Baltimore County Now
Intern, Baltimore County Communications Office
As I continue to make the transition into adulthood, I often find myself taking trips down memory lane. I recall racing home from school and flying through my homework so that I could get outside to a game of touch football or pick-up basketball with the other neighborhood kids. Before we knew it the sun would vanish and we’d all be heading in, ready to do it all over again the next day. Those were the good days, as many older adults might say.
But it seems as though today’s youth has a different idea of what makes a day good. Hours upon hours of fast-moving images on a screen with accompanying sound effects have replaced carefree outdoor play. It’s hard to believe that the average American child today spends only four to seven minutes per day in unstructured outdoor play, according to the National Wildlife Federation and their “Be Out There” initiative. While it may appear to be cool to spend hundreds of dollars on and obsess over the latest gadgets, the real expense is our nation’s declining health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, more than a third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2012. The fact is, the lack of outdoor physical activity decreases physical fitness levels, increases the frequency of ADHD, and increases stress levels in children. The National Wildlife Federation notes some surprising benefits to outdoor play which include:
· Healthier bodies with increased levels of Vitamin D, which helps to fight off serious health issues such as heart disease and diabetes.
· Improved distance vision and reduced chance of nearsightedness.
· Improved performance on standardized tests and critical thinking skills.
· Stress levels have been shown to drop within minutes of “green time,” and free play with others helps with emotional development and lessens the chances of children developing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
If you ask me, it sounds like a pretty simple solution to such a growing problem. Encouraging kids to go out and play in the fresh air creates fun childhood memories while helping to build the body, spirit and mind.
Linda Grossman, M.D., Chief, Bureau of Clinical Services
Baltimore County Department of Health
As the lazy days of summer come to an end, many parents with school-age children are beginning their “back to school” preparations. If you’re among them, be sure to include your child’s pediatric check-up and/or annual immunizations on your list.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have a list of recommended vaccinations (http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html) your child should receive— as well as when they should receive them. New this year in the State of Maryland is a law requiring specific vaccinations for children who are entering kindergarten and seventh grade for the 2014-2015 school year. The law requires that students entering kindergarten this fall must have two varicella vaccinations. Meanwhile, students who are entering seventh grade must have one Tdap (Tetanus-diphtheria-attenuated pertussis) and one meningococcal (MCV4) vaccination.
Immunization is a key part of protecting your child’s health. Millions of lives have been saved and untold cases of diseases have been prevented because of people getting vaccines to help them develop immunity to serious infections. Diseases that used to affect many people, such as polio, measles, pertussis (whooping cough), and meningitis, now are rare thanks to vaccines. It’s important to note that the germs that cause these illnesses continue to exist, so continued immunization is critical to the health of your child.
Additionally, immunization isn’t just good for your child’s health; it’s also good for those around him or her. When you immunize your child, you help protect the health of others including those who are too young to be vaccinated, those who are unable to be vaccinated due to medical reasons, and those for whom a vaccine may not be effective.
As you enjoy your final days of summer and begin your back-to-school shopping, please include your child’s health among your plans. Here’s wishing you and yours a happy, healthy and safe school year!
The Baltimore County Health Department will be offering free, recommended vaccinations for eligible children ages five through 18. Find a date and location: http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/health/healthservices/children/immunizations.html
Dr. Linda Grossman is a pediatrician in Baltimore, Maryland. She received her medical degree from University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and has been in practice for almost 40 years.
Homeless Services Administrator
Baltimore County Department of Planning
To the average citizen the word “homeless” often conjures up the vision of person pan handling on the corner, living in a tent in the woods or in shelter. One might think to themselves that folks who are experiencing homelessness should pick themselves up, improve their lives, and get a job. We often don’t think about or see the larger scope, the complex problems these individuals face or the many services that already exist and how those services are delivered.
Baltimore County is making a daily difference in the lives of homeless men, women and children and County Executive Kamenetz is committed to not only continuing to support these efforts but to improving and building a stronger system that shifts our focus from shelters to long-term solutions.
There are more than 550 men, women and children living in homeless shelters across Baltimore County on any given night and hundreds living in places not meant for human habitation such as cars and encampments. The County with significant community support has devised a 10-Year Plan to shift homeless service delivery and as a result, prevent and reduce homelessness.
The plan, called “A Home for All,” began with an unprecedented community input process in 2010 and grew from the work of the Baltimore County Homeless Roundtable with significant input from the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Subcommittees focused on Housing, Accessing Mainstream Resources, Homeless Prevention and Outreach, Coordinated Assessment and Data Management worked to create seven key strategies:
Strategy One: Reconfigure the Crisis Response System:
Expand on the current coordinated assessment system and retool the emergency shelter system.
Strategy Two: Targeted Prevention Assistance
Focus prevention services on those most at risk of homelessness through careful selection and connection to mainstream resources.
Strategy Three: Rapid Re-Housing
Create a “housing first” approach that combines affordable and permanent housing with supportive services.
Strategy Four: Accessing Mainstream and Community Resources
Increase connections to mainstream resources in order to create a means for housing and self-sufficiency.
Strategy Five: Permanent and Supportive Housing
Create new permanent supportive housing units Countywide.
Strategy Six: Improved Data and Outcome Measures
Build on the existing performance measurement structure through the creation of system-wide data standards and reporting requirements.
Strategy Seven: Resource Allocation
Align funding sources around common outcomes including housing and supportive services.
Making it Happen:
The Homeless Roundtable, in coordination with these committees, is tasked with carrying out these action items and assuring that the County is moving forward to put in place systems which will result in the reduction and duration of homelessness for residents of Baltimore County.
Baltimore County is committed to realizing the goal of preventing and reducing homelessness, and as a result, has funding to begin to implement a number of the strategies shown above. Specifically, funds have been identified for the following programs:
1. Pilot Shelter Diversion - The primary goal of the pilot diversion program will be to work with individuals and families seeking shelter to find alternatives to entering the shelter system.
2. Rapid Re-housing –Through this program, families receive housing counseling, assistance in securing housing; time limited rental assistance and case management in order to ensure housing stability.
3. Increased Outreach - Prologue’s Street Outreach Team serves the most chronic and vulnerable homeless population in Baltimore County; those individuals and families living on the streets, in cars and in other places not meant for human habitation. Additional funds will allow for the addition of 1.5 outreach workers to provide outreach and case management, and for the Outreach Center to be open an additional day.
4. Job Navigator -Perhaps the most significant barrier to obtaining and retaining permanent housing is the lack of adequate income. To help address this root cause of homelessness, the County has provided funding for a Career Navigator, through the Department of Economic and Workforce Development. The Career Navigator will work primarily at the shelters and focus solely on employment.
The Homeless Roundtable is close to completing implementation plans for each strategy. These plans include goals, action steps, planned partnerships, outcomes and performance measures and plans for resource allocation. These plans will serve as the pathway to preventing and reducing homelessness.
For questions regarding the plan and future efforts, please contact Sue DeSantis, Homeless Services Administrator, Baltimore County Department of Planning, 410-887-2886.