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health

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Public comment period now open on Trump Administration's anti-transgender health care rule

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is currently accepting public comments on a proposed federal rule that would roll back civil rights protections for transgender individuals, making it more difficult for them to access vital health care in the United States.

Today, Councilmember Grosso ensured that the D.C. Council submits comments opposing the proposed rule-making.

Last November, Councilmember Grosso introduced–and the Council unanimously passed–the Sense of the Council in Support of Transgender, Intersex, and Gender Non-Conforming Communities Resolution of 2018 last November.

“Transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming people exist and deserve the full and equal protection under the laws of District of Columbia and the United States, the U.S. Constitution, and international law including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” reads the resolution. ”Stigma and discrimination based on gender identity or expression are well documented, including in a national survey of nearly 28,000 transgender individuals that found that…one-third of those who saw a doctor in the previous year faced discrimination. There is no evidence that ensuring civil rights protections for these communities causes harm to anyone else, and in fact leading national experts and associations in the fields of education, health care, child health and welfare, and support for survivors of domestic and sexual violence roundly reject any such claims and support nondiscrimination protections for transgender people.”

The resolution includes a requirement that the Secretary of the Council submit the resolution as public comment on any relevant proposed rule-making, on behalf of the Council of the District of Columbia. I will be following up to ensure that this happens. Today he sent a memorandum to Secretary Nyasha Smith to ensure it is submitted.

“While the Trump administration wants to give a green light to shelters, housing programs, doctors and medical institutions to turn away transgender people, in D.C. the law will not change,” Councilmember Grosso said in May. “Our local Human Rights Act explicitly protects our transgender, intersex, gender non-conforming, and non-binary residents, workers, and visitors from discrimination. It is critical that the D.C. government double down on its commitment to protect these community members from discrimination and get the word out that anti-transgender bias has no place in the District of Columbia.”

Members of the public are encouraged to submit their own comments opposing the proposed rule before the public comment period ends on August 13, 2019. You can visit https://protecttranshealth.org/ to learn more and submit your own comments.

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Students’ Right to Home or Hospital Instruction Act of 2019

Students’ Right to Home or Hospital Instruction Act of 2019

Introduced: July 9, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, Trayon White

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To require every LEA to adopt and implement a home or hospital instruction program that provides academic instruction and support to students who have been or will be absent from their school of enrollment for 10 or more consecutive or cumulative school days due to a physical condition or a psychological condition; require OSSE to administer the appeals process; require OSSE to promulgate regulations.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today, along with my colleagues, Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Brandon Todd, Mary Cheh, Robert White, and Trayon White, I am introducing the Students’ Right to Home or Hospital Instruction Act of 2019.

This legislation requires every local education agency to adopt and implement a home or hospital instruction program that provides academic instruction and support to students who have been or will be absent from their school of enrollment for 10 or more consecutive or cumulative school days due to a physical or psychological condition. It also creates an appeal process to be administered by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.

Over the past year, I and my staff have spent time reviewing the policies and practices of DCPS and speaking to the community about DCPS’ Home Hospital Instruction Program.

What I’ve learned is there is no transparency of process for determining a child’s eligibility, no clear mechanism for appealing a decision, and no basic public data about the program.

Further, students who are admitted into the Psychiatric Institute of Washington or St. Elizabeth’s Hospital don’t get any instruction at all. And it's not clear if public charter schools have a program in place, what the requirements are, or if they are in line with best practices.

More troubling is that I’ve consistently heard that many parents don’t know this program exists which puts our students further behind in their schoolwork. This legislation attempts to overcome all of these barriers so that our students can continue to learn no matter their circumstance.

I welcome any co-sponsors. Thank you.

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Councilmember David Grosso re-introduces legislation to decriminalize sex work in D.C.

For Immediate Release: 
June 3, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Councilmember David Grosso re-introduces legislation to decriminalize sex work in D.C.

Washington, D.C. – With increased support from Council colleagues, Councilmember David Grosso today announced the re-introduction of legislation that would reduce violence and improve public health and safety by removing criminal penalties for consensual sexual exchange in the District of Columbia.

“It is long past time for D.C. to reconsider the framework in which we handle commercial sex—and move from one of criminalization to a new approach that focuses on human rights, health, and safety,” Grosso said at a press conference and rally held in support of the bill with the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition on Monday.

The Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019 eliminates criminal prohibitions and penalties for consensual sex work and establishes a task force to evaluate the effects of removing criminal penalties and recommend further improvements to public safety, health, and human rights.

“By removing criminal penalties for those in the sex trade, we can bring people out of the shadows, help connect them to the services they need to live safer and healthier lives, and more easily tackle the complaints we hear from communities about trash or noise,” Grosso said.

Removing criminal penalties for engaging in sexual exchange reduces public violence and protects sex workers. People in the sex trade are safest when their work is not criminalized. It allows them to better screen clients, to negotiate safer sex practices, and to report incidents of trafficking or client and police violence.

“Decriminalizing sex work will make life easier not only for the people that complain about K Street, but also for the girls who are getting turned away from jobs, housing, health care, and more. Everyone needs to survive, and everyone needs to make money. If Sis has to turn to sex work so she can buy a room or so she can eat, don't send her to jail,” said Tiara Moten, Lead Organizer with No Justice No Pride.

Eighty percent of sex workers report experiencing some form of violence in the course of their work. This is especially true for sex workers from communities that already face increased discrimination such as immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, and individuals of color. Criminalization discourages sex workers from reporting these incidents.

“It is appropriate that we address this issue at the start of LGBTQ Pride month that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the riots at the Stonewall Inn. We know that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and especially transgender individuals engage in sex work at higher rates, making decriminalization of sex work an LGBTQ issue,” said Benjamin Brooks, Assistant Director for Policy at Whitman Walker Health. “Removing criminal penalties recognizes the dignity of the individual and removes key barriers to preventing HIV and improving health for our communities.”

"As a faith leader, a Black woman, and an advocate for abused and neglected children, at-risk youth, adjudicated youth, victims of domestic violence, women’s issues, and cancer patients I believe that Black women deserve to live free from violence and provide for themselves and their families. I support the decriminalization of sex work because criminalization only harms our communities and we must support and love one another not ostracize each other,” said Rev. Shirley Currie, associate minister at Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church.

Protections for minors and prohibitions against coercion, exploitation, and human trafficking already exists in D.C. law and remain untouched by Grosso’s bill.

“This legislation slightly differs from the previous version by leaving some language in the code making it crystal clear that coercion, exploitation, and human trafficking are not tolerated in D.C.,” Grosso said.

Grosso’s proposal now enjoys expanded support on the Council. Only Councilmember Robert White co-introduced the legislation back in 2017. This time, Councilmembers Anita Bonds and Brianne Nadeau have added their names.

Grosso developed the legislation in close partnership with the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition (SWAC), a coalition of more than nearly two dozen local and national organizations: HIPS, ACLU DC, GLAA, Collective Action for Safe Spaces, D.C. Rape Crisis Center, Amara Legal Center, National Center for Trans Equality, Whitman Walker Health, Casa Ruby, Best Practices Policy Project, SWOP-USA, Black Youth Project (BYP) 100, Black Lives Matter DMV, No Justice No Pride, D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, Bread for the City, Network for Victims Recovery DC, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Ultraviolet, Center for Health and Gender Equity, and URGE.

“I want to thank everyone who has contributed their voice to the development of this legislation, has endorsed its approach, or engaged with elected officials to build to the unprecedented level of support we see here today,” Grosso said. “ I also want to appreciate all the sex worker activists who have spoken out for their human rights, from Sharmus Outlaw here in D.C., to Gabriela Leite in Brazil, to countless others around the world.”

The bill will officially be re-introduced tomorrow, June 4, 2019 at the Council's regular legislative meeting. It will likely be referred to the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety.

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Councilmember Grosso seeks to protect medical marijuana patients from employment discrimination by D.C. government

For Immediate Release:
May 28, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso seeks to protect medical marijuana patients from employment discrimination by D.C. government

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso today introduced legislation that would protect current or prospective District of Columbia government employees from discrimination based on their enrollment in medical marijuana programs.

“Medical marijuana is no different than any other prescription medication. Individuals who are using it to manage their personal medical conditions should not have to also worry that they will lose their job or not be hired,” Grosso said. “However, over the past several months I have heard in the press and from constituents that some D.C. agencies are willfully ignoring existing policy allowing for exceptions for these individuals.”

The D.C. Department of Human Resources specifically sets out an exception for government employees enrolled in medical marijuana programs in District Personnel Manual Instruction No. 4-34, similar to exceptions for other prescription drugs.

However, current and prospective employees of from several government agencies have reported treatment inconsistent with official policy.

The Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employee Protection Amendment Act of 2019 would enshrine in the law a prohibition against D.C. government agencies discriminating in employment against an individual for participation in the medical marijuana program.

“Unless there is a federal law or rule that requires it, D.C. government should not refuse to hire, fire, or penalize individuals for using medical marijuana, as long as they are not consuming on the job or showing up intoxicated."

Councilmember Grosso, himself a member of the District’s Medical Marijuana Program, has corresponded with DOC Director Quincy Booth since November 2018 to resolve this issue. Grosso, along with five of his colleagues, also sent a letter to the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Kevin Donahue seeking his intervention. Both efforts were unsuccessful.

“I have tried to work with the Department of Corrections to get this fixed, but it has now become necessary to legislate and immediately correct this inconsistency,” Grosso said. “To that end, I will also be moving this bill as emergency legislation at the next legislative meeting.”

Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, and Vincent Gray joined Councilmember Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation. Councilmembers Jack Evans, Kenyan McDuffie, and Charles Allen co-sponsored the bill.

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Statement of Councilmember Grosso on latest federal government attacks on transgender communities

For Immediate Release: 
May 24, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on latest federal government attacks on transgender communities

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, on the new proposals from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Health and Human Services to roll back protections for transgender people accessing shelter and health care:

“The latest efforts by the federal government to retreat from its responsibility to protect everyone’s human rights are deeply upsetting. It is especially appalling that the Trump administration is proposing to repeal protections for transgender individuals on the eve of LGBT Pride Month, on the heels of the murders of three black transgender women, and one week after International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

“While the Trump administration wants to give a green light to shelters, housing programs, doctors and medical institutions to turn away transgender people, in D.C. the law will not change. Our local Human Rights Act explicitly protects our transgender, intersex, gender non-conforming, and non-binary residents, workers, and visitors from discrimination. It is critical that the D.C. government double down on its commitment to protect these community members from discrimination and get the word out that anti-transgender bias has no place in the District of Columbia.

“When I first learned of the possibility of rulemaking by the federal Department of Health and Human Services to redefine sex discrimination to explicitly exclude transgender protections, I introduced, and the Council unanimously passed, the Sense of the Council in Support of Transgender, Intersex, and Gender Non-Conforming Communities Resolution of 2018 last November. That resolution includes a requirement that the Secretary of the Council submit the resolution as official public comment on any relevant proposed rulemaking, on behalf of the Council of the District of Columbia. I will be following up to ensure that this happens.

“Even before this latest news, the transgender community of D.C. has been calling on the government to do more. One of those requests has been to stop arrests for commercial sex and to focus law enforcement efforts on ensuring the safety of sex workers and stopping exploitation or coercion. Next month I will be re-introducing legislation to that end.

“To the transgender communities of D.C. please know that you are loved and that the District stands with you.”

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Grosso and five other Councilmembers request DOC comply with exceptions for employees in medical marijuana programs

On April 25, Councilmember David Grosso, joined by Councilmembers Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Charles Allen, Vincent Gray, and Trayon White, sent a letter to Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Kevin Donahue and Department of Corrections Director Quincy Booth requesting that the DOC immediately comply with instructions that allow for employment-related drug testing exceptions for enrollees in medical marijuana programs.

“We are writing out of deep concern for the Department of Corrections’ current practices in regard to employees, or candidates for employment, who are participants in the District of Columbia, or another state’s medical marijuana program. We ask that you immediately bring the DOC into compliance with Department of Human Resources District Personnel Manual Instruction No. 4-34,” they wrote.

The D.C. Department of Human Resources specifically sets out an exception for government employees enrolled in medical marijuana programs in DPM Instruction No. 4-34, similar to exceptions for other prescription drugs.

“…[O]ur concern is not about recreational use of marijuana but rather medical use, a topic that the District of Columbia government experts in human resources have considered,” the councilmembers wrote. “The result of that consideration is DPM instruction No. 4-34, and the DOC should follow that expert advice, or have a very compelling reason for deviating from it.”

The councilmembers also requested that DOC reverse any adverse personnel actions toward employees or candidates for employment which were based solely on their status as a patient enrolled in a medical marijuana program and a positive THC test.

The letter sent yesterday represents the latest inquiry on the topic after Director Booth failed to explain the DOC’s policies in his January response to a letter Councilmember Grosso sent in November 2018 asking whether or not DOC was taking into account employees’ enrollment in medical marijuana programs as part of such testing.

“If an employee, for example, is undergoing treatment for cancer and is prescribed medical marijuana by a doctor to help with the side effects of treatment, it seems unreasonable and inappropriate that the employee would be penalized, or even subject to termination, because of seeking such medical care,” Grosso wrote in November.

Director Booth laid out DOC’s practices and procedures and its adherence to District law. However, the response sidestepped a question specifically aimed at how DOC treats employees enrolled in the medical marijuana program, instead focusing on how DOC complies, as other D.C. agencies do, with the impact of Initiative 71.

Initiative 71 dealt with recreational, not medical, marijuana.

Read Councilmember Grosso’s letter and DOC’s responses below.

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Organ, Eye, and Tissue Donation Education Amendment Act of 2019

Organ, Eye, and Tissue Donation Education Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: January 22, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmember Anita Bonds

BILL TEXT

Summary: To amend the Healthy Schools Act of 2009 to require that District of Columbia Public Schools and Public Charter Schools provide education on the process of making an anatomical gift, including information about the life-saving and life-enhancing effects of organ, eye, and tissue donation to help students become better informed.

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Grosso champions greater access to D.C.’s medical marijuana program

For Immediate Release:
January 22, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso champions greater access to D.C.’s medical marijuana program

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) today introduced legislation that would further improve access to the District of Columbia’s medical marijuana program for residents as another method of reducing opioid-related deaths.

“We are all concerned with the ongoing tragedy of D.C. residents dying from opioid overdoses and this legislation provides another tool to address that crisis: greater access to the District’s medical marijuana program,” said Grosso.

Since 2014, over 800 people have died as result of opioid-related overdoses, according to the D.C. Chief Medical Examiner. Two hundred and seventy-nine of those deaths were reported in 2017 alone, more than triple those reported in 2014.

Under the Medical Marijuana Patient Health and Accessibility Improvement Amendment Act of 2019 patients would be granted provisional registration and same-day access to medical marijuana like any other medicine.

Additionally, dispensaries would be allowed to establish safe use facilities so that patients can consume medical marijuana outside of their home, which would address the challenge that many patients face of having nowhere to consume.

Finally, the legislation also removes the plant count limit on cultivation centers to address ongoing supply issues and seeks to rectify negative impacts of the racist War on Drugs by allowing more residents affected by the misguided criminalization of marijuana to be employed in these businesses.

“Medical marijuana has been shown to be a viable alternative to the prescription of opioid painkillers, which can set people down the path to addiction,” Grosso said. “While we have made significant improvements to our medical marijuana program here in D.C., we can do more to improve access for patients and reduce opioid reliance and overdose.”

A study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that medical marijuana programs reduce opioid overdose death rates by as much as 25 percent. Americans for Safe Access also reported lower prescription rates of painkillers in states with medical marijuana programs.

Grosso also views the legislation as an appropriate response the negative effects of congressional interference with D.C.’s local efforts to regulate marijuana.

“D.C. residents are being diverted from the medical marijuana program to the unregulated, easy to access, underground market,” Grosso said. “That is posing real problems for the small business owners in the medical marijuana community, and our whole medical marijuana system could be in jeopardy if we don’t take action.”

Councilmembers Vincent Gray and Brianne Nadeau joined Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation.

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Grosso re-introduces bill to assess public health impacts of new development

For Immediate Release:
January 22, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso re-introduces bill to assess public health impacts of new development

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) today proposed legislation that would promote healthier individuals and communities by requiring new development projects to receive an analysis of its health impacts before proceeding.

“New housing and transportation can have profound impacts on the health and well-being of individuals and communities, yet these impacts are often not sufficiently evaluated,” said Grosso. “As the District of Columbia continues to grow, with new development projects emerging every day, it is imperative that we assess how these projects positively or negatively affect the health of our residents.”

The Health Impact Assessment Program Establishment Act of 2019 creates a health impact assessment program within the Department of Health to evaluate the potential health effects of proposed projects on individuals and communities and to support healthy communities, healthy community design, and development that promotes physical and mental health by encouraging healthy behaviors, quality of life, social connectedness, safety, and equity.

Through this legislation DOH will be able to examine all projects that require an environmental impact statement–such as those relating to new construction, roadway changes, and others–to determine their impact on physical activity, mental health, food and nutritional choice, noise levels, accessibility for individuals with disabilities, and a host of other factors.

“I am committed to improving the health and wellness of every D.C. resident,” Grosso said. “Implementing this comprehensive approach here in D.C. would help to promote sustainable development, improve and reduce health inequities, encourage cross-sector collaboration, and inspire a greater appreciation for public health in the policymaking process.”

Councilmembers Brianne K. Nadeau, Vince Gray, Elissa Silverman, and Anita Bonds joined Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation.

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Health Impact Assessment Program Establishment Act of 2019

Health Impact Assessment Program Establishment Act of 2019

Introduced: January 22, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Vincent Gray, Brianne K. Nadeau

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE | FACT SHEET

Summary: 

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you Chairman Mendelson. This morning, along with my colleagues, Councilmembers Vincent Gray and Brianne Nadeau, I am introducing the Health Impact Assessment Program Establishment Act of 2019.

Research indicates that there are myriad factors outside of the traditional health scope that shape health-related behaviors.  Economic sectors such as housing and transportation can have profound impacts on the health and well-being of individuals and communities and yet these impacts are often not sufficiently evaluated.

As the District of Columbia continues to grow, it is imperative that we assess how development and other projects positively or negatively affect the health of our residents, particularly in light of the enormous health disparities across the city by ward and by race.

Under this legislation, a Health Impact Assessment Program will be established within the Department of Health to ensure that we are properly evaluating the potential health effects of construction and development projects on our residents and the communities they call home.

Health impact assessments rely on quantitative, qualitative and participatory techniques, to determine health impacts, the distribution of those impacts within communities and identify mitigation strategies to address adverse effects.

Through this legislation D.C. Health will be able to examine projects such as those relating to new construction, mixed-use development, use modifications, changes to roadways, traffic calming solutions and more to determine their impact on physical activity, mental health, food and nutritional choice, noise levels, accessibility for individuals with disabilities, and a host of other factors.

Implementing this comprehensive approach here in the District of Columbia would help to promote sustainable development, improve and reduce health inequities, encourage cross-sectoral collaboration, and inspire a greater appreciation for public health in the policymaking process.

I am committed to improving the health and wellness of every D.C. resident and this legislation is an important step toward accomplishing that goal.

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Dept. of Corrections response leaves unanswered questions on employees in medical marijuana programs

In November, Councilmember Grosso sent a letter to the Department of Corrections to inquire about the Department’s policy and practices for drug and alcohol testing of employees. Specifically, the councilmember was interested in whether or not DOC was taking into account employees’ enrollment in medical marijuana programs as part of such testing.

“If an employee, for example, is undergoing treatment for cancer and is prescribed medical marijuana by a doctor to help with the side effects of treatment, it seems unreasonable and inappropriate that the employee would be penalized, or even subject to termination, because of seeking such medical care,” Grosso wrote.

After a delayed response, Director Quincy Booth laid out DOC’s practices and procedures and its adherence to District law. However, the response sidestepped a question specifically aimed at how DOC takes into account an employees enrollment in the medical marijuana program, instead focusing on how DOC complies, as other D.C. agencies do, with the impact of Initiative 71.

Initiative 71 dealt with recreational, not medical, marijuana.

The D.C. Department of Human Resources specifically sets out an exception for medical marijuana in District Personnel Manual Instruction No. 4-34, similar to exceptions for other prescription drugs

Councilmember Grosso will follow up with the Department of Corrections and the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety to ensure District government employees in the medical marijuana program are treated equally to those who require other prescription drugs for medical purposes.

Read Councilmember Grosso’s letter and DOC’s responses below.

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Councilmembers Grosso and Nadeau seek clarity on services for transgender youth in CFSA's care

On Oct. 4, Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, and Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau, chairperson of the Committee on Human Services, sent a letter to the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) seeking clarification of its policies regarding the provision of medical services to transgender youth in the agency’s care.

“The governor of California recently signed legislation in that state…setting the appropriate care for youth in foster care to receive gender-affirming health care, including mental health care. Media outlets praised the state as being the first to ensure these rights for transgender youth,” the two councilmembers wrote. “However, it is our belief that this should have already been policy in the District of Columbia based on the provisions of our Human Rights Act and its interpretation, particularly with regards to the Mayor’s Order from February 27, 2014 prohibiting discrimination in health insurance based on gender identity or expression.”

CFSA Director Brenda Donald responded to Grosso and Nadeau on Oct. 19, reaffirming its commitment to provide youth in its care with all appropriate medical and mental health services, including related to maters of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“In the District of Columbia, youth in the care of CFSA have a right to be provided with timely, adequate, and appropriate medical and mental health services from health care professionals, which includes medical care, behavioral health care, and counseling,” Donald wrote.

“CFSA’s practice is to support and ensure that transgender youth obtain and have access to gender-affirming healthcare, gender affirming mental healthcare, and any other support and services they might need. Should a youth express an interest in undergoing gender reassignment surgery with their social worker, health care professional, or foster parent, CFSA would treat such request as we would any medical request. The agency will refer the youth to the appropriate medical and mental health services, establish what is medically covered, and determine the best way forward to ensure that all medical needs are met. If a youth requests reassignment surgery, CFSA must ensure that the youth receives the appropriate mental health support. The Department of Health Care Finance (DHCF) will cover sex reassignment procedures for beneficiaries with an established diagnosis of gender dysphoria.”

Read the full letter to CFSA, and their response to Councilmembers Grosso and Nadeau, below.

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Grosso proposes bill to assess public health impacts of new development

For Immediate Release:
October 16, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso proposes bill to assess public health impacts of new development

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) today proposed legislation that would promote healthier individuals and communities by requiring new development projects to receive an analysis of its health impacts before proceeding.

“New housing and transportation can have profound impacts on the health and well-being of individuals and communities, yet these impacts are often not sufficiently evaluated,” said Grosso. “As the District of Columbia continues to grow, with new development projects emerging every day, it is imperative that we assess how these projects positively or negatively affect the health of our residents.”

The Health Impact Assessment Program Establishment Act of 2018 creates a health impact assessment program within the Department of Health to evaluate the potential health effects of proposed projects on individuals and communities and to support healthy communities, healthy community design, and development that promotes physical and mental health by encouraging healthy behaviors, quality of life, social connectedness, safety, and equity.

Through this legislation DOH will be able to examine all projects that require an environmental impact statement–such as those relating to new construction, roadway changes, and others–to determine their impact on physical activity, mental health, food and nutritional choice, noise levels, accessibility for individuals with disabilities, and a host of other factors.

“I am committed to improving the health and wellness of every D.C. resident,” Grosso said. “Implementing this comprehensive approach here in D.C. would help to promote sustainable development, improve and reduce health inequities, encourage cross-sectoral collaboration, and inspire a greater appreciation for public health in the policymaking process.”

Councilmembers Brianne K. Nadeau, Vince Gray, and Brandon Todd joined Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation.

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Grosso expresses concerns over Providence Hospital closure

On September 26, 2018, Councilmember David Grosso sent a letter to the Department of Health about his concerns regarding the planned closure of Providence Hospital’s acute care services and to better understand DOH’s role during the transition.

“Ascension’s decision to close acute-care services at Providence Hospital is devastating as three-quarters of patients accessing care at Providence are D.C. residents primarily coming from Wards 5, 7, and 8,” wrote Grosso. “This loss of much needed medical care on the east side of the city greatly limits access and may exacerbate already troubling health outcomes for our residents in these communities.”

On October 3, the Department of Health respond with a letter outlining their role. Both can be found below.

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Grosso inquires about access to home and hospital instruction services for students

On July 11, 2018, Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education and member of the Committee on Health, sent a letter to interim D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Amanda Alexander expressing concern that some children may not be receiving Home and Hospital Instruction Program (HIPP) services which are aimed at supporting students with physical disability and/or health impairment who are confined to home or hospital for three or more weeks.

"...there seems to be a lack of information and transparency about the process for determining a child's eligibility for HIPP and for appealing that decision," he wrote.

UPDATE: Grosso provided a list of questions to DCPS and received a response on August 3rd from DCPS which can be found here and below, along with the HHIP program manual and original letter from Councilmember Grosso.

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Councilmembers David Grosso and Robert White introduce legislation to improve LGBTQ health data

For Immediate Release:
June 5, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmembers David Grosso and Robert White introduce legislation to improve LGBTQ health data

Washington, D.C. – Today Councilmembers David Grosso (I-At Large) and Robert White (D-At-Large) introduced a bill to improve the documentation by D.C. agencies of health outcomes and behavioral risk factors of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) community, as the federal government prepares to limit its collection of this critical public health data.

“At a time when the federal government is retreating from its responsibility to protect everyone’s human rights, D.C. must do everything it can to ensure those rights,” said Councilmember David Grosso. “We have a responsibility to meet the unique health needs of our LGBTQ residents.  Requiring our agencies to collect this critical public health data will better inform our policymaking and improve the health outcomes of all District residents.”

“We celebrate Pride in June, but we must go beyond words and parades to affirm and support our LGBTQ friends and neighbors. We need to push back on these proposals by the Trump administration that would impact their health by pretending they don’t exist,” said Councilmember Robert White.

The LGBTQ Health Data Collection Amendment Act of 2018 would require the District Department of Health to collect demographic data on sexual orientation and gender identity through its annual Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS).

The BRFSS is a cross-sectional telephone survey conducted by state health departments in all 50 states and the District of Columbia with technical and methodological assistance provided by the Center for Disease Control.

It would also require the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to collect information on the sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression of respondents to the school-based Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS). YRBSS monitors six types of health-risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among youth and adults.

“Having a better understanding of how our students identify and the impact their sexual orientation or gender identity has on their behavior and risk factors will enable schools to better serve our students’ non-academic health needs,” Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, said. “When those needs are met, we know they are better prepared to succeed academically.”

All levels of government rely on the data from these surveys when making policy choices to address public health issues. Recently, Trump administration officials with the Center for Disease Controls hinted that they would discontinue the collection of this data.

Additionally, the bill would require that the data collected be used in the annual report on the health of the District’s LGBTQ community, a collaborative effort of the Department of Health and the Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

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LGBTQ Health Data Collection Amendment Act of 2018

LGBTQ Health Data Collection Amendment Act of 2018

Introduced: June 5, 2018

Co-introducers: Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Robert White, Vincent Gray, Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau, Charles Allen, Elissa Silverman, Kenyan McDuffie, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, Jack Evans, Trayon White. 

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend the Department of Health Functions Clarification Act of 2001 to require the Department of Health to collect information on the sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression of respondents to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System; and to amend the State Education Office Establishment Act of 2000 to require the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to collect information on the sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression of respondents to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you Mr. Chairman. Today, Councilmember Robert White and I are introducing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Health Data Amendment Act of 2018. We are joined by Councilmembers Vincent Gray, Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau, Charles Allen, Elissa Silverman, Kenyan McDuffie, Mary Cheh, and Brandon Todd as co-introducers.

This is a very simple bill—it requires the Department of Health and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to gather demographic data on sexual orientation and gender identity as part of their public health surveys of adults and students, respectively, in D.C.
Some members will recall this issue came up with regards to DOH a few years ago, and I introduced similar legislation then.

The Department did commit to gather the data, but only every other year, and new developments at the federal level threaten the progress that has been made.

This is data that OSSE is, in contrast, already collecting, and I don’t anticipate it causing any problem for them.

Understanding how our students identify and how that relates to their behavior or risk factors enables us to better serve students’ non-academic health needs.

When those needs are met, we know they are better prepared to succeed academically.

At a time when the federal government is retreating from its responsibility to protect everyone’s human rights, we must ensure that D.C. is doing everything it can to ensure those rights.

Part of that is documenting the health disparities that affect our LGBTQ neighbors so that we can target interventions to end those disparities. 

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DOH, DBH responds to Grosso letter regarding safe injection sites to combat the opioid crisis

Councilmember David Grosso received a letter from Department of Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt and Department of Behavioral Health Director Dr. Tanya Royster in response to his Sept. 19 letter urging exploration of supervised injection facilities (SIFs) as part of a comprehensive public health approach to combating the opioid crisis and saving lives in the District of Columbia.

DOH/DBH's letter details Dr. Nesbitt's findings from a recent site-visit to a SIF in Vancouver. SIFs there have led to a decrease in opioid-related deaths and, to date, have not experienced an overdose related death on-premises. 

DOH and DBH noted that the success of such facilities has been made possible by coordination between local and federal authorities in Canada, which could present a barrier to implementation in the District of Columbia.

However, the Opioid Working Group is committed to reducing harm and deaths associated with the opioid crisis and will consider what would be required to implement SIFs in D.C. as it develops the Opioid Strategic Plan over the next few months.

You can read the response letter and the original letter sent by Councilmember Grosso below.

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Abortion Provider Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2017

Abortion Provider Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: November 7, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Brianne K. Nadeau, Jack Evans, Charles Allen, Robert C. White, Jr., Anita Bonds

FACT SHEET | BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend the Human Rights Act of 1977 to prohibit discrimination against health care professionals by a health care provider, based on the professional’s participation in, willingness to participate in, or support for abortion or sterilization procedures, or public statements related to abortion or sterilization procedures.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Despite the protection provided by Roe versus Wade, elected officials in state houses across the country and up on Capitol Hill are trying to make it effectively impossible to access abortion services.

This includes a climate of demonization of the medical professionals who provide these services.

A doctor, nurse, or other health practitioner should not have to fear for their job based on their support for the right to choose or their willingness to participate in abortion services.

In fact, discrimination based on an employee’s participation in abortion – or willingness to do so – has been illegal under federal law since 1976.

But there are gaps in the federal law, which has led a number of states to legislate additional protections.

The District of Columbia does not done so, but this legislation would fix that.

It is a rather simple bill, adding protections under our Human Rights Act for health professionals who speak publicly about abortion, or who have a second job providing abortion services.

At a time when speaking out about the importance of access to abortion is critical, we had an incident here in D.C. last year in which a hospital tried to silence a doctor who was an outspoken defender of reproductive rights.

This sort of retaliation, or the firing of healthcare professionals for treating a woman seeking an abortion as has happened elsewhere, is inappropriate and discriminatory.

With over 45,000 people employed in the healthcare industry in the District of Columbia, we need to protect these individuals from employment discrimination like this.

While only a few of those would be likely to need the protection of this bill, we pride ourselves as a jurisdiction that staunchly defends the right to an abortion, and we should ensure that no nurse or doctor fears that they will lose their jobs or careers because of participation in abortion services or advocacy.

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Grosso proposes bills to deal with opioid crisis, improve public health as Council returns from summer recess

For Immediate Release:
September 19, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso proposes bills to deal with opioid crisis, improve public health as Council returns from summer recess

Washington, D.C. – Today Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced two bills to address the opioid crisis in the District of Columbia.

“For decades we have attempted to use criminal penalties to solve drug addiction and its associated consequences,” Grosso said.  “This ‘War on Drugs’ has failed and in recent years, D.C. has adopted a public health and evidence-based approach to reduce harm and help people find appropriate treatment.  My proposals continue that approach.”

Last year, D.C. reported 216 opioid-related deaths—nearly triple the number reported in 2014. Grosso’s proposals would remove penalties for possession of certain drug paraphernalia and promote access to the medical marijuana program, both of which have been shown to reduce overdoses.

The Safe Access for Public Health Amendment Act of 2017, allows for access to new technology that enables drug users to test their own drugs to avoid overdosing and supports harm reduction efforts for injection drug use by improving access to clean syringes to reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.

The bill achieves this greater access by removing criminal penalties for possession for personal use of syringes and drug testing kits, and expanding the areas in which D.C.’s successful needle exchange program can operate.

“There is no scientific basis for criminalizing paraphernalia possession,” Grosso said. “It only increases the likelihood of harm to those who are struggling with addiction and continues the failed policies of the War on Drugs that has had a disproportionate impact on our African-American communities.”

Councilmember Vincent Gray joined Grosso in co-introducing this bill. Grosso joined Gray in co-introducing two other opioid focused bills: Opioid Abuse Treatment Act of 2017 and the Opioid Overdose Prevention Act of 2017.

The Medical Marijuana Improvement Amendment Act of 2017 reduces two major barriers to the city’s medical marijuana program: the requirement for a doctor referral and long wait times to get a registration card.

Under the bill, patients would be granted provisional registration and same-day access to medical marijuana like any other medicine. Patients without a primary care physician, or with one who does not wish to recommend medical marijuana, would be able to self-certify.

“Medical marijuana has been shown to be a viable alternative to the prescription of opioid painkillers, which can set people down the path to addiction,” Grosso said. “While we have made significant improvements to our medical marijuana program here in D.C., there is more we can do to improve access for patients and reduce opioid reliance and overdose.”

A study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that medical marijuana programs reduce opioid overdose death rates by as much as 25 percent.  Americans for Safe Access also reported lower prescription rates of painkillers in states with medical marijuana programs.

Grosso believes D.C. can go even further to combat the opioid crisis.  In a letter sent to Department of Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt today, the councilmember asked her to examine how D.C. might set up supervised injection sites where injection drug users could be monitored to prevent overdose and be connected to treatment.  He also believes DOH should find a way to allow Narcan, the opioid overdose prevention medication, to be obtained over-the-counter at any pharmacy in the District of Columbia.

“I hope that Dr. Nesbitt and her team will find a way forward,” Grosso said.

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