Prince George’s Proposes Healthier Food Choices
Prince George’s County Council introduced legislation last week to put healthier foods inside vending machines on county, municipal and park property. For example, any beverage cannot contain more than 250 calories, foods must not exceed 200 calories and less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fats. All beverages and food must be stocked in places with the highest selling potential. The healthy vending bill, sponsored by Vice Chairwoman Dannielle Glaros (D-District 3) of Riverdale Park, states more than 60 percent of deaths in the county are due to heart disease, cancer and other chronic ailments. In addition, the county spends $95 million toward employee health insurance and wellness programs. The bill looks to save money and improve overall health among county workers and those visiting county buildings such as government offices, community centers and libraries. The bill wouldn’t include the school system because it follows federal nutrition standards.
AG Launches Human Trafficking Initiative/Safety Training at Dunbar
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) recently launched a Human Trafficking Initiative to bolster its efforts to fight the global problem of human trafficking and its devastating effects on young people here in the District. Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced the launch in conjunction with a training session for students at Dunbar High School conducted by i-SAFE, a non-profit organization that combats trafficking through a curriculum used in more than 3,400 school districts across the country.
Human trafficking – both in labor and in sex – is a form of modern-day slavery that is an often-overlooked and underreported problem in the United States. For adults, sex trafficking occurs when a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion. But, when it comes to minors under the age of 18, any exchange of money, goods or housing for sex acts is sex exploitation, which is — by definition — human trafficking.
“Too many youth who are involved in the juvenile justice and neglect systems have exchanged sex for money, food, shelter and clothing. We recognize that these minors are victims who need our help,” Attorney General Racine said. “Our office is elevating this issue by focusing on greater community outreach and collaboration with other organizations like i-SAFE to identify and support youth vulnerable to human trafficking.”
“It is absolutely critical in today’s society to educate and empower students on the topic of human trafficking, because we know traffickers are intentionally targeting students,” said Teri Schroeder, CEO of i-SAFE, Inc. “Regardless if you live in an urban, rural, or suburban community, no student is exempt from being a target of a human trafficking. That is why i-SAFE is providing schools with essential lesson plans and training materials in an effort to combat this heinous crime. By working with the OAG and schools we are confident we take positive steps in ridding this crime.”
MGM National Harbor Sets Grand Opening Date
MGM National Harbor will open Dec. 8, the resort announced Monday. Work on the $1.4 billion, 1 million-square-foot facility overlooking the Potomac River in Prince George’s County has been underway since mid-2014. It’s been a complicated build, due to the site itself, weather delays and upgrades to the overall program that pushed up the price tag by roughly $500 million.
“From our perspective, given the size of the project and complexity we’re very happy with when we’re opening,” said Bill Boasberg, MGM National Harbor general manager.
While the public opening is Dec. 8, MGM Resorts International is accepting hotel reservations for stays at National Harbor starting on Dec. 10. The resort features a 125,000-square-foot casino floor; 24-story, 308-room hotel; 15,000-square-foot, two-story conservatory with inaugural winter floral exhibit; 3,000-seat theater with flexible seating to accommodate all manner of events; 18,000 square feet of retail, celebrity chef-branded restaurants and a 10-eatery dining hall; a 5,000-space parking garage; 50,000 square feet of meeting and event space; and a spa. And there will be two nightlife venues, an infinity edge pool opening in 2017, and art from the Bob Dylan, John Dreyfuss and others.
Boasberg said it’s just a matter of putting the finishing touches on the massive project.
District’s Uninsured Rate Drops by 50 Percent
A new survey by the Center for the Study of Services conducted for the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority (DCHBX) concludes that the District of Columbia made huge gains during the most recent open enrollment period to provide access to health insurance coverage to people who were previously uninsured. Results from this survey show that more than 25,500 people, who were not previously covered in 2015, gained access to health insurance coverage in 2016 through DC Health Link, the District’s online health insurance marketplace.
“Reducing the number of District residents who are uninsured by half in just three years is a tremendous achievement through strong efforts by DCHBX, DHCF, DHS, DISB, DOH and other sister agencies, as well as our community partners,” said Mila Kofman, Executive Director of the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority.
Earlier this year, DCHBX surveyed those who used DC Health Link during the open enrollment period from November 1, 2015 to January 31, 2016. Leighton Ku, PhD, MPH, Chair of the Research Committee of the Executive Board of DCHBX and professor of health policy at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University, coordinated analysis of the survey.
“Clearly, the Affordable Care Act is working in the District of Columbia,” said Dr. Leighton Ku. “We are working together to be a national model for increasing insurance coverage and improving access to health care for District residents and small businesses.”