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The coming implementation of the nationwide Affordable Care Act might be getting a lot of attention in and around Washington, D.C., but a forum later this month in Southern Maryland will go beyond that debate to look at health issues much closer to home.

Middleham and St. Peter’s Episcopal Parish in Calvert County is sponsoring its second “Big Conversation” at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan.13, in the parish hall at 10210 H.G. Trueman Road in Lusby.

Hugh Davies, a member of the program’s committee, said this week that last winter’s discussion of the Maryland Dream Act, which attracted about 150 participants and a good exchange with panel members, also delved into other immigration issues. This year’s topic of “Health Care in Southern Maryland: A Right, Responsibility, or Privilege?” also will delve deeper into issues beyond national policy and politics.

The panel of Southern Maryland health care experts will include Lori Werrell, director of Health Connections at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital; Dr. Laurence B. Polsky, health officer with the Calvert County Health Department; Michael Shaw, executive director of Calvert Healthcare Solutions Inc.; and Brenda Laughhunn, executive director of Calvert Hospice.

The event’s organizers note that the focus of the forum will include accessibility to health care for all Southern Maryland residents. Although Calvert and St. Mary’s are two of the nation’s most affluent counties, they are designated as medically underserved areas.

Davies said that while there are questions about how well Southern Maryland is prepared for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, “there are a lot of other issues that we need to deal with,” including lung cancer and breast cancer rates in the region, and the difficulty in attracting and retaining family doctors.

“That’s a major impact on all of use who live here,” Davies said. “I expect our panelists will be focused on these local issues.”

This month’s Sunday session will be followed by four Wednesday evening discussions providing an opportunity to further examine the deeper issues of health care in the context of faith, scripture and the views of others.

For more information on both the Sunday and Wednesday sessions, go online to www.middlehamandstpeters.org/.

Get fit in 2013 in Mechanicsville

Make good on at least one new year’s resolution with the help of the Mechanicsville Volunteer Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary, as its members sponsor Zumba fitness classes at 7 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday in the firehouse’s social hall. Participants can purchase a ticket for each class or buy a punch card. For more information, send email to meghannet@yahoo.com or theredding6@gmail.com.

Food fundraiser set for Jan. 12

The Ridge Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary will hold its monthly Schwan's Truckload Fundraiser from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 12, at the firehouse located at 13820 Point Lookout Road in Ridge. To guarantee the availability of the items, pre-orders may be made online at www.schwansfundraising.com/orderform.aspx, using Event ID 39903, Ridge VFD Auxiliary, Ridge, MD 20680. Catalogs may be requested via the website. For more information, call 301-872-5671.

Dance on Jan. 12 in Chaptico

A contra dance sponsored by Southern Maryland Traditional Music and Dance, featuring caller Sargon deJesus, will be held on Saturday, Jan. 12, at Christ Episcopal Church’s parish hall at 37497 Zach Fowler Road in Chaptico. The doors open at 7 p.m., and the dancing will begin at 7:30. Beginners are encouraged to arrive at 7 to get some instruction in the dances. No fancy or outlandish clothing is required, as dancers need to be comfortable to move freely. There will be an ice cream social following the dance. For more information and directions, go online to www.smtmd.org.

Mechanicsville firefighters awarded grant funds

An Assistance to Firefighters Grant award has been provided to the Mechanicsville Volunteer Fire Department, according to the office of Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md. 5th), in the amount of $247,230 to improve operations and safety.

Hoyer, a co-chair of the Congressional Fire Caucus, commended the fire department in a statement for doing “an outstanding job protecting our community” and the grant funds will be an additional resource to improve operations and keep firefighters safe.

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant funding is awarded to fire departments and emergency medical services organizations, the congressman’s office reports, to enhance their response capabilities and protect the health and safety of the public and emergency response personnel. Since 2001, the program has provided nearly $6 billion in assistance to first-responder organizations to obtain emergency response equipment, protective equipment, firefighting and emergency vehicles, and training.

Parents can protect children’s ID

The Maryland Attorney General’s Office has encouraged parents and legal guardians in Maryland to protect children against identity theft by taking advantage of a new law that took effect this week, on Jan 1. Some children are victimized by relatives and other individuals who attempt to exploit a child’s clean credit history to obtain a credit card, mobile phone or utility account, according to Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D), and as a result, children end up having to deal with a blemished credit record once they are old enough to seek credit on their own.

The new law allows parents and legal guardians to place a security freeze on their minor child’s credit records that would prevent identity thieves from opening credit accounts in the child’s name.

A study published in 2011 by Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab found that more than 10 percent of Social Security numbers belonging to minors already have an active credit record, with 76 percent of the credit activity being fraudulent, according to the attorney general’s office. About 1 in 10 victims who contact the agency’s identity theft unit are individuals who discover upon first seeking credit that someone had already opened a credit account using their name or Social Security number.

Gansler’s office reports that a child should not have a credit record unless someone has fraudulently opened a credit account in the child’s name. If the child has a credit record, the new law allows a parent to freeze the child’s credit record so that someone seeking to open new credit in the child’s name cannot access the credit report. If the child does not have a credit record, the parent may request that a credit reporting agency create a record that prohibits the credit agency from releasing information about the child to potential creditors. The new law similarly allows a guardian to place a freeze on the credit record of an individual under their care.

Parents or guardians may contact the three major credit reporting agencies to place a freeze on a child’s credit.

With Equifax, a freeze request on behalf of a minor can be submitted online at www.equifax.com, by calling 800-685-1111, or by writing to Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348. The person making the request must submit their complete name, address, copy of a Social Security card, or an official copy of a birth certificate, or a copy of a driver’s license, or any other government-issued identification, or a copy of a utility bill that shows their name and home address. The same information is required of the minor on whom the freeze is being requested. Other information also may be required.

With Experian, a freeze request on behalf of a minor can be submitted online at www.experian.com/consumer/help/states/md.html, or by writing to Experian, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013. With TransUnion, a freeze request on behalf of a minor can be submitted online at www.transunion.com/personal-credit/credit-disputes/credit-freezes.page, by calling 888-909-8872 or by writing to TransUnion Protected Consumer Freeze, P.O. Box 380, Woodland, PA 19094. For more information about protection from identity theft or what to do when identity theft occurs, go online to the attorney general's website at www.oag.state.md.us/idtheft, or call the agency’s Identity Theft Unit at 410-576-6491.

Maryland adopts new fire safety codes

The Maryland state fire marshal’s office reported this week that the state’s residents now are protected by the most up-to-date editions of two key safety codes, as 2012 editions of the National Fire Protection Association’s codes and standards have been adopted by Maryland’s Fire Prevention Commission as part of an overall revision of the state’s fire prevention code.

Effective in Maryland this week, the fire marshal’s office reports, the updated national codes are widely used across the country to protect people and property in new and existing buildings. The national association’s Life Safety Code, used in all 50 states, mandates building design construction, operation, and maintenance requirements to protect building occupants from the dangers caused by fire, smoke and toxic fumes. The latest edition of the national codes provides requirements necessary to establish a reasonable level of fire safety and property protection from hazards created by fire and explosion.

State Fire Marshal William E. Barnard said through a statement that the latest editions of the widely used codes will allow the state agency to provide the highest level of protection for the people of Maryland.

Code enforcers in Maryland participated in a training program that covers the code's requirements and ways it can be best utilized, according to the fire marshal’s office. The national association made the training and the associated codebooks available free to the government code enforcement officials in the state. Free training and codebooks helped to reduce costs for Maryland taxpayers, and the training ensured that code enforcers have the latest reference materials.

Sweetheart dinner set for Feb. 9

A Sweetheart Dinner sponsored by Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Laurel Grove will be held on Feb. 9 in the church’s fellowship hall. The doors will open at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. Entertainment will be provided by Sonrise Gospel Bluegrass Music from Fredericksburg, Va. The menu, catered by Sunshines Catering, will include prime rib and a crab cake, baked potato with fixings, seasonal vegetable medley, tossed salad, tea, coffee and dessert. Reservations are required, and anyone 16 and older is welcome. Babysitting is available by reservation. Reservations must be made by Feb. 4, by calling Frank Hill at 301-884-3811.

Scholarship applications sought

Maryland Del. John Bohanan (D-St. Mary’s) is seeking applicants for Maryland Delegate Scholarship awards for the 2013-2014 school year.

Successful applicants must be pursuing an academic program beyond high school and either attend or plan to enter a Maryland college or university in the fall. Full- or part-time students may qualify for the awards. Applicants must be a resident of District 29-B, and information on legislative district boundaries is available online at mdelect.net or by calling St. Mary’s Board of Elections at 301-475-7844, ext. 1610.

Prior to submitting the scholarship application, the Federal Form for Financial Aid (FAFSA) must be completed. Apply for FAFSA online at www.fafsa.ed.gov.

To apply for a scholarship, submit a completed application with a short letter stating why the applicant should receive a scholarship, career goals, any special circumstances and a copy of the completed FAFSA application. The scholarship application deadline is Tuesday, April 30.

To request an application, contact Bohanan’s district office by sending email to john.bohanan.district@house.state.md.us or by calling 301-866-4000.

jwharton@somdnews.com