Arundel Physicians Encouraged to Tighten Opioid Prescription Guidelines
In a recent joint letter to health care providers, Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh and Health Officer Jinlene Chan are encouraging county physicians to follow strict guidelines when prescribing opioids and other painkillers.
“We are counting on you as a prescriber to be part of the solution for your patients. Most of our constituents with substance-use disorders began their path to addiction after forming dependencies to opioids prescribed as a result of an injury or other medical issue,” wrote the pair. “Their opioid dependence may have led to obtaining illegal street opioids like heroin, sometimes laced with fentanyl, after valid prescriptions ran out.”
The letter asks county health care providers to practice extreme caution when prescribing these medications to patients and to consider non-pharmaceutical therapies and non-opioid medications for the treatment of pain. Where opioids are appropriate, Schuh and Chan ask providers to prescribe the minimum amount necessary for the pain and closely monitor patients’ response to the medication.
The letter is part of an overall effort to raise awareness of the dangers of opioid abuse in the county. In addition, Schuh’s office continues to sponsor “Not My Child” opioid abuse awareness panels across the county.
Kittleman Extends Deadline for Aging-in-Place Tax Credit
Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman is extending the deadline to Sept. 1 for residents applying for a tax credit designed to assist them age in place. Kittleman proposed the tax credit in November 2016, and it was approved unanimously by the County Council a month later. As of May 12, the county has received 1,374 applications for the credit.
Kittleman said the extension was necessary due to the large response from residents interested in taking advantage of this credit and because of a change made by the state legislature to expand those who qualify as retired military.
Residents are eligible for the Aging-In-Place tax credit if they are 65 years of age or older and have either lived in their dwelling for 40 years or are a retired member of the military. The credit may be granted for up to five years as long as the property owner remains qualified.
It provides a 20% tax credit on up to $500,000 of assessed property value. Annual Renewal Statements will be mailed in February of each year and will need to be completed and received by May 1 in order to continue to receive the credit. A property owner cannot receive this credit and the Senior Tax Credit simultaneously.
Kittleman said applications received at this point are unlikely to be processed in time for the credit to appear on the initial billing to be mailed on July 1. Once awarded, amended bills will be mailed to qualified homeowners, and if payment has already been made, a refund will be generated. The county’s senior population continues to grow rapidly: In 2010, 10% of residents were 65 or older. By 2025, this will increase to 18% and by 2035, to nearly 22%.
USM Launches $25M Fund to Back Startup Companies Formed From Campus Research
The University System of Maryland (USM) has launched its $25 million early-stage investment fund, called the Maryland Momentum Fund.
USM Vice Chancellor Thomas Sadowski stated that the fund will “help our entrepreneurs address funding gaps, gain access to other sources of investment capital and gain marketplace footing, further enhancing the system’s high impact on the Maryland economy.”
The fund has a $10 million commitment from the USM in place, and the system is collaborating with UM Ventures and University of Maryland, Baltimore County, to reach out to area venture capitalists and angel investors for an additional $15 million. UM Ventures is a joint initiative of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and University of Maryland, College Park, to commercialize technologies and expand industry collaboration. Individual investments will range from $50,000 to $500,000 per company.
As it approaches the $25 million level, the Maryland Momentum Fund will leverage this financial support to achieve several objectives.
• Accelerate the success and profitability of USM startups
• Attract promising entrepreneurs and innovators to USM institutions
• Seize the opportunity to commercialize valuable USM intellectual property
• Develop long-term financial returns that can be reinvested in future startups affiliated with the USM
The USM accelerated its efforts in technology commercialization during fiscal 2014, when the USM Board of Regents approved the Policy on Investments and Loans to Maryland-based businesses that license university intellectual property. The policy helped establish investments and loans totaling $400,000 in five startups during fiscal 2015 from UM Ventures.
Investor Group to Acquire
A group of investors — JARS Health Investments, Anne Arundel Health System (AAHS) and LifeBridge Health — has formally agreed to acquire Evergreen Health. The stock purchase agreement is pending Evergreen’s final transition to a for-profit company, which the Maryland Insurance Administration is expected to consider this month.
“This agreement with some of Maryland’s most respected health care organizations will ensure Evergreen’s success for many years to come,” said Dr. Peter Beilenson, CEO of Evergreen. “I am especially pleased that our new partners share Evergreen’s abiding goal: to provide Maryland residents with the highest-quality services at the most affordable prices.”
JARS is an investment group formed and funded by some of Maryland’s top health care executives specifically to support Evergreen’s mission of providing health insurance to Maryland residents. AAHS includes a 380-bed nonprofit hospital, Anne Arundel Medical Center; a medical group; imaging services; a substance use treatment center; and health enterprises. In addition to a 95-acre Annapolis campus, Anne Arundel Medical Center has outpatient pavilions in Bowie, Kent Island, Odenton, Pasadena and Waugh Chapel.
LifeBridge Health is one of the largest, most comprehensive providers of health services in Maryland. It includes Sinai Hospital, Northwest Hospital, Carroll Hospital, Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, and related subsidiaries and affiliates.
Public-Private Partnership to Clean Up Anne Arundel Waterways
The Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works (DPW) Watershed Protection and Restoration Program (WPRP) has entered into a public-private partnership to clean up the Severn Run, Patapsco and Patuxent waterways.
The contract with Houston-based Resource Environmental Solutions (RES) is a first-of-its-kind agreement to utilize cutting-edge technology for needed stormwater capital projects and pollution reductions at no risk to the county.
The $3.8 million Full Delivery of Water Quality Improvements contract is uniquely structured to help the county better satisfy its Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) and Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) permits and goals, and will be paid only upon completion of the projects and verification of the projects’ benefits.
The suite of water quality protection and improvement practices proposed by RES includes more than 3,500 linear feet of stream and outfall restoration in the Severn Run watershed and new, cutting-edge optimization technology applied to three large, private stormwater facilities in the Patapsco and Patuxent River watersheds.
RES’s work will focus on sites that had not initially been targeted for restoration by the county. The county’s capital program includes a similar effort for fiscal 2018 and, contingent upon approval in the upcoming budget, an additional solicitation of $5 million would be made in the summer of 2017.
Kittleman Applauds Restoration of State Construction Funds for School System
Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman applauded the Maryland Board of Public Works (BPW) for restoring $9.6 million in school construction funding to the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS), citing satisfaction with the additional information provided by the school system regarding its handling of mold in school buildings.
BPW voted in January to temporarily withhold the funding, which was slated for upgrades to heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) at several HCPSS schools during the 2017–18 academic year.
Several weeks ago, the school system received a letter from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency commending HCPSS for its success in implementing best practices for maintaining good Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) and its commitment to providing safe and healthy schools and offices.
The latest independent indoor air quality assessments, commissioned last year by Howard County government, concluded that, “HCPSS maintenance staff at each school is doing a good job of controlling indoor moisture and mold growth, resulting in the protection of the health of students and staff.” The county contracted with Skelly & Loy, an independent professional engineering and environmental services firm, to conduct the independent IEQ assessments at Glenwood Middle School and 11 other schools. Results of those assessments can be found at www.howardcountymd.gov/schoolairtests.
City of Annapolis Pursues the Purchase of Part of Parkeside Preserve
Mayor Michael Pantelides has announced that the City of Annapolis is pursuing the purchase of a portion of the proposed Parkeside Preserve development to maintain as a nature area for Annapolis residents. The city acquisition parcels, coupled with the homeowner association conservation easement area, totals more than 57% of the total tract that will be left as natural open space; this would call for less than 43% of the 39-plus acre tract to be developed.
The city plans to purchase 22 platted and recorded lots, along with the roadways/access areas associated with the lots, in the Southwest portion of the Parkeside Preserve subdivision. Program Open Space funds will be used by the city in connection with this property acquisition and will preserve one of the largest contiguous forested tracts in the city, which is currently in private ownership.
“This is the first time in the city’s history that Program Open Space money has been used to purchase land in Annapolis,” Pantelides said. “I signed an agreement with the developers of Parkeside Preserve to purchase the southwest portion of the subdivision, not for development, but rather to create a passive recreational nature area for all to enjoy.”
The county has approved the city’s application for the use of these Program Open Space funds for this purpose, and the application has been forwarded to the Department of Natural Resources for its approval. The city will pay the developer $1.5 million for the 22 platted and recorded lots that were assessed in two separate appraisals for $1.7 million and $1.95 million, respectively. Pantelides is asking residents to help name the new nature area by sending in their suggestions to Mayor@Annapolis.gov.
STEMaction Programs Acquired by USRA
STEMaction has announced that its operations and programs have been acquired by the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), of Columbia. With the acquisition, USRA expands its range of activities to inspire, engage and develop the next-generation science and technology workforce through K–12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs.
”We’re delighted that USRA has chosen to build upon our efforts as a partner for FIRST robotics programs in Maryland, the new Maryland Tech Invitational tournament, and as founding sponsor of the Maryland STEM Festival,” said Bill Duncan, executive director of STEMaction. “We’re proud of what’s been accomplished in the five years since STEMaction’s founding and look forward to USRA offering an even broader range of great STEM activities to the region’s students and families.”