Weekly Message From the County Executive: Committed to Eliminating Human Trafficking

Per Montgomery County:

“Dear Friends,
Montgomery County this week recognized January as “Human Trafficking Awareness Month.” Human trafficking is the face of modern-day slavery, and it must be eliminated from our society.
Human traffickers often take advantage of people, including minors, who are vulnerable. Traffickers use force, fraud or coercion to entrap people into trafficking. Youth who are trafficked are often manipulated into traumatizing situations.

Sadly, many incidents of human trafficking are not reported. We only learn of victims when they ask for help. Since 2007, the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888) has received more than 400,000 tips and helped more than 30,000 victims and survivors. Over the past few years, calls to hotline have increased.

Montgomery County has a Human Trafficking Prevention Committee. It began as a task force in 2014 and has evolved into an important tool bringing together law enforcement, partner agencies and dedicated advocates looking to help victims and shut down the brutal networks that benefit from human trafficking.

The committee hopes to be able to uncover more labor trafficking while continuing to focus on sex trafficking. Trafficking in Montgomery County may occur in a variety of venues, including hotels, homes and illegal establishments that appear to be professional massage or body works businesses.

Over the next several months you will see the committee’s educational outreach in ads across our County, raising awareness about human trafficking. We have also worked to train small groups of people, like Montgomery County Public Schools employees, on warning signs so they can help identify situations when authorities may need to investigate.

I am proud that Montgomery County is working to improve access to comprehensive services for human trafficking survivors, increase the prosecution of traffickers and is working toward preventing human trafficking. Do not get the false sense that this is only a crime that happens to immigrants. It can happen to anyone who is vulnerable.

If you witness or suspect human trafficking in Montgomery County, call the Victim Assistance and Sexual Assault Program on the 24-hour crisis line at 240-777-4357.

Women’s Legislative Briefing

 

The Montgomery County Commission for Women will hold its 44th annual Women’s Legislative Briefing on Sunday, Jan. 28, at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville. A resource fair opens at 11:30 a.m. with the first session beginning at 12:30 p.m.

This year’s theme will focus on the collaborative effort it takes to work for justice and equality. Breakout sessions will focus on topics like sexual assault, domestic violence prevention, women’s health, economic justice, women in technology, women in the workplace and human trafficking prevention.

Every year this is a valuable forum that helps empower women in our County. I look forward to attending, listening and learning as we continue to improve Montgomery County.

Walk up registration is allowed, but if you want to sign up ahead of the event, visit 2024wlb.eventbrite.com. Tickets are $50, with $10 tickets for students.

Protecting Reproductive Rights and the Mifepristone Challenge 

The battle over abortion rights and women’s health care will be back before the Supreme Court in a new way this year. Anti-abortion groups have sued to disallow the FDA authorization of mifepristone, one of two drugs most commonly used for medication abortion. Lower courts have issued a ruling, which is currently on hold, that would threaten access to the drug across the country. In December, the Supreme Court said it will review the case with a ruling expected before the court recesses this summer.

The Center for Reproductive Rights points out that the Supreme Court has never invalidated a long-standing FDA approval like they are being asked to do in this case. The drug has been used by nearly 5 million patients across the country since it was cleared in 2000. That is why Montgomery County will stand with other municipalities to fight this move by anti-abortion activists. Our County Attorney is joining the Public Rights Project’s Amicus Brief to be filed in the Supreme Court to challenge the abortion medication ban. It is anticipated that nearly 100 local governments will be a part of that effort. Montgomery County joined the Public Rights Project’s Amicus Brief that was filed this past summer in the same case pending before the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

In Maryland this fall, women’s reproductive rights will be on the ballot. This week, Maryland First Lady Dawn Moore led the charge to get voters to codify protections in the Maryland State constitution. That rally happened on what would have been the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Governor Wes Moore has given State health leaders permission to stockpile mifepristone in case it is pulled from the market. He has also vowed to expand access to reproductive health care.

It is as important today as it ever was for Maryland and Montgomery County to be a safe haven for abortion access and women’s health. There are too many places across the nation where women now have no local options or face prosecution over health choices. They should retain control over their bodies without government interference. These efforts will help support that.

Winter Safety: The Importance of Indoor Air Quality

As we find ourselves in the midst of peak winter months, it is not just the dropping temperatures that Montgomery County residents should be mindful of. They should also be aware of their energy consumption and indoor air quality. With climate change becoming an ever-more pressing concern, taking steps to winterize your homes in a climate-conscious way is a great step in doing your part. Equally as important is maintaining a healthy indoor environment for you and your family.

I have discussed prepping your home for energy-efficient winterization before and you can read about those plans by following this link.

The air we breathe inside our homes, offices and public spaces plays a crucial role in our overall health and well-being. This importance is further amplified when we factor in the use of gas for cooking and heating, along with the necessity of proper ventilation. Switching to energy-efficient appliances is not only a climate-conscious choice, it saves you money and is the healthiest decision you can make for you and your family.

Indoor air quality refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. Poor indoor air quality can lead to a variety of health issues, ranging from short-term effects like headaches and dizziness to long-term impacts like respiratory diseases and even heart problems. Pollutants can come from various sources, including gas stoves and heating systems, making it crucial to understand and mitigate these risks.

When gas-powered heaters and stoves operate, they release combustion byproducts such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. Carbon monoxide, an odorless and colorless gas, can be deadly at high concentrations. Nitrogen dioxide can irritate the airways, and particulate matter can penetrate deep into the lungs, causing various respiratory issues.

Proper ventilation is important for mitigating the risks associated with gas appliances. Ventilation helps to dilute and remove pollutants from indoor spaces, bringing in fresh outdoor air and expelling stale indoor air.

Making smart environmental choices involves a holistic approach to building design and lifestyle habits. Here are some strategies:

  • Consider Your Home’s Energy Efficiency: Choose appliances that are rated high for energy efficiency. These appliances reduce the environmental impact and often emit fewer pollutants. It is a great way to ensure the health and safety of your family.
  • Electrification is the process of moving from fossil-fuel appliances to electric counterparts, .
  • Consider Alternative Heating and Cooking Options: Consider alternatives to gas appliances, such as electric or induction cooktops and heating systems, which do not produce combustion byproducts. Use your gas stove less by using an electric tea kettle and plug in cooking appliances like a slow cooker or air fryer. Montgomery County currently offers rebates through programs like Electrify MC for energy-efficient electric upgrades to appliances, making it a cost-effective long-term investment.

If you have to remain a gas-use home, consider:

  • Regular Maintenance and Inspection: Inspect and maintain gas appliances to ensure they are operating correctly and safely. This includes checking for leaks and ensuring proper combustion.
  • Enhance Ventilation: Small steps–like opening a window when cooking–can have a significant effect.

The importance of indoor air quality and safety, particularly concerning gas appliances and proper ventilation, is an integral part of making smart climate choices. By understanding the risks and implementing strategies to mitigate them, we can ensure healthier indoor environments. This is not just a personal health issue. It is a crucial aspect of our collective response to the challenges posed by climate change. As we continue to strive for a sustainable future, remember that the air we breathe indoors is just as important as the air outside.

Keep up to date with all climate news and review our Climate Action Plan by following this link.

East County is ‘Sprout-ing’  


We have just seen the completion of a very important project–a new Sprouts Farmers Market is now open at the Burtonsville Crossing Shopping Center in East County.

The new store is the product of a lot of hard work over many years. It is one of a series of improvements for East County in which many people had a hand. When I was on the County Council, this and many other East County projects were stuck. My team and I worked with developers and the community to iron out many of the issues that were blocking progress on these projects. Together, we helped develop a plan for the kind of revitalization that benefits everyone in East County.

Today we have a nationally touted grocer in Sprouts anchoring a development that will soon include a locally owned gym and several national stores. Together, they will draw shoppers from across our region via I-95, Route 198, and Route 29. More development is coming to Town Center on 29 and Gateway on New Hampshire Avenue. We have also worked with Montgomery College to get an East County Education Center started. Keep up with those developments at East County Education Center | Montgomery College, Maryland. In the future, we will see a full campus in East County.

East County has been neglected for too long. It is a growing community that has desperately wanted to see revitalization. There is more in the works, including a Flash expansion that would add Burtonsville to our planned Bus Rapid Transit Network.

These new developments are going to be a big boost for this region. They lead to local jobs and more choices as consumers. Sprouts is a special kind of grocery store, and this is the company’s first Maryland store in the Washington region. I hope it is also a sign to investors that we are serious about economic development across our County, including in East County.

I want to thank our State lawmakers for helping fund these improvements. I also must mention the community. It deserves the most thanks for participation, persistence and input that made this possible. If you would like to see pictures from the grand opening, follow this link and if you would like to watch the speeches that preceded the ribbon cutting, you can do that here.

Sgt. Kepp Honored at Baltimore Ravens Game 

You may have caught an update this week on Sgt. Patrick Kepp, the Montgomery County police officer severely injured when he was targeted by an aggressive driver on I-270 last fall. Sgt. Kepp lost both of his lower legs. He has been going through physical therapy at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda.

On Saturday, Sgt. Kepp was recognized by the Baltimore Ravens during their playoff game against the Houston Texans. Sgt. Kepp is a longtime Ravens fan whose service to our community was applauded by fans at the game and on Governor Moore’s social media.

We wish him the best in his recovery. Next week I plan to share progress on the efforts we are making at the State level to ensure that dangerous driving on our roads is met with harsher penalties in the future to keep our officers and community safe.

Health Update 

COVID-19 is still with us. I just tested negative after a six-day bout with it and was fortunate that my experience was mild. I was prepared because I received my booster months ago. I am grateful that Paxlovid was available to help treat my illness.

We continue to see in the County and State a confluence of COVID , RSV and the flu. COVID continues to be the most lethal of this trio. Elderly and people who are immune compromised are the most vulnerable.

Hospital stays tied to respiratory issues are declining locally and across the State. We hope that is a sign that the worst of it is behind us.

Take care of yourself and get your immunizations if you have not already.

As always, my appreciation for all of you,

Marc Elrich
County Executive

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AC Milan Soccer Camp at Maryland Soccerplex

AC Milan Academy is hosting a soccer camp at Maryland Soccerplex from March 1st through March 3rd for girls and boys aged 5 to 16 from any club who want to develop their soccer skills and learn the unique methodology of AC Milan directly from AC Milan coaches.

March 1st (Friday) 6pm-7:30pm

March 2nd (Saturday) 6pm-7:30pm

March 3rd (Sunday) 10:30am -12pm and 3:30pm-5pm

Location:18031 Central Park Cir, Boyds, MD 20841

Price: $349 + AC Milan Junior Camp Kit

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