZ Initiative, please visit http://dhmh.maryland.gov/healthenterprisezones/SitePages/Updates.aspx.

      Lt. Governor Brown leads the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s efforts to reduce costs, expand access, and improve the quality of care for all Marylanders. Under the leadership of Governor O’Malley and Lt. Governor Brown, Maryland has implemented reforms that have expanded health coverage to more than 365,000 Marylanders, half of whom are children, established Maryland’s Health Benefit Exchange, and put the State in position to maximize the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Independent analysis by the Hilltop Institute at the University of Maryland Baltimore County has found that implementation of the ACA will benefit the state’s budget by $672 million through 2020, generate more than $3 billion in annual economic activity, cut the number of uninsured in half, and create more than 26,000 jobs.  

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      January 18
      Flu Remains Steady in Maryland

      Season’s First Pediatric Flu-Related Death Confirmed


      (Baltimore, MD) January 18, 2013 – Weekly surveillance indicates that influenza remains steady around Maryland, but some indicators suggest declines. The pattern in Maryland is consistent with what is being seen in some other parts of the country. At the same time, however, laboratory testing confirmed this week that a Baltimore area child who died in December tested positive for influenza. The child also had an underlying health condition.

      For the week that ended on January 12, emergency department visits for influenza-like illness were up, as were the number of people who reported that they had influenza-like illness to Maryland’s influenza tracking survey (MRITS). Influenza associated hospitalizations were down, as were the proportion of positive lab tests. More information about Maryland influenza activity can be found at: http://ideha.dhmh.maryland.gov/influenza/fluwatch

      An annual vaccination remains the best way to prevent influenza and its related complications, and it’s not too late to get vaccinated. While some healthcare providers no longer have influenza vaccine available, there is still vaccine in Maryland; DHMH urges people whose usual healthcare provider no longer has influenza vaccine available to check in with other community vaccinators, such as pharmacies, heath departments or other healthcare providers.

      People who develop influenza-like illnesses (fever plus cough or sore throat) should stay home from work or school while they’re sick. Most people recover from influenza within a few days to less than two weeks, even without any specific treatment. However, certain people who might be at greater risk of complications if they get influenza should check in with their healthcare provider if they develop an influenza-like illness, to see if they might benefit from an antiviral medication, like Tamiflu. Those people include young children, people at 65 and over, people with underlying medical conditions, and pregnant women.

      Laboratory testing confirmed influenza infection in the child who died. Out of privacy concerns, DHMH will not release any additional information about the child. This is the first Maryland influenza-associated pediatric death reported during this 2012-2013 influenza season, and the first since the 2009-2010 season, when there were two influenza-associated pediatric deaths.

      Only pediatric influenza-associated deaths are required to be reported to DHMH. The Department does not have data related to adult influenza-related deaths. Additional information about influenza is available at: http://ideha.dhmh.maryland.gov/influenza/

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      January 18
      New Program Connects Primary Care Providers to Mental Health Services for Youth

      BALTIMORE (January 17, 2013) – The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and the State Department of Education (MSDE), along with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the Salisbury University Department of Social Work, have launched a program aiming to support the efforts of pediatric primary care providers to assess and manage mental health concerns in their patients.
       
      “This program will better enable primary care providers to connect their patients to mental health services,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of DHMH. “It will create critical connections to ensure the seamless delivery of health services for youth.”
       
      “Early detection and treatment of behavioral issues is critical to improved development of young children, a goal of our Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant,” said State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery.  “This collaboration with DHMH ensures a strong statewide effort to link pediatric physical and mental health care.  That bond will pay off for Maryland children for years to come.”
       
      B-HIPP is supported by funding from DHMH and MSDE. Over time, the Maryland Behavioral Health Integration Program in Primary Care (B-HIPP) aims to make managing child and adolescent mental health problems more routine in primary care settings, and to make it an efficient and effective gateway to specialty mental health care.
       
      B-HIPP offers this assistance through four main components, all of which are available to primary care providers without charge and without regard to a patient’s insurance status:
       
              1.Phone Consultation Service: B-HIPP provides phone consultation for primary care providers with child mental health specialists (child psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, and licensed professional counselors) at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins. The consultations are conducted much in the same way as in other specialties, without gathering identifying information about the patients. The team is available to provide general and/or case specific consultation in many areas of behavioral health including medication management, diagnostic issues, developmental delays, school/learning issues, autism spectrum disorders, trauma, and early childhood mental health (ages 0-5).
              2.Continuing Education: B-HIPP will offer opportunities for mental health skills training for primary care providers.
              3.Referral & Resource Networking: B-HIPP will work to increase access to children's mental health services by improving links between primary care providers and the mental health providers in their communities.
              4.Social Work Co-Location: In partnership with Salisbury University, B-HIPP is piloting social work co-location in four pediatric primary care practices on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. In the co-location model, social work interns are available on-site to provide screening, brief intervention, referral and real-time consultation to primary care providers.
       
      "We are delighted to be part of such a forward-looking program with the potential to bring quality mental health care - for both prevention and treatment -- to nearly every child in Maryland,” said Dr. Larry Wissow, program co-director, child psychiatrist and Professor of Health, Behavior and Society at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  “Programs like BHIPP have been a big success in other states, and Maryland is taking it to a new level by staffing to address the overlapping developmental, mental health, and chronic medical issues faced by so many families." 

      "For many families, especially in underserved areas, the primary care physician is the portal for good mental health care,” said Dr. David Pruitt, program co-director, Professor of Psychiatry and head of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “We are committed to supporting primary care through the BHIPP initiative."
       
      The social work co-location portion of B-HIPP began at four lower shore practices in September 2012. Since that time, social work interns have provided 153 consultations; their placements will extend through the spring/summer of 2013 with a second cohort to be fielded in the fall.
       
      “When considering a service entry point with the greatest impact and potential to reach the largest number of children and families, a primary care pediatric office is a natural choice,” said Amy D. Habeger, Social Work faculty member and B-HIPP Salisbury Program Coordinator. “Our MSW B-HIPP interns are finding a level of trust and continuity present within the pediatrician’s office which minimizes some of the stigma of treating psychosocial and behavioral concerns.”
       
      The B-HIPP telephone consultation line has gone live to pilot areas, Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as of January 2013. Primary care providers in those areas are encouraged to enroll and use the service by calling the BHIPP line 855-MD-BHIPP (855-632-4477) or checking www.mdbhipp.org.  The pilot period will extend through June 2013, at which time phone consultation services will be expanded statewide. B-HIPP is working in concert with other state funded projects in addressing the integration of behavioral health into primary care settings.
       
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      January 09
      Statement from DHMH on Death at RICA-Baltimore Facility

       

      BALTIMORE (January 9, 2013) – The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has been informed that on January 8, 2013, at approximately 8:00 p.m., a patient was found unresponsive at the Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents-Baltimore.  The patient was immediately transferred to a local hospital, where the patient was pronounced dead at 8:50 p.m. 
       
      The circumstances surrounding the patient’s death indicate possible suicide.  The medical examiner’s investigation is still ongoing, and there has not yet been a determination as to a cause of death.
       
      As mandated by state law, the Department promptly notified the patient’s legal guardian, local law enforcement and other state agencies about the death, and a thorough investigation is underway.  The Mental Health Administration has also deployed additional staff to the facility so that both facility staff and patients are receiving adequate supportive services.
       
      The name of the patient will not be released because it is confidential medical information.  Further information will be made available to the public once the investigations are complete.
       

       

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      January 02
      MARYLAND RECEIVES FEDERAL GRANT TO FUND HEALTH CARE BASED DOMESTIC VIOLENCE INITIATIVE

      Project Connect Initiative Builds on State’s Efforts to Incorporate Violence Prevention into Health Care Setting

      ANNAPOLIS, Md. (January 2, 2013) — Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) today announced that Maryland is one of six states selected by Futures Without Violence for a competitive grant to fund Project Connect, which focuses on helping health care providers play a role in helping to protect women from domestic violence.

      Project Connect Maryland, which begins this month, will receive $375,000 over three years from the Office on Women’s Health (OWH), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  Project Connect Maryland will focus on the important role health care providers can play in keeping women safe and preventing the physical and emotional effects of violence against women.

      "Project Connect Maryland will be a critical part of achieving one of our most important goals: ending domestic violence throughout our state," said Lt. Governor Brown. "Working together with our partners in Federal government, we can ensure that more of our health care providers have access to the training they need to assist victims of domestic violence, and to spot warning signs so they can help prevent violence before it starts. We've already made significant gains through our seven hospital-based domestic violence programs, and thanks to this new grant, we're looking forward to helping even more Marylanders live free from fear."

      The Office of Surveillance and Quality Initiatives, Bureau of Maternal and Child Health at DHMH will integrate intimate partner violence assessment into all health care visits at selected reproductive health (family planning) sites in the Baltimore metro area, Prince George’s County and Lower Eastern Shore. Nationally acclaimed comprehensive curricula and educational materials developed by Futures Without Violence will be used to train providers in how to assess and help women who have been abused or who are in unhealthy relationships. Additionally, preventive women’s health services will be integrated into pilot domestic violence program sites, such as the House of Ruth Maryland. It is anticipated that these pilot programs will serve as models for expansion into other sites statewide. A Leadership Team comprised of Maryland experts from the fields of public health, women’s health, and domestic violence/sexual assault will guide the project.

      “Health care providers have a unique role to play in the effort to stop domestic violence,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of DHMH. “This project will empower providers to recognize victims of domestic violence and get them the help they need.”

      Project Connect Maryland will build upon ongoing efforts in Maryland to combat domestic violence, and to incorporate violence prevention efforts into the health care setting. Lt. Governor Brown recently announced Maryland’s seventh hospital-based domestic violence program designed to meet the goals of the Governor’s 2010 Executive Order, “The Maryland Domestic Violence Health Care Screening and Response Initiative.” The programs aim to identify victims at an early stage in the cycle of domestic violence and extend comprehensive services to prevent future physical and emotional injury.

      Project Connect: A Coordinated Public Health Initiative to Prevent Violence Against Women is supported by OWH, and funded through the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2005. Futures Without Violence, in collaboration with OWH, will provide technical assistance and monitor the grantees selected for Project Connect.

      Combating domestic violence is a personal cause for Lt. Governor Brown. In August 2008, his cousin Cathy was senselessly murdered by her estranged boyfriend. The grief of her loss spurred Lt. Governor Brown to redouble efforts to address domestic violence in our state. Building on his experience as a legislator and the perspective provided by this tragedy, Lt. Governor Brown has championed reforms to combat domestic violence.

      Brown led successful efforts in 2009 to improve domestic violence laws by giving judges the authority to take guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. During the 2010 Legislative Session, Brown worked with members of the General Assembly, domestic violence advocates and stakeholders to pass legislation allowing a victim of domestic abuse to terminate a residential lease with a copy of a final protective order. And the Lt. Governor is leading efforts to increase the availability of hospital-based domestic violence screening programs.

      Since taking office, the O’Malley-Brown administration has worked to reduce violent crime in Maryland by 10 percent each year. Collaborating with state and local partners, they have reduced violent crime statewide to the lowest rates since 1975, and domestic violence deaths in Maryland have dropped by 11.5 percent since 2006.

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      December 27
      Maryland Reports First Hypothermia-Related Death this Winter

      Baltimore, MD (December 27, 2012) — The first Maryland death related to hypothermia this winter has been reported, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Office of Preparedness and Response (OPR). The Department reminds residents to take necessary precautions as temperatures continue to remain low this week.
       
      The death, which was confirmed between Dec. 18 and Dec. 24, was an adult (aged 65 years or older) male in Frederick County. No additional details will be released to protect the privacy of his family.
       
      OCME reported 15 hypothermia-related deaths in Maryland during the 2011-2012 winter weather season, and one death had been reported by this time in December 2011.
       
      The National Weather Service has issued a wind advisory for most of Maryland until 6 p.m. today, and parts of Western Maryland are under a Winter Weather Advisory.
       
      “Protect yourself from the winter elements before you head outside,” said DHMH Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services Dr. Laura Herrera. “A few extra moments to prepare could keep you safe as we head into the coldest months.”
       
      Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature falls below 95ºF. Frostbite refers to actual freezing and subsequent destruction of body tissue that is likely to occur any time skin temperature gets much below 32ºF. The areas most likely to freeze are toes, fingers, ears, cheeks and the tip of the nose.
       
      Persons at greatest risk for frostbite include those with impaired circulation, the elderly, the very young and anyone who remains outside for prolonged periods. The danger increases if the individual becomes wet.
       
      Tips for staying warm and healthy in extreme cold weather include:
       
      .  Cover your head. You lose as much as 50 percent of your body heat through your head.
       
      .  Wear several layers of lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. The air between the layers acts as insulation to keep you warmer.
       
      .  Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect lungs from direct cold air, and also cover your ears and the lower part of your face.
       
      .  Wear mittens, not gloves. The close contact of fingers helps to keep your hands warm.
       
      .  Wear warm leg coverings and heavy socks, or two pairs of lightweight socks.
       
      .  Wear waterproof boots or sturdy shoes to keep your feet warm and dry
       
      To find more cold weather safety tips and to view weekly DHMH Cold Weather Reports that will be posted by each Wednesday, visit http://dhmh.maryland.gov/winterrpts or go to our homepage (www.dhmh.maryland.gov) and click on “Cold Weather Facts” under “Hot Topics.”
       
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      December 20
      MARYLAND ANNOUNCES LAUNCH OF ACCESS TO CARE PROGRAM


      Effort to promote access to full range of critical health services for uninsured Marylanders

      Baltimore (December 20, 2012) – The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange (MHBE) and the Community Health Resources Commission (CHRC) today announced the launch of Maryland’s Access to Care program.  The Access to Care program is designed to foster collaboration between the state, health insurers and safety net providers as each plans for newly insured Marylanders who will start to access healthcare services in 2014.  This program is built on the requirement that network plans offered through Maryland Health Connection, the state-based health insurance marketplace, provide meaningful access to critical health services including primary, reproductive, HIV/AIDS and behavioral health care.
       
      As many as 730,000 Marylanders will become eligible for health insurance through Maryland Health Connection, and in preparation for the increase in newly insured, the state today released the Maryland Health Access Assessment Tool to collect data from safety net providers throughout Maryland. Maryland’s safety net providers – including Federally Qualified Health Centers, Local Health Departments, and Free Clinics -- are being asked to complete a short survey to help the state plan to meet the demand for healthcare services that is expected in 2014.
       
      "By tapping into the vast knowledge of safety net providers across the state, provider availability and consumer needs can be projected. We encourage all to be part of the effort to prepare for 2014,” said DHMH Secretary Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein.
       
      The survey results will be used to continue overall planning efforts, further understand provider readiness and capacity for health reform implementation, and facilitate future conversations among safety net providers and insurers around contracting opportunities.  Data captured in the survey will also provide CHRC with information to develop future technical assistance and potential grant opportunities for safety net providers.
       
      "Safety net providers will play a critical role in Maryland's implementation of the Affordable Care Act," commented John A. Hurson, CHRC Chairman. "The Commission is looking forward to supporting efforts that will build capacity and promoting the work of safety net providers."
       
      In 2013, the state will also host a series of Access to Care program regional forums to connect safety net providers and health insurers, many of whom may have never worked with each other in the past.
       
      “The Access to Care program has been developed through a collaborative stakeholder process to maximize consumers’ access to insurance coverage and a full range of critical health services as well,” said Rebecca Pearce, Executive Director, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.
       
      Safety net providers can access the survey at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RMYQVYY. Responses will be accepted until Friday, January 4, 2013.
       
      Questions on completing the survey can be sent to:  access.tocare@maryland.gov.
       
      # # #
       
      About Maryland Health Connection:
       
      The Maryland Health Connection is the marketplace for individuals, families and small businesses to compare and enroll in health insurance, as well as determine eligibility for Medicaid and other assistance programs, federal tax credits and cost-sharing reductions. Enrollment through Maryland Health Connection is scheduled to begin in October 2013, with insurance coverage beginning January 1, 2014. An estimated 150,000 individuals are expected to enroll in qualified health plans (QHPs) during the first year, increasing to approximately 275,000 by 2020. www.MarylandHealthConnection.gov
       
       About Maryland Health Benefit Exchange:
       
      The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange is a public corporation and independent unit of the State government established in April 2011 in accordance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA). The Exchange has a nine member Board of Trustees that includes the Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene, Maryland Insurance Commissioner and Executive Director of the Maryland Health Care Commission. The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange is responsible for the administration of the Maryland Health Connection. www.MarylandHBE.com
       
      About Community Health Resources Commission:
       
      The Commission was created by the Maryland General Assembly in 2005 to expand access to health care services for low-income and uninsured Marylanders.  Over the last seven years, the Commission has awarded 110 grants, totaling $26.1 million, supporting programs in every jurisdiction of the state.  These grants have collectively provided access to health care for nearly 110,000 Marylanders, assisting efforts to reduce infant mortality rates in the state, boost primary care capacity, and promote adoption of health information technology.  In addition to these grant programs, the Commission is jointly implementing the Health Enterprise Zones Initiative with the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene. 
       
      About Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene:
      The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene works to improve the health status of every Maryland resident and to ensure access to quality health care. With an annual budget of approximately $10 billion, the Department includes Medicaid, public health, behavioral health, and services for the developmentally disabled. The Department regulates health care providers, facilities, and organizations, and manages direct services to patients where appropriate.   
       
       
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      Stay connected by following MarylandDHMH on Twitter or ‘liking’ Maryland DHMH on Facebook.
       

       

      December 19
      State Receives $36 million Bonus for Efforts to Enroll Children in Medicaid and the state’s Children’s Health Program

      BALTIMORE (December 19, 2012) – Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) officials have learned today that Maryland will receive a record state performance bonus of  $36,479,184 from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for Fiscal Year 2012 because of its consistent efforts to identify and enroll eligible children in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Program (CHP).  Last year, the state received the top bonus of $28,301,384 for its performance.
       
      "Since 2007, we have expanded coverage to more than 365,000 Marylanders, almost half of them children, and this bonus is a great recognition of those efforts," said Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown. "But while we've made great progress, there is much work to be done. Governor O’Malley and I remain committed to expanding access, reducing costs and improving the quality of health care for all Marylanders, and we won’t be satisfied until every person, in every community throughout our State, has the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life."
      The bonus is granted under the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 (CHIPRA) to States that satisfy two sets of criteria: States must have in place at least five Medicaid and CHIP program features known to promote enrollment and retention in health coverage for children; and States must demonstrate a significant increase in Medicaid enrollment among children during the course of the past year.
       
      Maryland’s continuing efforts over the course of FY 2012 satisfied the requirements. Specifically, CMS recognized Maryland’s efforts to base eligibility on a family’s income alone (and not also on the family’s possessions); eliminate the requirement that applicants apply in-person; streamline the initial application form so that it is as simple as the renewal form; and allow proof of eligibility for other low-income programs to be deemed sufficient to qualify for Medicaid (which is known as “express lane eligibility” under CHIPRA).
       
      “Heading into full implementation of the America Care Act, it is terrific to have this kind of success with the enrollment of kids in health coverage, said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, DHMH Secretary. Since January 2007, the number of children enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP has increased from 407,300 children to 572,300.
       
      “Ensuring that all eligible children are enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP has been our number one priority, and this bonus not only highlights those efforts, but also will help us continue those efforts in the new year,” said Charles J. Milligan, Deputy Secretary for Health Care Financing.
       
      For more information about the program and the awards, visit http://www.insurekidsnow.gov/professionals/eligibility/performance_bonuses.html
       
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      Stay connected by following MarylandDHMH on Twitter or ‘liking’ Maryland DHMH on Facebook.

       

      December 17
      Request for Public Comment: Intimate Partner Violence Assessment Guidelines for Health Care Providers

      BALTIMORE (December 17, 2012) – The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene today issued a request for public comments on a screening protocol that health care providers can use to help assess whether patients are victims of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).
       
      IPV affects an estimated one out of every three U.S. women at some time in their lives, according to a survey conducted by the CDC, and can have a chronic and disabling impact on physical or emotional health. The health care setting offers a unique opportunity to identify and assist victims of IPV through screening, education, and intervention.
       
      A Maryland IPV Task Force was convened earlier this year to examine the use of tools for IPV assessment in the health care setting.  The Task Force, comprised of health care providers representing the fields of emergency medicine, obstetrics & gynecology, internal medicine, family practice, psychiatry, social work, nursing, nurse practitioner practice, nurse midwifery, physician assistance practice, public health and pediatrics,  recommended routine IPV screening for all women ages 15-50.  This recommendation is in agreement with the U.S. Public Services Task Force’s (USPSTF) recent report of evidence-based research to support routine screening of all reproductive aged women for IPV, along with interventions for those who screen positive.
       
      To facilitate IPV assessment, the Maryland IPV Task Force put together an algorithm for IPV assessment using a simple 3-question IPV screening tool adapted from evidence-based screens.  If a provider prefers a different evidence-based screen for IPV, it can easily be substituted in the algorithm. There is also a screening algorithm for pediatricians who may have the opportunity to assess mothers when they bring their children in for health visits.
       
      Information about IPV assessment can be accessed at www.dhmh.maryland.gov/IPV/.  The Task Force guidance is also accessible at this site, and we invite public comment on the sample 3-questions IPV assessment tool and recommendations for routine screening.  Comments can be submitted to dhmh.mchb@maryland.gov by January 17, 2013. 
       
       
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      December 07
      Public Health Update: Heroin Overdose Deaths on the Rise; Rx Opioid Overdose Deaths Down

      BALTIMORE (December 7, 2012) – The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene today released data for the first seven months of 2012 that show an increase in overdose deaths related to heroin coinciding with a decline in overdose deaths related to prescription opioids. Overall, there were six percent more drug overdose deaths during the first seven months of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011.
       
      Following a decline from 2007 to 2011, there were 205 heroin-related overdose deaths in the first seven months of 2012, compared to 145 during the same period in 2011, an increase of 41 percent. At the same time, overdose deaths related to prescription opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone have declined by 15 percent, from 208 to 177.
       
      Central Maryland experienced a 47 percent increase in heroin overdose deaths, while Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore have also seen substantial increases of 54 percent and 80 percent, respectively.
       
      The shift from prescription opioid- to heroin-related overdose deaths may reflect a growing trend where individuals who abuse prescription opioids initiate heroin use. Public health and law enforcement authorities in Maryland and across the country are reporting that heroin is becoming a cheap, potent and accessible alternative to pharmaceutical opioids that are now more expensive and difficult to obtain for non-medical use. The largest increases in fatal heroin-related overdoses in Maryland have been among younger age groups, including a 53 percent increase among ages 15-24 and a 59 percent increase among ages 35-44.
       
      “The rise in overdoses from heroin is a new and concerning trend,” said DHMH Secretary Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein.  "By addressing this issue, we can continue the progress Maryland has made against drug addiction."
       
      Maryland's public health response to this challenge will include:
       
      • Outreach to physicians and other health care providers to help them identify potential heroin users and refer them to effective treatment. Click here to read a letter sent to Maryland physicians;
      • Support for innovative local efforts to respond to drug overdose across the state; and
      • Development of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to provide support for referral to treatment.
       
      Reducing drug-induced deaths is a major public health goal of Maryland’s State Health Improvement Process (http://dhmh.maryland.gov/SHIP).  
       
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      December 04
      New Tobacco Quitline Services for New Year, New Smoke-free Life

      Text support, 24/7 counseling among enhanced free services

       
      Baltimore, MD (December 3, 2012) — The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control (CTPC) today announced new services for the Maryland Tobacco Quitline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW, just in time to help Marylanders to quit smoking in the new year.

      Since 2006, the Maryland Tobacco Quitline has provided free proactive and reactive tobacco cessation counseling, along with Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) to Marylanders. Effective December 1, 2012, the Quitline now also offers these key enhancements: counselors available live 24/7; counseling services provided to teens (previously, services were available only to adults); an intensive pregnancy support program; enhanced online support offered through Web Coach®, now including NRT (https://www.quitnow.net/maryland); and a text support program, Text2Quit®.

      “Many smokers use the New Year’s holiday as motivation to quit,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of DHMH. “This may be the most important resolution a soon-to-be-former-smoker ever makes.”

      Since its establishment in 2006, the Quitline has served over 100,000 residents, and has a 97 percent customer satisfaction rate. Individuals using quitlines have success rates up to seven times greater than those trying to quit alone.

      CTPC also will host a free Webinar, “Preparing to Quit,” from noon to 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20, to help those who plan New Year’s resolutions to give up smoking.

      During the webinar, participants will learn how the Quitline helps individuals develop a personalized Quit Plan, learn how to cope with triggers for tobacco use, find out about the health benefits of quitting, and learn about the free services the Quitline offers, including a demonstration of the new Web Coach® and Text2Quit® services.  Register for the webinar at https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/447046954.  

      It will be a new year — try the new Quitline services, and start a new smoke-free life!

      Quitline services and the webinar are available through a contract with Alere Wellbeing.  Established in 1984, Alere has become the national leader in tobacco dependence treatment, currently providing services for 28 state quitlines.  Alere has been the service provider for the Maryland Tobacco Quitline since it was established in 2006.

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      November 29
      Department to Host World AIDS Day Commemorative Program

      ​  Working Together for an AIDS-Free Generation 

      Baltimore, MD (November 29, 2012) - The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) Prevention and Health Promotion Administration recognizes December 1 as World AIDS Day, along with the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and many local partners.
       
      DHMH will host a commemorative program on Friday, November. 30, at the O'Connor Building Lobby, 210 W. Preston St. in Baltimore, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (agenda attached). This year’s World AIDS Day theme is “Working Together for an AIDS-Free Generation.” Guest speakers will include Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, DHMH secretary, and Dr. Patrick Chaulk, assistant commissioner of the Baltimore City Health Department.
       "I thank Maryland's many partners for their efforts on HIV testing, prevention, and treatment," said Dr. Sharfstein. “World AIDS Day reminds us of the necessity of continued progress against the HIV pandemic.”
      According to the CDC, there are more than 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States. As of Dec. 31, 2010, there are 30,132 Marylanders living with HIV. Maryland ranks second among the nation’s states and territories for its rate of estimated AIDS diagnoses. Baltimore city ranks first in the State of Maryland for its rate of reported AIDS diagnoses.
       
      “We encourage all Marylanders who are 13 years of age and older to be tested annually for HIV as part of your routine medical care,” said Deborah McGruder, director of DHMH’s Infectious Disease Bureau. “People living with HIV should seek medical treatment and stay on their medications so they can live longer, healthier lives.”
       
      For additional information on HIV testing and care services in Maryland, call 410-767-5227 or visithttp://ideha.dhmh.maryland.gov. For a calendar of World AIDS Day community events please see the attached PDF calendar listing.
       
       
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      November 16
      Sale of Hazardous Baby Bumper Pads to be Banned in Maryland

      Babies Sleep Best “Alone, on their Back, and in a Crib

       
      BALTIMORE (November 16, 2012) – Following an 18-month investigation into the safety of baby crib bumper pads, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) has published final regulations to ban their sale in Maryland effective June 21, 2013.
       
      The action follows the Department’s conclusion that baby crib bumper pads, intended for infants up to the age of five or six months, offer no meaningful benefit and pose a potentially serious risk to infant health.  The Maryland chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Med Chi, and numerous safety experts agreed with this conclusion and urged the Department to prohibit the sale of these products.  Maryland’s Chief Medical Examiner has found that crib bumper pads pose a risk of suffocation and death.
       
      “Our safety message is that babies sleep best alone, on their back, and in a crib,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of DHMH.  “Baby bumper pads are not part of this picture, and in fact can pose a serious threat to health.”
       
      Reducing the infant mortality rate is one of the strategic goals of the O'Malley-Brown Administration. As one of a number of initiatives to help achieve this goal, starting in April 2011, the Department held two advisory committee meetings and four public comment periods to assess the potential risks and benefits of baby bumper pads.  Experts found that potential risks included suffocation and strangulation.  In addition, if left in the crib past the appropriate age, infants can use the bumper pads to climb out of the crib and fall.  Experts did not find evidence to support a meaningful benefit of fewer injuries to limbs against the wood slats of the crib.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recently described the products as “inherently risky and unnecessary.”
       
      “Pediatricians in Maryland urge parents to keep their cribs free of blankets, stuffed animals, pillows, and baby bumper pads,” said Dr. Scott Krugman, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center and President of the Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.  “We are pleased to see Maryland lead in protecting infants.”
       
      The regulation defines baby bumper pads as “a pad or pads of non-mesh material resting directly above the mattress in a crib, running the circumference of the crib or along any of the interior sides of the crib, and intended to be used until the age that an infant pulls to stand.” The ban does not apply to vertical bumpers that wrap tightly around each individual crib rail or to mesh crib liners. The Department nonetheless does not recommend the use of these or other novel products.
       
      The regulation allows the Department to alter its approach should industry standards be developed that are protective of children.  However, in finalizing the regulation, the Department has concluded that existing industry standards do not pass this test.
       
      Additional information from the National Institutes of Health on safe sleep can be found at: http://nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/upload/safe_sleep_general_brochure_2012.pdf
       
      Additional information on Maryland’s regulatory process can be found at: http://www.dhmh.maryland.gov/SitePages/crib-bumper.aspx

       
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      November 16
      Sale of Hazardous Baby Bumper Pads to be Banned in Maryland

      Babies Sleep Best “Alone, on their Back, and in a Crib

       

       
      BALTIMORE (November 16, 2012) – Following an 18-month investigation into the safety of baby crib bumper pads, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) has published final regulations to ban their sale in Maryland effective June 21, 2013.
       
      The action follows the Department’s conclusion that baby crib bumper pads, intended for infants up to the age of five or six months, offer no meaningful benefit and pose a potentially serious risk to infant health.  The Maryland chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Med Chi, and numerous safety experts agreed with this conclusion and urged the Department to prohibit the sale of these products.  Maryland’s Chief Medical Examiner has found that crib bumper pads pose a risk of suffocation and death.
       
      “Our safety message is that babies sleep best alone, on their back, and in a crib,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of DHMH.  “Baby bumper pads are not part of this picture, and in fact can pose a serious threat to health.”
       
      Reducing the infant mortality rate is one of the strategic goals of the O'Malley-Brown Administration. As one of a number of initiatives to help achieve this goal, starting in April 2011, the Department held two advisory committee meetings and four public comment periods to assess the potential risks and benefits of baby bumper pads.  Experts found that potential risks included suffocation and strangulation.  In addition, if left in the crib past the appropriate age, infants can use the bumper pads to climb out of the crib and fall.  Experts did not find evidence to support a meaningful benefit of fewer injuries to limbs against the wood slats of the crib.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recently described the products as “inherently risky and unnecessary.”
       
      “Pediatricians in Maryland urge parents to keep their cribs free of blankets, stuffed animals, pillows, and baby bumper pads,” said Dr. Scott Krugman, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center and President of the Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.  “We are pleased to see Maryland lead in protecting infants.”
       
      The regulation defines baby bumper pads as “a pad or pads of non-mesh material resting directly above the mattress in a crib, running the circumference of the crib or along any of the interior sides of the crib, and intended to be used until the age that an infant pulls to stand.” The ban does not apply to vertical bumpers that wrap tightly around each individual crib rail or to mesh crib liners. The Department nonetheless does not recommend the use of these or other novel products.
       
      The regulation allows the Department to alter its approach should industry standards be developed that are protective of children.  However, in finalizing the regulation, the Department has concluded that existing industry standards do not pass this test.
       
      Additional information from the National Institutes of Health on safe sleep can be found at: http://nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/upload/safe_sleep_general_brochure_2012.pdf
       
      Additional information on Maryland’s regulatory process can be found at: http://www.dhmh.maryland.gov/SitePages/crib-bumper.aspx

       

       
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      November 15
      Maryland Hospitals Report 50 Percent Reduction in Blood Stream Infections in Intensive Care Units and Neonatal Intensive Care Units

      Baltimore, MD (November 15, 2011) The Maryland Health Care Commission’s most recent update to the Maryland Hospital Performance Evaluation Guide shows that Maryland hospitals have continued to make significant progress in reducing serious but preventable infections that occur in Intensive Care Units. Central line associated bloodstream infections, or CLABSIs, occur in patients who have an intravenous central line catheter in place. The risk of these potentially devastating infections can be reduced by proper insertion and care of the catheter.  
       
       The Commission first released CLABSI data on the Hospital Guide in October 2010. Since the first assessment, MD CLABSI rates have decreased substantially. For FY2012, hospitals reported 206 CLABSIs in all ICUs as compared to 472 CLABSIs reported for FY2010, the first reporting period. This represents a 56% decrease in CLABSIs in hospital ICUs over a two year time period.  "The progress that Maryland hospitals have made in reducing infections in ICUs is an important step forward in increasing patient safety,” said  Ben Steffen, Executive Director, Maryland Health Care Commission.  “The Commission hopes that hospitals are able to broaden their successful prevention initiatives to all units within their respective facilities."
       
       MD Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein noted that “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued an Action Plan for the prevention of healthcare associated infections which establishes a five year target of 50% reduction in central line bloodstream infections by December 2013. Maryland hospitals have achieved a critical milestone in their efforts to ensure patient safety and provide high quality health care.”
       The Hospital Guide update also represents the first release of surgical site infections (SSI) data for Hip, Knee, and Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) procedures. The SSI data shows that for CY2011, the infection rate for most hospitals that perform these procedures is no different than the national experience. CDC standards and guidelines were also used for this new data collection and reporting initiative.
      Maryland Health Care Commission’s Hospital Guide can be found on the web at:  http://mhcc.maryland.gov/consumerinfo/hospitalguide/index.htm

       

         For Additional Information about the Hospital Guide, contact: 
        Theressa Lee, Chief Hospital Quality  Initiatives 410-764-3328

       

      November 14
      Bain Center to Host Free ‘Arthritis Lunch and Learn’ Friday

       

      Half of Marylanders over 65 have doctor-diagnosed arthritis 
       
      Baltimore, MD (November 14, 2012) – The Maryland Advisory Council on Arthritis and Related Diseases, together with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), will sponsor a free ‘Arthritis Lunch and Learn’ on Friday, November 16, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Bain Center in Columbia for those who register with the Bain Center. 
       
      This free arthritis workshop will feature presentations on six arthritis-related topics:
       
      ·         Is it Lupus? Getting a Diagnosis
      ·         Managing Lupus: Approaches to Treatment
      ·         Common Medication Errors in Treating Arthritis
      ·         Gout: What You Should Know 
      ·         Osteoarthritis: Separating Fact from Myth
      ·         The Facts About Rheumatoid Arthritis
      Rheumatologists Dr. Allan Gelber of Johns Hopkins University and Dr. Violeta Rus of the University of Maryland, together with consultant pharmacist Dr. Renee Hilliard, will speak at the event, which will include free lunch for participants and a question and answer period after each discussion topic.
       
      Half of Maryland residents over the age of 65 are affected by arthritis, a disease that includes more than 100 conditions that cause pain, inflammation and stiffness in the joints, according to the 2011 Maryland Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Arthritis-related conditions include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and rheumatic conditions such as lupus erythematosus, gout, bursitis, and carpal tunnel disease.
       
      Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in Maryland and resulted in nearly $2.4 billion in medical expenses and lost earnings in 2003, according to the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
       
      These costs have increased substantially in Maryland and across the nation since 1997, due in part to the aging of the population explosion known as the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation.  Increasing rates of obesity and physical inactivity, both known risk factors for the disease, have also contributed to the rise in costs. Additionally, 39 percent of Maryland seniors diagnosed with arthritis report joint symptoms severe enough to limit their activities, according to the 2011 Maryland Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
       
      “Arthritis can be a debilitating condition,” said Dr. Allan Gelber, chair of the Maryland Advisory Council on Arthritis and Related Diseases. “But proper diagnosis and treatment can have an enormous impact on the quality of life. Our goal is to empower those with arthritis to take an active role in managing their condition.”
       
      The Maryland State Advisory Council on Arthritis and Related Diseases was established in 1989 under the direction of DHMH to promote, support, enrich and improve the quality of life of individuals with arthritis and related diseases.
       
      To register for the Arthritis Lunch and Learn or to get more information, call the Bain Center at 410-313-7213.
       
       
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      November 14
      Start Small and Make the Call:  1-800-QUIT-NOW

      Baltimore, MD ( November 14, 2012) -   Each year since 1977, the American Cancer Society has sponsored the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November to help smokers quit for at least one day, in hopes they will quit forever. The 2012 Great American Smokeout will be held tomorrow, November 15th.
      The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) knows how hard quitting can be, but there is free help available to residents. The Great American Smokeout is a great reason to pick up the phone and call to the Maryland Tobacco Quitline, 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669).
       
      "Every day without smoking is a good day," said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, DHMH Secretary. "Free support is available to help Marylanders quit through the Maryland Tobacco Quitline."
       
      The Quitline is a telephone-based tobacco cessation service provided at no charge to Marylanders who want to quit tobacco. The Quitline provides free, personalized counseling by professional Quit Coaches. Callers enrolled in the Quitline's program work with a quit coach throughout the quitting process. During a series of up to four telephone sessions, the coaches assist callers in developing and working through a quit plan based on their individual needs. While supplies last, a four week supply of the patch or gum is available for free when you call the Quitline. The Quitline is open 7 days a week from 7am-3am. TTY: 1-877-777-6534.
       
      Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the US, yet more than 45 million Americans still smoke cigarettes. However, more than half of these smokers have attempted to quit for at least one day in the past year.
       
      Whether residents start small and quit for just 24 hours or quit for life, this November 15th is their chance to take a step toward a life free from tobacco. For more information about the Quitline, please visit www.smokingstopshere.com
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      Toll Free 1-877-4MD-DHMH – TTY/Maryland Relay Service 1-800-735-2258

       

       

      November 13
      Evidence-Based Recommendations for MD Hospitals To Better Support New Breastfeeding Mothers

      ROCKVILLE, MD (November 13, 2012) – At Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) today released the 2012 Maryland Hospital Breastfeeding Policy Recommendations.  The recommendations lay out evidence-based practices to help hospitals eliminate hidden barriers and support new mothers who choose to breastfeed.  

      The recommendations were developed over more than nine months through a review of evidence-based practices and public input.  More than 150 public comments were received and considered before the recommendations were finalized.

      “Our goal is for mothers who choose to breastfeed to be successful,” said Frances Phillips, R.N., DHMH Deputy Secretary of Public Health Services. “We are pleased to see significant interest by Maryland hospitals, including Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, to support babies and mothers in breastfeeding.”

      Breast milk is the optimal food for infants, and babies who are breastfed have fewer respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. The American Academy of Pediatrics has also found evidence that breastfeeding is associated with reduced rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, allergic disease, obesity, and other conditions. The Academy recommends that babies receive breast milk exclusively for the first 6 months of life, and continue breastfeeding for the first year or longer. 

      Early experience in the hospital can greatly influence a mother’s success at breastfeeding.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed the National Survey of Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) to assess “birth facility policies and practices that create a supportive environment for breastfeeding.”  According to the 2011 Breastfeeding Report Card, Maryland’s average mPINC score was 68, ranking the state 15th in the country.  

      To improve support for mothers who choose to breastfeed, the 2012 Maryland Hospital Breastfeeding Policy Recommendations call for hospitals to:

      1. Maintain a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
      2. Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
      3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
      4. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
      5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
      6. Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.
      7. Practice “rooming-in” – allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
      8. Encourage unrestricted breastfeeding.
      9. Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
      10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.

      Hospitals can also meet the recommendations by obtaining Baby-Friendly certification through the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. 

      State officials salute the work done by the clinical team at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital to provide a supportive and educational environment around breastfeeding. Shady Grove not only is implementing all ten criteria in the recommendations but also is the first Maryland hospital poised to attain Baby-Friendly certification through the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (www.babyfriendlyusa.org). 

      “Shady Grove Adventist Hospital is pleased to be recognized as helping to lead the way in Maryland by employing all ten of the state’s recommendations as we pursue Baby-Friendly status,” said Dennis Hansen, President of Shady Grove Adventist Hospital. “This is a reflection of the commitment of our Birth Center’s team to advancing the health of our
      community.”

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      For more information: The 2012 Maryland Hospital Breastfeeding Policy Recommendations is online at www.dhmh.maryland.gov under ‘Hot Topics – Breastfeeding Policy.

      CDC’s breastfeeding report card is online at http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/pdf/2011breastfeedingreportcard.pdf and more information is available about mPINC at http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/mpinc/index.htm

      Stay connected: www.twitter.com/MarylandDHMH or www.facebook.com/MarylandDHMH

      November 05
      Maryland Hep C Case Related To Similar Cases Under Investigation

       

      Baltimore, MD (November 5, 2012) -- The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) today announced the results of special molecular testing done at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on a blood specimen from a patient of the Baltimore VA Medical Center with hepatitis C infection.  The special testing indicates that the Maryland patient’s infection is closely related to infections linked to David Kwiatkowski, a healthcare worker accused of diverting narcotics for personal use.
       
      The Maryland patient was among the approximately 1,700 patients of four Maryland healthcare facilities who had been notified to get tested for hepatitis C infection because they had undergone procedures in which Mr. Kwiatkowski was potentially involved. The Maryland patient has survived and is not currently hospitalized. DHMH will provide no additional information about the patient.
       
      This case is associated with the multi-state hepatitis C outbreak.  Although no documented incidents of drug diversion associated with the healthcare worker were reported to DHMH, this finding suggests the possibility that such activity might have occurred in Maryland. The investigation into the possibility of cases at the three other facilities where Mr. Kwiatkowski worked (Johns Hopkins Hospital, MD General Hospital and Southern MD Hospital Center) is ongoing. Additional test results are expected later this year.
       
      Additional related infections have been identified in New Hampshire and Kansas.
       
      DHMH is leading a review of any systemic vulnerabilities that may be present in Maryland in order to prevent any such disease transmission.   A full review report with recommendations for improvements is expected by early 2013.
       
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      October 26
      Maryland Urges Hurricane Preparedness Plans to Include Pets

      ANNAPOLIS, MD (October 26, 2012) – With Hurricane Sandy’s approach, it is important to include pets in your disaster preparedness plans.  

      If you must evacuate, take pets with you and have a plan on where to send them. Not all shelters allow pets. If you need to locate a shelter for your pet during an emergency or disaster, listen to the radio for instructions from local civil authorities, or contact the county emergency operations center to find a shelter that accepts pets. Maryland has a Pet Sheltering Plan, which will activate when mass care evacuation centers open.  
      For a list of local emergency management offices, see: http://mema.maryland.gov/Pages/LocalEOC.aspx

                  The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) recommends that, in the event of a disaster, owners of companion animals:

      • Prepare an animal evacuation kit as detailed by the American Veterinary Medical Association. http://www.avma.org/disaster
      • Take copies of your pet’s vaccination history and medical records with you.
      • Make sure your pet wears a collar with identification (tattoo, ID tag, microchip, etc.) that includes a phone number.
      • Bring a crate, leash, at least a three-day supply of food, water, and all medication your pet takes, and a few of your pet’s favorite toys.
      • Keep a current photo of your pet, in case it gets lost.
                 
      “Your animals depend on you to be prepared in the event of a disaster situation,” said Maryland State Veterinarian Dr. Guy Hohenhaus.  “Take the extra time now to create a comprehensive disaster plan to ensure the safety and well-being of you, your family, and your pets.”
       
                  For more information about disaster planning, contact the Maryland Emergency Management Agency at 1-877-MEMA-USA or log on to www.mema.maryland.gov.
       
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      Follow MDA on Twitter @MdAgDept.

       

      October 26
      GOVERNOR O'MALLEY SIGNS EXECUTIVE ORDER DECLARING STATE OF EMERGENCY IN MARYLAND
      ​ 
      ANNAPOLIS, MD (October 26, 2012) – Governor Martin O’Malley this morning signed an Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency for all Maryland counties as the State continues to monitor Hurricane Sandy and its potential impact. The declaration gives the state flexibility to activate the Maryland National Guard and provide assistance to local emergency managers.

      "As Hurricane Sandy makes its way north, I urge all Maryland residents to prepare for extreme weather," said Governor O'Malley.  "I urge all Marylanders to review their family emergency plans, make sure their emergency supplies like batteries and water are fully stocked and to stay informed."  

      The declaration of a state of emergency (among other things):
      • requires the Director of MEMA to coordinate agencies’ activities to alleviate the emergency;
      • authorizes the deployment and use of resources covered under the State and local emergency plans;
      • authorizes the use or distribution of supplies, equipment, materials, and facilities that have been stockpiled or arranged to be made available in emergencies;
      • permits the Governor, if the Governor finds it necessary in order to protect the public health, welfare, or safety, to suspend the effect of statutes and regulations of the State (or localities);
      • activates the National Guard to provide assistance if necessary.

       A copy of the Executive Order can be found here:  
      http://www.governor.maryland.gov/executiveorders/01.01.2012.19eo.pdf 

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      October 25
      NEW HEALTH OFFICER NAMED FOR ST. MARY’S COUNTY

      Baltimore, MD (October 25, 2012) – Dr. Meenakshi Garg, MD, MPH, has been named the new health officer for St. Mary’s County, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH). She will start her new position December 17 and replaces Dr. William Icenhower who retired this past summer.

      The health officer for each county is nominated by that county and appointed by Maryland’s health secretary to lead health services in their jurisdiction.

      “We are very pleased that Dr Garg will be joining Maryland’s public health leadership team, ” said Frances B. Phillips, DHMH Deputy Secretary of Public Health. “Her background in health promotion and chronic disease prevention are an excellent fit for the health goals of St. Mary's County and the State."

      Dr. Garg, who currently resides in Indianapolis and will move to Maryland, has served as medical director for the Health and Human Services Commission at the Indiana State Department of Health since 2009. She has also served as the state’s chronic disease director, overseeing a variety of statewide efforts to address some of Indiana’s most challenging public health concerns.

      She is a public health-trained physician and board-certified in the clinical specialties of Family Medicine and Sports Medicine. Before joining the state department of health, Dr. Garg taught medical students, primary care residents, and sports medicine fellows as a faculty member at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Her research, presentation, and publication activities cover a variety of topics relevant to sports medicine, women’s health, evidence-based public health, and chronic disease prevention and control.

      Dr. Garg earned a Bachelor of Science in biology, Master of Public Health, and Doctor of Medicine from the University of Miami in Florida. She has a strong interest in wellness and health promotion, and the role of primary health care providers in addressing population health issues.

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      Stay connected: www.twitter.com/MarylandDHMH or www.facebook.com/MarylandDHMH

      October 23
      FREE CHILD SAFETY SEAT INSPECTION ON SATURDAY AT MARYLAND STATE FAIRGROUNDS

      Baltimore, MD (October 23, 2012) – Parents and caregivers can find out if they are installing and using their child safety seats properly during a free child safety seat inspection this Saturday, October 27, at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. 
       
      The event, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the fairground’s York Road entrance, is sponsored by Maryland Kids In Safety Seats (MD KISS) in conjunction with the Tot Swap.
       
      Parents should arrive with seats already installed to the best of their ability, along with both the  vehicle and safety seat manuals. In addition, children are encouraged to attend so that child passenger safety technicians can assess how the child fits in the seat. If the child will not be present for the seat check, parents should place a piece of tape on the car seat at the level of the child’s shoulders so that technicians can accurately assess the child's position in the seat.
       
      Questions are encouraged and parents should plan to be involved in the seat-checking process.  They also may want to bring an additional adult to supervise their child while they work with seat technicians.
       
      To learn more about this event or other seat-check events in Maryland, call KISS at 800-370-SEAT, or visit their website, www.mdkiss.org.
       
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