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DC APPLESEED PROJECTS

HEALTH & ENVIRONMENT

"When unique voices are united in a common cause, they make history."


Gloria Steinem

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ANACOSTIA WATERSHED & RIVER RESTORATION

DC Appleseed began calling for restoration of the Anacostia River over 20 years ago, at a time when many wrote it off as an unfixable nuisance. Our advocacy is one of the reasons that, today, the Anacostia is becoming a safe and vital resource for recreation, economic development, and neighborhood revitalization.

In 1999, our publication, Managing Stormwater Pollution in the District of Columbia, explained how stormwater runoff carries petroleum hydrocarbons, nitrogen, phosphorous, heavy metals, toxic chemicals, and other pollutants into the Anacostia. The report also presented a plan for managing stormwater runoff, which the DC government adopted. As a result of our continued advocacy for rigorous runoff prevention enforcement, green requirements are now part of the DC building code.

We published a comprehensive report on the restoration of the Anacostia in 2011. A New Day for the Anacostia summarized the considerable efforts that had been accomplished and outlined what still needed to be done to fully restore the river. The report explained that the most challenging task is to address the toxic sediment from what were once industrial installations along the river. The Navy Yard, for example, is now an attractive area with homes, restaurants, and greenspaces, featuring wetlands. But from 1800 through the mid-sixties, the Navy Yard manufactured guns and munitions, built ships, and deposited toxic sediment in the riverbed. The shoreline at the Navy Yard is beautiful, but the toxic sediment in the river prevents visitors from swimming and fishing in the Anacostia.

The publication of our report was followed by robust advocacy before the DC Council. In 2014, with our support and advocacy, the Council passed The Anacostia River Toxics Remediation Act which required the DC Department of Energy and the Environment to publish an Interim Record of Decision or IROD, describing the remedies for the toxic sediment at the Navy Yard and 10 other sites.

The IROD, published in September of 2020, raised a number of questions, many of which were resolved during discussions DC Appleseed had with the Department of Energy and the Environment. Others will be addressed in the Work Plan to be released in September of 2021. The Work Plan’s remediation schedule will make it possible for us to anticipate the time when there can be safe fishing and swimming throughout the Anacostia.

PROJECT STAFF & PARTNERS

Staff Contact: Walter SmithDanielle Burs

Project Partners: Miles & Stockbridge, Coho Environmental,
Lois Schiffer

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CARE FIRST REFORM

DC Appleseed has spent a decade working to compel Group Hospitalization and Medical Services, Inc. (GHMSI), a subsidiary of CareFirst to fulfill the charitable obligation of its charter. In 2001, we helped launch the CareFirst Watch Coalition’s successful opposition to the health insurance company’s conversion to a for-profit operation. In 2021, we are continuing to work to ensure that CareFirst’s surplus will be put to work in the efforts of organizations that provide health services to low-income residents.

In 2001, CareFirst filed applications for conversion to a for-profit company in DC, Maryland, and Delaware, the three jurisdictions where it operates. The applications sought permission to sell the company for $1.3 billion to a California-based for-profit company. As soon as the applications were filed, DC Appleseed commissioned valuation studies of CareFirst. These studies revealed that the value of CareFirst was approximately $2.25 billion—almost a billion dollars more than the selling price agreed to by CareFirst management. This meant that the proposed conversion would deprive the public of a billion dollars that could be devoted to area healthcare needs. Appleseed submitted the valuation studies to the insurance commissioners in all three jurisdictions.

 

Conversion proceedings began first in Maryland before the Maryland Insurance Commissioner in the spring of 2002. A year later, the Commissioner issued a decision denying the conversion on the grounds of the selling price being too low.

 

CareFirst then ended its efforts to become a for-profit company, and DC Appleseed turned to the unresolved question of whether CareFirst was fulfilling the charitable obligation in its charter. We undertook a research effort to determine what the DC-based portion of CareFirst’s spending should be to meet its obligation as a charitable organization and better serve the public interest in the National Capital area. According to our consultation with health policy, legal and data experts in 2003, CareFirst should have been be spending over $50 million per year on community activities, even though its 2004 budget for these activities was approximately $1 million.

 

Since 2003, Appleseed has continued to pursue the issue of CareFirst living up to its charitable obligation in numerous ways. We testified before the DC Council and advocated for the Medical Insurance Empowerment Act which requires CareFirst to reinvest its surplus in community health activities. We continue to meet with all parties in hopes of resolving this issue and seeing needed dollars invested in our communities soon. We then advocated for its enforcement, including two petitions to the DC Court of Appeals.

PROJECT STAFF & PARTNERS

Staff Contact: Walter SmithDanielle Burs

Pro Bono Partners: Covington & Burling LLP; Harkins Cunningham LLP; and Mathematica

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HIV/AIDS

DC Appleseed’s HIV/AIDS Project began when Washington, DC had the highest HIV infection rate in the country. After nearly 20 years of collaboration with the DC government and the Washington AIDS Partnership, we can finally look forward to ending this terrible epidemic in DC.

In 2003, Mayor Anthony Williams and a local consortium of funders known as the Washington AIDS Partnership asked DC Appleseed to assess the District government’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Two years later, we issued a groundbreaking report that included an analysis of how DC government agencies were addressing the epidemic and recommendations for improving the government’s response.

 

The report was followed up with nine annual report cards, grading the District’s progress in handling the epidemic in particular areas that needed attention, from testing to housing. Our report cards, which were released at public events where the Mayor and city officials were present, proved to be an effective way of motivating government agencies to improve their performance, We have also been a member of the DC Syringe Access Working Group, convened by the Washington AIDS Partnership to address policy challenges regarding syringe access and complementary services in the District of Columbia.

The District has come a long way since 2005, and so have medicine and science. We now have the tools to “end the epidemic” by preventing new infections and ensuring people living with HIV have access to treatment and care. In 2016, we partnered with the Department of Health and Mayor Muriel Bowser to issue a strategic plan to end the HIV epidemic in the District by 2020. In 2019, when it became clear that the District was not on track to meet the plan’s goals, DC Appleseed provided an analysis to determine how the DC government could accelerate its progress in fighting AIDS. Our analysis led to several recommendations which the District government has adopted. They include addressing social and economic conditions that affect access to care, increasing access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP, and providing greater outreach to at-risk populations, particularly those not traditionally connected to DC Health providers or community-based organizations.

We also worked with Mayor Bowser, the DC Department of Health and the Washington AIDS Partnership on the development of a new DC Ends HIV plan. Our new plan has ambitious goals for 2030: 95% of DC residents infected with HIV will know their status, 95% of those diagnosed will be in treatment, 95% of those in treatment will reach viral load suppression, and there will be fewer than 130 new diagnoses per year. HIV/AIDS has been a formidable challenge for our city for nearly 40 years, but we can finally look forward to the end of this epidemic.

PROJECT STAFF & PARTNERS

Staff Contact: Danielle Burs

Pro Bono Partners: Hogan Lovells US LLP, and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP

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IMPROVING END OF LIFE CARE

DC Appleseed is working to improve D.C. residents’ opportunities to make timely, informed choices about the nature of care they wish to receive at the end of their lives. We also seek to improve the medical community’s ability to respond to these choices. As part of this ongoing work, DC Appleseed was instrumental in the introduction and passage of the Health Care Decisions Act of 2015 to establish a process and form known as MOST (Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment). A MOST is a documented conversation between a patient and their care professional about their care and treatment preferences. With the passage of the Act, the District joins most states in the country who have established, or are developing, similar programs.

PROJECT STAFF & PARTNERS

Staff Contact: Neil Richardson

Pro Bono Partners: Hughes, Hubbard & Reed LLP and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP

"Although Appleseed does not itself provide medical counseling or treatment, its activities have a direct impact on the ability of District residents to access those services."


District of Columbia Court of Appeals

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PROTECTION FROM LEAD CONTAMINATION

In spite of DC’s considerable progress in significantly reducing lead contamination over nearly 20 years, our city has not fully addressed the risk of lead poisoning among children. That is why DC Appleseed advocated for the District of Columbia to establish a childhood lead screening registry, which began rollout in 2021.

Appleseed’s work on lead contamination dates to 2004 when there was a public outcry against dangerous levels of lead in the drinking water and the failure of the DC Water and Sewer Authority to keep the public informed. DC Councilmember Carol Schwartz, in her role as the Chair of the Committee on Public Works and the Environment, asked DC Appleseed to examine the problem and make recommendations for addressing it. We agreed to take on a comprehensive study which included an examination of how other jurisdictions were address the issue of lead contamination. Our report, Lead in the District of Columbia Drinking Water: A Call for Reform, presented a number of recommendations which have been adopted.

 

In response to our recommendation that the District government create a new agency that would be in charge of administering all environmental programs, in 2006, DC’s Department of Energy and the Environment was established. Our lead in the water crisis made District residents aware that a major source of contamination is the lead service pipes that carry water across the city and into our homes. We are pleased that DC Water (the agency which replaced DC Water and Sewer Authority) is making good progress in replacing lead service lines. The agency’s goal is to replace all lead service lines by 2030.

 

Our report pressed for increased sampling and better communication of the results to DC residents. DC Water is doing a much better job of sampling and communication than the agency it replaced.

 

Unfortunately, only 31% of children are given the CDC-recommended two screenings by age 2, which is required by DC law. We are committed to help improve that statistic.

 

DC Appleseed is pleased that the DC Department of Energy and the Environment is working on the creation of a child lead screening registry. It is our hope that it can be integrated with the Department of Health’s immunization information system. We are also advocating for a robust education campaign that will inform pediatricians, parents, social service agencies and others about the registry. 

PROJECT STAFF & PARTNERS

Staff Contact: Danielle Burs

Pro Bono Partners: Patton Boggs LLP; Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP; Akin Gump LLP

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SUPPORT FOR ESSENTIAL WORKERS DURING COVID19

Frontline workers made it possible for the District of Columbia to get through the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the many challenges they faced as individuals. DC Appleseed welcomed the opportunity to assess the adequacy of the support being given frontline workers during the pandemic and to expand that support.
In April of 2020, the Greater Washington Community Foundation asked DC Appleseed to examine whether sufficient support was being given to frontline workers and what more might be done to close any gaps. We began with research and interviewing as well as exploring exemplary efforts in other communities. Our initial focus was on hospital and healthcare workers – including all hospital and healthcare staff. We soon realized that it was necessary to expand our definition of frontline and essential workers to include those without whom hospital and healthcare workers wouldn’t be able to meet the needs of the community: those in the childcare, grocery, transportation, sanitation, and postal delivery sectors.

We identified the challenges facing frontline and essential workers and the resources available to address these challenges. In November of 2020, we published this information in our report entitled D.C. Frontline and Essential Workers’ Needs During COVID-19. 

Our report concluded with two important recommendations: (1) creation of a comprehensive clearinghouse of available resources for healthcare and other essential workers; and (2) implementation of a cash relief fund for healthcare and other essential workers.

At the beginning of 2021, we created the clearinghouse website FrontlineWorkersDC.org with information about resources for essential workers. Donations to support cash assistance for frontline and essential workers can be made at this site by individuals, corporations, philanthropic organizations and others. Martha's Table, Mary's Center, DC Dream Center, and Leadership Council for Healthy Communities partnered with us to distribute this cash assistance to frontline and essential workers.
 

PROJECT STAFF & PARTNERS

Staff Contact: Danielle Burs

Pro Bono Partners: Hogan Lovells, Covington & Burling, Weil Gotshal & Manges, and DLA Piper

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