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Keyword: department of health and human services

Baltimore County Department of Social Services works to reunite brothers and sisters

From June 19 to 25, Camp Connect celebrates 17 years of reuniting siblings separated in foster care. This year 20 sibling groups ranging in age from six to eighteen will be coming from seven Maryland jurisdictions to be reunited at a week-long overnight camp. Baltimore County Department of Social Services (BCoDSS) began the camp in 2000, relying heavily upon a group of volunteer counselors.

“All too often, when children enter foster care, they lose not just their mother and father, but brothers and sisters as well, even if temporarily,” said Mark Millspaugh, Deputy Director of the BCoDSS. “Camp Connect reunites Maryland siblings separated in foster care for a week of new experiences, fun and a bit of adventure.”

Modeled after Camp to Belong, a camp and sibling advocacy program based in Colorado, Camp Connect’s goal is to cultivate life-long positive memories, according to Judith Schagrin, Assistant Director for the BCoDSS Division of Children’s Services and unofficial Camp Director.

“We aim for a week that promotes sibling bonds and offers new, memorable experiences for family members,” said Schagrin. “We hope these important memories far outlast their stay in our foster care system.”

Campers are grouped with siblings, not by age. The “counselors,” are all volunteers, including social workers, attorneys, administrators, CASA volunteers and others who hail from agencies and organizations dedicated to the welfare of children. They are routinely joined by former campers, who return repeatedly to donate their time as counselors.

Activities include horseback riding, biking, white-water rafting, swimming, arts and crafts, campfires, field trips to places such as an amusement park and evening entertainment that includes a talent show, professional juggler, learning African dancing and more.

Schagrin said the best way to get a sense of the camp is to speak with a camper or counselor and she welcomes inquiries from members of the media who may wish to interview former campers. “At the final night’s evening campfire, we asked each camper to share how they felt about the week,” said Schagrin. “One of the most touching was one camper, who thanked the staff, not just for the time he spent with his sisters, but for something he thought he’d never have again…the chance to be a child.” 


Show airs on Cable Channel 25 and online

The latest edition of Baltimore County’s half-hour cable television public affairs show, “Hello Baltimore County,” focuses on the latest headlines from County government, the Team BCPS Clean Green 15 Litter Challenge, colon cancer screening, and Child Protective Services programs.

ICYMI – In case you missed it, we review some recent headlines from your County government.

Clean Green 15Join the Team BCPS Clean Green 15 Litter Challenge and help a County school win an environmental grant.

Colon cancer screening saves lives – Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of death; learn how colonoscopy can catch it early when it’s most curable.

Protecting childrenLearn about Baltimore County Child Protective Services’ new family-focused approach.

You can also view the show on the County website’s Hello Baltimore County page at http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Videos/hellobaltimorecounty.html . Click on the menu icon in the upper left of the video screen to select an individual segment.                                                                                                                                      

In addition to online access, the program runs several times per week on Cable Channel 25, in Baltimore County, at the following times:

Mondays: 1:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 10 p.m.

Tuesdays: 12 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 9 p.m.

Wednesdays: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m., 10 p.m.

Thursdays: 1 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 8 p.m.

Fridays: 11 a.m., 6 p.m.

Saturdays: 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m., 10:30 p.m.

Sundays: 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m., 10:30 p.m.


Department of Health enforcement efforts continue to make significant impact

Today, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Director of the Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch announced that for the second year in a row, the selling of tobacco products to minors in Baltimore County has been significantly reduced due to the diligent work of the Baltimore County Department of Health. According to 2014 data from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, over half of Baltimore County retailers they visited sold tobacco products to minors, more than any other jurisdiction in the State. In 2016, that number has been reduced to 1.25 percent according to a report just released by the State.

“Thanks to good government in action, and our commitment to funding this important initiative, we have made an amazing turnaround in keeping teenagers from being able to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products here in Baltimore County, and that goes a long way toward preventing unhealthy habits with lifelong consequences,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.

“The reduction in tobacco sales to minors in Baltimore County is yet another testament to public health being on the job,” said Director of the Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch. “With the help of our dedicated tobacco enforcement teams, we are sending a loud message that we value our youth’s health and will stop at nothing to prevent them from gaining access to tobacco products.”

Enforcement Works

To achieve the reduction in sales to minors, the Health Department has continued to aggressively increase enforcement operations with the use of students under the age of 18 to perform sting operations. These youth are under the supervision of Health Enforcement Officers, some of whom are retired public safety personnel.  In 2016, the department conducted 4,128 sting operations on over 800 of the County’s tobacco retailers. 

In 2015, the County passed legislation to impose increased financial penalties for retailers who violate the sale to minors law and also includes the potential suspension of a tobacco license for repeat offenders. Those selling cigarettes to minors face a series of enforcement actions; the first offense results in a warning, the second offense is a $500 fine and the third offense results in a $1,000 fine. The County also refers repeat offenders to the State Comptroller’s office so that their license to sell cigarettes may be reviewed.

“The County Council is committed to continuing this very positive trend and we are grateful for Dr. Branch and the Health Department staff who have worked extremely hard enforcing our tobacco laws,” said Baltimore County Council Chair Tom Quirk.

Since the County began the aggressive enforcement efforts in the spring of 2015, it has made 274 referrals to the Comptroller’s Office, which includes over 207 tobacco retailers – a quarter of the County’s retailers. The Comptroller’s reviews have resulted in 87 reprimands and 42 suspensions of tobacco licenses to date. 

"We commend Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and his team for all they have done to virtually eliminate tobacco sales to young people in Baltimore County," said Vincent DeMarco, President of the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative. "We hope every county in Maryland will follow their lead to save young people from the horrors of tobacco addiction."

Risks of teen tobacco use

“The American Heart Association applauds Baltimore County’s spectacular success in reducing youth access to tobacco products,” said Michaeline Fedder, Director of Government Relations. “90 percent of addicted smokers start before age 19 and adolescents become addicted to nicotine more quickly than adults. They are also twice as sensitive to tobacco advertising which is why, annually, the tobacco industry spends $127.5 million in Maryland alone marketing its products to kids. And, finally, researchers have concluded that early signs of heart disease and stroke are found in young people who smoke.”

 “According to the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control report, in Maryland the high school smoking rate is 8.7 percent, 27.6 percent of high school students use tobacco products and an estimated 90 percent of adult smokers begin smoking during their teenage years,” said Deborah P. Brown, President and CEO, American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic. “The American Lung Association in Maryland applauds Baltimore County’s law enforcement officials for their success in reducing tobacco sales to minors by retailers. The work that they’re doing is lifesaving.”

“Age of sale laws must be strictly enforced to ensure a high rate of compliance,” said Bonita Pennino, Maryland’s Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “The work of the Baltimore County Department of Health over the last couple of years clearly shows that they understand the importance of holding tobacco retailers accountable for ensuring tobacco products stay out of the hands of our youth.”

For information on the Baltimore County Department of Health’s Tobacco Use Prevention Program and quit smoking classes, call at 410-887-3828.

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Revised September 26, 2016