UPPER MARLBORO — County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced that three county agencies received achievement awards from the National Association of Counties (NACo) on July 16.
“We are working to make you proud, bringing efficient, effective and award-winning government services that utilize innovativeness to further enhance the quality of life for all our citizens,” Alsobrooks said.
The Department of Corrections, the Department of the Environment and the Office of Community Relations were awarded during the NACo 2019 Annual Conference and Exposition. Their national awards program serves to honor innovative, effective county government programs that enhance services for residents.
According to NACo Communications Director Paul Guequierre, to be eligible for an Achievement Award the program must meet certain criteria. These include offering new services to county residents, filling gaps in the availability of services, improving the administration of an existing county government program, upgrading the working conditions or level of training for county employees or enhancing the level of citizen participation in.
With a program that is in response to a federal or state law, regulation or order, the program must go beyond simple compliance with the statute, regulation or order and must display a creative approach to meeting those requirements.
All eligible programs must have measurable results, must be innovative and not rely on techniques or procedures that are common practice. All aspects of the program must be consistent with acceptable governmental and financial management practices and the program must promote general governmental accountability.
The Employee Support Unit of the Department of Correction received the Achievement Award in the category of Personnel Management, Employment and Training for its innovation and effectiveness.
According to Public Information Officer Andrew Cephas, correctional facility employees around the nation suffer from PTSD, depression, anxiety, domestic violence, hypertension, diabetes and more. The Employee Support Unit aims to address these issues.
Run by a staff psychology coordinator, the unit focuses on addressing people’s mental health needs as well as issues in their home and work life, Cephas said. The program includes a variety of workgroups and helps people deal with problems like aging parents and sick family members. The staff psychology coordinator tries to address these problems and reduce the number of stress employees in what is already a stressful work environment.
The program started in 2016 when the department brought in a staff psychology coordinator full time. Since then it has been critical to meeting the needs of their employees, Cephas said. The goal going forward is to grow the number of people in the program and increase the number of programs offered to employees.
“It’s definitely a proud moment for the department,” Cephas said. “Our director, Mary Lou McDonough, said she is proud of the work not only our staff psychology coordinator has done but just the whole work environment because people are just trying to help each other…We’re pretty much a family here at the Department of Correction and this is another tool to strengthen those bonds and help people support each other.”
The Department of the Environment received the Achievement Award for their program called “Piloting Food Scrap Collection to Improve Organic Waste Recovery at the County Level” in the category of County Resiliency: Infrastructure, Energy and Sustainability.
According to Recycling Section Manager Denice Curry, the department made a successful grant application for $20,000 in 2017 to pilot a program for curbside collection of food scraps. They started with 200 households, beginning in the Peppermill/Carmody Hills area and then moved into Fort Washington and West Laurel.
The food waste is composted to produce fertilizer, which the department sells, making it a complete full circle recycling program.
“We’ve identified that food waste is a large part, nearly half, of what goes into the landfill is compostable, 31% of that being food waste,” Curry said. “So we’re hoping to encourage residents to divide that material that we can compost from the landfill because we own and operate the largest municipal installation for food scrap composting on the east coast.”
During November, the program will be expanded to roll out 3,000 carts to additional households in District Heights, Upper Marlboro, Suitland, Laurel and Beltsville for food scrap collection.
“This small baby step will eventually take us to a place where the potential for 165,000 households have the opportunity to compost their food waste which is a huge step forward for waste diversion and our goals towards zero waste and improving the environment overall,” Curry said.
Finally, the Office of Community Relations’ received the Achievement Award in the category of Civic Engagement and Public Information for their “311 on the Go!” program which aims to connect citizens, businesses and visitors to county information and resources.
With the goal of increasing citizen engagement and building a more informed public, the “311 on the Go!” program uses several community outreach programs. This includes partnering with other county government agencies and the county council and bringing the county together through their “311 Day of Action” events to give residents the tools and resources needed to improve their quality of life