2021 Legislative Session

This legislative session, you made real change simply by telling your stories...and encouraging clients, staff, supporters, partners to do the same.


Here are the priority issues we advocated for together and where they each landed:

Telehealth | Housing Justice | Overdose Prevention Sites

TELEHEALTH

There are a number of telehealth-related bills this session that we supported, including:

  • HB 551/SB 393 – Coverage and Reimbursement of Telehealth Services
    • This bill would require the Maryland Medical Assistance Program to cover certain health care services through telehealth, specifically substance use disorder and mental health services.
    • UPDATE: Important behavioral health and consumer protections were added into HB123/SB3
  • HB123/SB3 – Preserve Telehealth Access Act of 2021
    • This bill would require reimbursement for audio-only telehealth services and remove site provisions so both the provider and client may be "off-site".
    • UPDATE: 
      • HB123/SB3 passed and has been signed into law - including audio only!

      • Note: audio-only provision includes a two-year data collection and report that we'll be part of

“Because of audio-only telehealth, I could tell a client who was 71/2 months pregnant to stay at the hospital and keep her baby safe while offering support over the phone. Smartphones, tablets and internet access are a huge barrier to audio-visual telehealth. I can’t imagine asking my client [in crisis] to hang up and reconnect back on an audio-visual platform. I hope we can let part of COVID’s legacy be a lesson learned about accessibility and do everything we can to make health care accessible to everyone, including in person, audio-visual and audio only telehealth.” – Therapist Case Manager Rachel Gonzalez

Actions you can take:
  • Staff should keep an eye out for data collection opportunities around audio-only telehealth. 

HOUSING JUSTICE

We signed onto the Renters United MD Housing Justice Package, which has fact sheets and information on all the housing-related bills we supported here. A few highlights include:

  • HB 18/SB154: Tenant Right to Counsel for Evictions
    • This bill would give tenants a right to legal representation in eviction proceedings
    • UPDATE: HB18 passed, making Maryland the first state in the country to ensure that tenants will have access to counsel in landlord-tenant cases!
  • HB 52/SB 454: Eviction Diversion Program
    • This bill would establish the Eviction Diversion Program in district court to promote continuity of housing
    • UPDATE: HB52 did not pass, but a crucial 10-day pre-filing notice provision was included in HB18. 
  • HB 1312/SB 910: Emergency Eviction Prevention
    • UPDATE: Tragically, HB1312 did not pass. It is shameful that the General Assembly did not pass this bill or any emergency protections for renters during a pandemic. 

“When my client told me last year that she faced eviction, needed to find a new apartment, come up with two months’ rent, and simultaneously remove all her worldly possessions before they were placed on the curb in a matter of days, despite her failing health, I thought it was impossible.” - Dr. Max Romano

 

OVERDOSE PREVENTION SITES

Last year we advocated in-person for the creation of Overdose Prevention Sites. This year we built on that momentum.

  • HB 396/SB 279: Overdose Prevention Sites (OPS)
    • This bill authorizes up to six Overdose Prevention Sites in Maryland, where people can use substances with immediate access to life saving interventions, medical care, emotional support and non-judgmental, therapeutic relationships. The sites would be authorized in two urban areas, two suburban areas and two rural areas across Maryland.
    • UPDATE: OPS did not pass. But we did have a huge win on the harm reduction front in the form of SB420, which decriminalizes drug paraphernalia. 
Actions you can take:
  • Urge Governor Larry Hogan to sign SB420 into law to decriminalize paraphernalia. Contact him here, and select “criminal justice” as your topic.
  • Keep sharing your stories for ongoing advocacy work around OPS! Just send an email to advocacy@hchmd.org 

What does it mean to share a story?

  • Stories can be in the form of an email, a phone call that’s transcribed, a pre-recorded video or a recorded Zoom meeting.

  • You can make a difference by sharing your own experience from a staff and/or personal perspective, as a client or supporter.
  • You can encourage others to share their experiences by referring them to advocacy@hchmd.org or directly helping to record their story.  
  • Reach out to Director of Public Policy Joanna Diamond with any questions!

How will these personal examples help?

  • Joanna can include them in written testimony that will influence the hearings.

  • You might have an opportunity to share your story directly with legislators as part of hearings.
  • Joanna can compile written and recorded stories and share with legislators after the hearings to advocate for their votes in favor of the bill.

"No-one wants to hear from me - they want to hear from you! People sharing real experiences with legislators is the most impactful way to influence legislation. They need to know there is a problem to be solved.” - Joanna Diamond, Director of Public Policy

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