Bmore Healthy Blog

Note From The Commissioner: Safeguarding Health & Well-Being

The Maryland General Assembly’s 2018 session has started. We at the Baltimore City Health Department are hard at work with our state legislators on a variety of bills to safeguard health and well-being.

A critical priority is protecting the Affordable Care Act and preventing the gains made from being rolled back. Last month, I expressed my full support for a state-enforced individual mandate bill, which would use collected funds and apply them toward marketplace plans for those who are uninsured but do not qualify for Medicaid.  I hope to assist with other legislation to strengthen the ACA, including expansion of Medicaid and Medicare and development of a public option.

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Public Health Heroes: Needle Exchange Team

Since 1994, BCHD’s Syringe Exchange Program (SEP) has worked to reduce the rates of HIV, Hepatitis C, and other infections through decreased circulation of used syringes provide clients with the best services possible.

Note From The Commissioner: Healthcare - A Human Right

On Saturday, I joined the 2018 Baltimore Women’s March. Following the rousing speeches by Mayor Pugh and Senators Cardin and Van Hollen, I spoke about why I was at the March. I was there for my patient, Sara, a 28-year old born with a heart defect who could not get health insurance because of her pre-existing condition. She couldn’t pay for her medications. One day, she went into heart failure. By the time she came to the ER, her heart had stopped beating and she wasn’t breathing. We did everything we could, but her heart never beat again.

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Note From The Commissioner: Representing the Best of Public Service

Last Friday, the Baltimore City Health Department hosted leaders from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including Acting Secretary Eric Hargan and Surgeon General Jerome Adams. During the course of their visit, we brought up many issues that are important to us, including providing urgent, additional funding to stem the opioid epidemicprotecting Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, and ensuring best available science and evidenced-based practices.

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Note From The Commissioner: Before the ACA

I worked as an emergency physician before and after the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Before the ACA, I treated dozens of uninsured patients in the E.R. every day. They were uninsured not because they didn’t want insurance or didn’t think they needed it. They were uninsured because they couldn’t afford insurance.

I treated Sarah, a 47-year-old nurse’s aide. She was diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread throughout her body. If her cancer had been caught early, she could have been cured. Instead, she died six months later, leaving her three young children without a mother. I took care of Jesse, a 56-year-old construction supervisor. His medications cost more than his monthly rent; he skipped doses of his insulin and cut his blood pressure pills in quarters to save money. One day, his blood pressure was so high that he suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed on one side. He could no longer speak, work, or take care of his family.

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Note From The Commissioner: Looking into the New Year

As we enter the New Year, I am thankful to continue my service to the City of Baltimore with the support of an exceptional team and under the leadership of Mayor Catherine Pugh. Every day, I feel fortunate to have a job I love and to work with people who understand how health is integrally tied to social justice and the future of our communities.

We’ve made numerous public health advancements. Baltimore City launched one of the most aggressive overdose prevention programs in the country, including my issuing a blanket prescription for the antidote, naloxone, to every resident in our city. This determined approach has resulted in more than 1,500 lives being saved by our fellow Baltimoreans—by our neighbors, family, and friends. Our outreach teams are on the streets every day to train residents on how we can all save a life.

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Note From The Commissioner: Prescription Affordability

Two months ago, Maryland became the first state in the country to pass legislation banning price gouging by manufacturers of generic and off-patent drugs. This is landmark legislation. However, much more needs to be done.

On Wednesday, I endorsed the Prescription Drug Affordability Initiative at a press conference organized by Maryland Health Care for All. Drug makers talk about the importance of innovation, and while we encourage research and development, physicians, patients, and family members have a right to know why medications are priced as they are. We have a right to know why medications that used to be affordable are no longer. We have a right to know about alternatives that may cost a lot less, but are just as effective. We have a right to transparent and accurate information, and a right to affordable healthcare.

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Public Health Heroes: BCHD’s innovative approach to HIV prevention and linkage to treatment

Baltimore has a long history of being hit hard by the HIV epidemic. Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) has had an active HIV prevention outreach program since 2004, including HIV testing in communities at risk of HIV, ensuring those who are HIV positive are in medical care (referred to as linkage to care),  and educating the community on behavior change, such as abstinence and condom use.


Note From The Commissioner: Remembering Our Colleague

This week, the Baltimore City Health Department mourns the loss of our dear colleague, friend, and dedicated public servant, Phyllis Burnett.

There is so much I can say about her career of exceptional service in public health. Phyllis served as a CDC Public Health Advisor for 35 years. She has been with the Health Department for 15 years, where she developed and supervised the Community Outreach Program and Partner Service Program. Her outstanding work here has been featured nationally, in numerous conferences and presentations.

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Note From The Commissioner: Safe Sleep Campaign

Senator Barbara Mikulski likes to say that one should “Do what you’re best at, and what you’re needed for.” I was honored to be selected as one of Governing’s 2017 Public Officials of the Year and to be among a group of public servants who exemplify that sentiment. Other awardees included Governor Terry McAuliffe (Virginia), Mayor Greg Stanton (Phoenix, Arizona), and Sheriff Tom Dart (Cook County, Illinois). I am so proud to serve alongside the men and women of the Baltimore City Health Department to protect the most vulnerable and to deliver health – a human right – to all.

Public health’s primary duty is to help people where they are and to regard every person with dignity and humanity. Every day, I am inspired and filled with gratitude for my incredible colleagues who carry out these duties and “do what we’re best at and what we’re needed for.”

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