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2017 Legislative Session Testimony

(Last Updated February 17, 2017)

   
            

Testimony for the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee

In SUPPORT of

Senate Bill 471 - Morgan State University - Task Force on Reconciliation and Equity

 

 February 16, 2017

Maryland’s Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers urges your support for SB471 – Task Force on Reconciliation and Equity.  The purpose of the task force is to foster reconciliation and achieve racial equity by (1) increasing awareness through public discussions about the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of racial inequities; (2) involving individuals and public and private entities, including majority and minority groups, in every sector throughout the State in a collective process; (3) fostering racial equity through recognition, understanding, adjustment, compromise, and forgiveness; and (4) recommending strategies, changes, and actions in institutions, policies, and laws to eliminate systemic racism and promote equity, opportunity, healing, and harmony.

The time for this task force has come.  We commend Senator Nathan-Pulliam for her efforts toward supporting Morgan State University in putting this task force together. Many will see it as unnecessary at best or divisive at worst.  Instead, we see the potential for healing and for substantive change which will positively affect the lives of ALL Maryland citizens.

As social workers we see the results of inequity each and every day.  The systemic racism which has been part of our history is also part of our present.  Its results are evident in our education system, our welfare system, and our criminal justice system, to mention just a few.   People are torn down by factors outside of their control and often outside of their awareness. We are all affected negatively by racism- both those who suffer from its effects and those who unjustly benefit.  By taking stock and involving the public in discussing this issue, we have a real opportunity to bring light to a subject which has been in the darkness for far too long.  It is only when the best, most discerning and compassionate minds in our state are focused on identifying and eliminating racial inequities that we stand a chance of moving forward.

The fiscal note is minimal but the opportunity for good is great.  Please give us, the citizens of Maryland, this chance!  We urge your support for SB471.

Daphne L. McClellan, Ph.D., MSW

Executive Director


Testimony before the House Health and Government Operations Committee

In SUPPORT of House Bill 628

Secretaries of Principal Departments - Supervision and Review of Decisions and Actions by Units Within Departments

                                                                    February 15, 2017        

Honorable Members of the Health and Government Operations Committee:

The National Association of Social Workers, Maryland Chapter is in support of HB 628, which requires the Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene to adopt regulations for the supervision of, and the secretary of each principal department to supervise, each unit that is composed of individuals participating in the occupation or profession regulated by the unit in order to prevent anticompetitive actions and to determine whether the actions further a clearly articulated State policy to displace competition; requiring the Office of Administrative Hearings to perform a specified review; etc.

The bill proposes a reasonable solution to the issues raised in the U.S. Supreme Court’s North Carolina Dental Board of Examiner’s decision, in which the Court said that states need active supervision of anticompetitive decisions of licensure boards in order for members of the board to be shielded from anti-trust lawsuits. 

The proposal last year gave the Secretary broad authority over the health occupation boards in order to address this Supreme Court decision. We believed that this proposal was too broad, and we were concerned that it could inadvertently politicize disciplinary decisions at the Secretary level. We also believe that most decision-making should remain with the boards since practitioners have the expertise regarding their practice.

The workgroup, managed by the Office of the Attorney General, that met during the interim was productive and resulted in the proposal in this year’s bill. We support HB 628/SB 517 because it reflects the general agreement of the workgroup that the Office of Administrative Hearings could be the active third party reviewing anti-competitive decisions. This solution would address the issue raised by the N.C. Dental decision, and avoid the problem of providing the Secretary overly broad authority. 

We appreciate the efforts and result of the workgroup and we urge that you VOTE YES on HB 628.

Daphne L. McClellan, Ph.D., MSW

Executive Director


Please support Senate Bill 27:

Child Abuse and Neglect – Substance Exposed Newborns – Reporting

The National Association of Social Workers, Maryland Chapter urges your support for Senate Bill 27:  Child Abuse and Neglect – Reporting.  This bill will bring Maryland into compliance with federal law and protect Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) funding by requiring reports of all substance-exposed newborns to the local department of social services, eliminating the exception that currently exists when the parent is engaged in treatment. 

  • Reports of substance-exposed newborns do not constitute a presumption that a child has been or will be abused or neglected
  • An increased level of involvement and support from the state’s child welfare system is designed to have a positive impact on keeping substance-exposed newborns safe, and sustaining their parent(s)’ continued engagement in treatment services.
  • Local department caseworkers are required to complete an assessment to determine whether the infant is at risk of harm or is unsafe. 
  • When further intervention is necessary, a safe plan of care is developed, referrals are made for necessary services including substance use disorder treatment, and the parent(s)’ participation is monitored and supported. 
  • This change in the statute is required and must be enacted by May 2017, or Maryland will face a loss of nearly $500,000.  This funding is critical to sustaining child abuse prevention and family support services statewide.
  • Some contend that local departments already receive most of these referrals, as treatment compliance may be difficult to verify at the time of the birth.  Whether local departments can absorb these referrals with no additional resources will need to be monitored closely.

In summary, local departments complete assessments of substance abused newborns reported to the agency. 


Don’t let Insurers come between Patients and their Doctors

Support Continuity-of-Care Legislation

As advocates, we are acutely aware of key factors that determine the likelihood patients receive access to timely, quality healthcare that is affordable. We have supported measures that reduce barriers to life-saving treatment, in order to produce better outcomes and a clear path to recovery, which grants piece of mind to patients and their loved ones. We all know too well that a delay or an unexpected change in treatment can increase the severity of the illness and the intensity and cost of the services provided.

Maryland has made great strides to improve its health care system. Yet, there continues to be unnecessary and unforeseen barriers that disrupt treatment decisions made between patients and their doctor.  It is increasingly important that we continue to support legislative initiatives that work to protect patient’s “Continuity of Care.”

Today, consumers of health insurance chose a plan that covers the medications and treatment they have determined will work best for them. In spite of their choice, a health insurance company can, at any time during the health plan’s contract year, remove a medication from the drug formulary, thereby forcing the doctor and the patient to compromise their treatment decisions. Simply put, insurance companies do NOT have to honor the contract a patient has chosen, signed and paid for.

This is unacceptable! Patients and doctors MUST retain the ultimate responsibility for their treatment decisions regarding all medical issues, including which medications are most appropriate on a case-by-case basis. Further, clinical judgment and patient choice must always take precedence over payer cost considerations.

Patients continue to lose access to prescribed medications in their health insurance contract– and the consequences are serious:

     Weeks may go by before a treatment correction. While their condition deteriorates, patients may have to try several other medications with limited efficacy for their condition.

     Patients have to make unnecessary appeals in order to get the medication back in their insurance contract, spending hours asking their doctor for assistance.

     Patients may retain access to their medication, but at a much higher out-of-pocket cost.

     When patients are unable to get their medications it can lead to costly hospital and/or emergency room visits to treat adverse reactions.

That is why we support “Continuity-of-Care” legislation, which will:

     Keep medications on an insurance company’s formulary for the entire contract year.

     Ensure that a medication cannot be shifted to a higher-cost tier—unless the insurer simultaneously adds a generic substitute for that particular medication.

     Stop insurance companies from imposing new or additional utilization management requirements on a medication.

     Prohibit insurance companies from placing all medications in a therapeutic class into the highest-cost tier of a formulary; plans would need to place at least one medication in the same class in a more affordable cost-sharing tier.

We Support the relationship between a patient and their doctor,

We Support legislation that would ensure Continuity-of-Care

 

Name of Organization:The National Association of Social Workers, Maryland Chapter__    Date: 2/14/17  


 

House Environmental and Transportation Committee

February 15, 2017

Testimony in Support of HB 229

Environment- Polystyrene Food Service Products and Polystyrene Loose

Fill Packaging- Prohibition on Sale

Dear Honorable Delegates:

We are School Social Workers who are writing today in strong support of House Bill 229 which would prohibit the sale of polystyrene food service products and polystyrene loose fill packaging.  Polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, is particularly important for children who attend public schools where breakfast and lunch are served on Styrofoam trays.

Styrofoam has been banned in many cities and communities around the country, including our local communities of Montgomery County, Prince Georges County, and Washington D.C, due to the pollution and environmental dangers it brings tot to our communities.  Polystyrene is made of fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals, which are also contained in insulation and other thermal products. When hot, greasy and acidic food and drinks come into contact with Styrofoam; those same poisonous chemicals can leach onto the food and drinks that then goes into the bodies of our young people.  Polystyrene is also not biodegradable so when the hundreds of thousands of lunch trays from Maryland’s local school lunch rooms are thrown away, they break into very small pieces which we cannot prevent from contaminating our water ways. Fish eat the Styrofoam pieces, mistaking it for food.  Many fish die, those that live are put out to market and then eaten by people who are poisoned.

Public schools children from less affluent areas are already at high risk for health issues.  We would like to thank Del. Lierman for crafting this important bill and we urge the Environmental and Transportation committee to VOTE YES to protect our public school students from being poisoned!

Sincerely,

SWIS- The Social Workers in Schools Committee of NASW

SSWIM- School Social Workers in Maryland


 

Testimony before the House Judiciary Committee

February 9, 2017

**In Support**

House Bill 428

Family Law - Child Conceived Without Consent - Termination of Parental Rights

Rape Survivor Family Protection Act

 

The Maryland Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-MD), which represents approximately 4,200 trained, professional social workers in this wonderful State, strongly supports House Bill 428. We hope that certain procedural changes proposed this year to address past concerns will garner your support towards passage of the bill.

In this proposed bill, which uses the most common standard of clear and convincing evidence, the rapist of a minor would have his parental rights, such as the award of custody or visitation, reviewed and possibly excluded by a Judge. Hearsay and child support provisions have been eliminated.

Recent horrific, high profile, abduction cases in this country highlight the strong need for this proposed bill to be enacted in Maryland. While every state has statutory provisions for the involuntary termination of parental rights based on a number of circumstances, only a handful include a provision for when the father of a child, conceived as a result of rape, asserts his paternity rights against the best interests of the mother and/or child.

In the past, one of our members has presented testimony to this committee regarding a man, who was found guilty of a sexual offense after molesting and impregnating his 14 year old step daughter. When she decided to place the child up for adoption, he disagreed with the plan and then asked for custody of the child. However, the step father’s primary motivation was to intimidate her to recant her testimony against him, and he was successful.

This bill will untangle both the mother’s emotional dilemma and the legal processes regarding the paternity rights of a perpetrator of a serious sexual offense when asserting his parental rights of custody, visitation and the right to contest guardianship or adoption. The mother would be allowed to plan appropriately for herself and her child without any undue pressure from the perpetrator and the Court will consider what is in the best interest of the child.

We ask for a favorable report on HB 428 to allow the Court to consider the exclusion of the paternity rights of a perpetrator when a child is conceived by a minor mother as a result of a rape. Simply stated, it makes logical sense to establish this balance


 

Testimony before the House Health and Government Operations Committee


In SUPPORT of House Bill 352 with Amendments

– Health Care Practitioners - Use of Teletherapy


February 8, 2017


This bill would authorize health care practitioners who provide clinical behavioral health services and are licensed by the State boards of Nursing, Physicians, Professional Counselors and Therapists, Psychologists, and Social Workers to use “teletherapy.” Health care practitioners must have received training in the technology used for teletherapy and comply with specified requirements.


Maryland’s Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers commends Delegate Reznick for his efforts in addressing this very timely issue. Teletherapy/telehealth is especially important for poor and rural populations with limited access to providers. It might take half a day for a 1 hour appointment including travel time and that means loss of pay, transportation costs etc. It is also an important service for people who are homebound due to disabilities and health issues. We all know that use of technology is subject to security issues and legislation/regulations regarding this new method of service delivery are essential.


On the other hand, this bill concerns us on two levels. First of all, it only addresses those health care providers who engage in behavioral health services and does not address those health care providers who provide somatic health care services. This creates a dual system which can be confusing, especially since some health care providers offer services in both realms. Further confusing things would be the idea that each professional board would be establishing their own regulations in regard to teletherapy. A practice which employs licensed psychologists, licensed clinical social workers and licensed professional counselors would be dealing with three sets of regulations regarding this one issue.

 

Therefore, we thank Delegate Reznick for his efforts on this very important issue and we support HB 352 with amendments which would address the problems identified.

 


 

Senate Finance Committee

January 19, 2017

Testimony in Support of SB 47

 Reporting Abuse to Long Term Care Ombudsman             

 

Dear Honorable Senators,           

On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, Maryland Chapter (NASW-MD), we would like to express our support for Senate Bill 47.

The state Long Term Care Ombudsman program advocates for over 47,000 individuals in nursing homes and Assisted Living Facilities. The Ombudsman program is essential to the health and well-being of Long-Term- Care residents and is an important resource for their families.

Ombudsmen throughout the state work to prevent abuse, neglect and exploitation as they offer training on residents’ rights, abuse reporting, and the importance of treating residents with respect and dignity.   Ombudsmen visit long-term care facilities regularly to provide advocacy and information to long –term care residents and their families.

                          

When passed, this bill “Reporting Abuse to Long Term Care Ombudsman” will result in Maryland law being consistent with the Older Americans Act reauthorization in 2016, as well as the Federal Ombudsman regulations which went into effect July 1, 2016.                 

This bill requires that the Ombudsman and other agencies be notified when there is an allegation of abuse.  This is important because the ombudsman program can provide much needed support and advocacy to the resident to help resolve the resident’s concern and allow the other agencies to do their work related to the investigation of abuse. 

The bill also requires that the Ombudsman must have the individual's consent to report abuse.  The Ombudsman will work to obtain consent and report the abuse if allowed.   If consent is not provided, the Ombudsman will work with the individual and other parties to ensure safety.

We urge you to support Senate Bill 47.

 

Sincerely,

Committee on Aging

NASW-MD Chapter

 


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