Delegate Bhandari addresses constituents at Oak Crest Senior Living town hall

I was so grateful to attend a town hall at Oak Crest Senior Living Community last week to check in with a valued and respected group of constituents. Thank you to Oak Crest and to the Maryland Continuing Care Residents Association (MaCCRA) for hosting me along with my District 8 colleagues Delegate Carl Jackson and Senator Kathy Klausmeier.

Firstly, on a personal note, it was such a blessing to see folks in person, not having to worry about masks (thanks and congratulations to the residents of Oak Crest for a near-perfect vaccination rate). I looked around the room and saw survivors, still breathing in the wake of this deadly pandemic which has ravaged our community, disrupted our families and taken far too many of our loved ones. The resilience I saw with me in that room was inspiring. And I know many more were watching, as the town hall was broadcast live on the community’s internal network.

But while it is on everyone’s mind, we weren’t there to gab about the pandemic — we reported back to these constituents on our legislative efforts during this year’s General Assembly, and asked what priorities they would like us to pursue going forward. As a member of the Health & Government Operations Committee and Long Term Care Subcommittee, I was proud to share a number of key bills we passed, including:

  • HB 0983, which states that during a catastrophic health emergency, visitation in nursing homes must be prioritized to meet the mental and spiritual needs of residents. After months of isolation, I know many elderly folks appreciated advocacy from the General Assembly on behalf of their right to see family members.
  • HB 1034, which bolsters support for the Prescription Drug Affordability Board in an effort to cap prices of certain prescription drugs. It’s ridiculous that citizens of the richest country in the world pay on average more than double what folks in other countries pay for prescription drugs, and we must get these rising prices under control.
  • HB 0416 and HB 0119, both of which seek to make life easier for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and other cognitive impairments by firming up the Maryland Department of Health’s education, training and outreach among assisted living programs and health care providers.

The Oak Crest residents in attendance had some great questions for us, and others raised important comments or concerns that I noted to follow up on ahead of next year’s session.

One constituent asked whether we will work to protect drug coverage in state employee retirement benefits. Another asked whether we would advance legislation requiring communities like Oak Crest to have actuarial studies. We actually had bills gaining traction on both fronts back in 2020 before COVID disrupted us, but both were lost in the shuffle of this year’s virtual session. My colleagues and I committed to revisiting both issues in 2022.

Another constituent challenged us to answer how we will work to make her life better.

I told her that my top priorities at this moment are education and economic recovery. We all want better schools for our kids and grandkids, so that we can retire in peace knowing we passed our world to the hands of capable leaders, and that’s why we passed $2.2 billion to fund school construction projects, address learning loss and close the digital divide. And as for the pandemic — we all know business owners who lost their customers, creatives who lost their audience, friends and family who lost their jobs. Passing our bipartisan RELIEF Act, including $1.5 billion in tax relief and stimulus, was a landmark moment, getting support out the door for millions of vulnerable Marylanders

But I know there is a long climb ahead. During this time between sessions, getting in touch with my constituents is so important. Please email or call me to make your voice heard. And hey, now that we can be safe, I’d love to stop by in person! Your sewing circle, book club, community meeting or even just family dinner, you name it — I’ll be there to listen and learn.

As ever, it’s an honor to represent you here in District 8. Be well.

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