Happy New Year!
As we kick off 2020, we are excited to look forward at the year ahead and reflect on the highlights of 2019. Together, we are making great strides to improve health and wellness in Howard County. We are proud of our accomplishments, and we are so grateful for your partnership. It is because of your dedication to our community that this work is possible.
Here are our top nine highlights of 2019:
1. Embedding mental health services in 30 schools and seven Head Start classrooms.
We partnered with the Howard County Public School System and Head Start program to expand onsite mental health services, with the potential to reach thousands of children. This approach helps children and youth more easily receive needed therapy and mental health support by removing barriers like transportation challenges and missed workdays for parents.
2. Raising mental health awareness and compassion.
Through the new Emotional Support Human Etiquette marketing campaign, 38 mental health outreach grantees, Mental Health Film Festival and screenings of Angst, a film about youth anxiety, we have engaged thousands of community members and encouraged greater openness and conversation about mental health in Howard County. The Emotional Support Human approach to mental health earned national attention in Newsweek and Health Affairs, and 1,800 people attended the film festival and screenings.
3. New partnerships for mental health.
We have been forging new partnerships to improve how people get mental health services, including outreach to pediatricians’ offices that are interested in integrating child psychologists into their practice and working regionally with numerous hospitals, health departments and local behavioral health authorities that are interested in creating a model program for behavioral health crises services.
4. Record funding for bike routes, passage of a complete streets resolution and a growing coalition for better street design.
In 2019, we joined numerous community partners in successfully advocating for $2.2 million in county bike funding – a record level of funding to build more bike routes in the county. Our Streets for All coalition also supported County Executive Calvin Ball’s complete streets resolution passed unanimously by the County Council, setting a vision for better, safer spaces for walking, biking and accessing public transportation. The coalition has grown to include 17 groups, including the American Heart Association and AARP, and has garnered support from more than 4,000 people.
5. Full implementation of Howard County’s healthy vending law.
Four years after championing the passage a law to improve healthy drink and snack options in county-owned vending machines, County Executive Calvin Ball instituted final changes in 2019 after years of being stalled. Now, people in libraries, county government offices, parks and other county facilities can more easily find healthy drinks and snacks meeting American Heart Association nutrition standards.
6. Launching our equity grantee collaborative and community events focusing on racial equity.
We launched a year-long equity collaborative with our five inaugural equity grantees: Association of Community Services of Howard County, African American Community Roundtable, Equity4HC, HopeWorks and Howard County Chinese School. Through extensive training, coaching and learning, the grantees are taking an equity lens to their work. We also funded Howard County Library System author talks on equity and Courageous Conversations about Race and Religious Bias to encourage community dialogue.
7. Making progress on advance care planning.
Through our partnership with Howard County General Hospital and engagement with the community, over 3,000 residents have documented advance directives. Our Speak(easy) Howard campaign held four events with Columbia Festival of the Arts this summer, engaging 800 people on the importance of planning for your future care and living your best life all the way to the end. We also began partnerships with three large primary care practices to integrate advance care planning into their work reaching thousands of patients. We look forward to working with MedChi and Maryland Hospital Association in 2020 to sustain and spread our work.
8. Awarding innovative ideas for social change.
The 2019 Changemaker Challenge, held in conjunction with the United Way of Central Maryland, awarded a total of $60,000 to four teams that proposed projects to address needs in Howard County, from installing changing tables that can accommodate adults with disabilities to upcycling plastic bottles into eco-friendly bricks.
9. RISE: Recreation-Inspired Sports for Everyone.
We are thrilled to partner with Howard County Recreation and Parks and the Howard County Public School System to bring after-school sports to five middle schools as part of a pilot to expand physical activity opportunities to youth. The program will launch in Feb. 2020 with affordable fees and bus transportation at Bonnie Branch, Elkridge Landing, Lake Elkhorn, Murray Hill and Thomas Viaduct middle schools.
Thank you for your partnership. We look forward to a continued happy and healthy new year!