Lt. Governor Brown Announces ‘Smart, Green and Growing Initiative’

 Initiative Sets Goal of Planting 1,000,000 New Trees across Maryland by 2011

 

ANNAPOLIS, MD (March 26, 2009) – Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown and Secretary Gloria Lawlah spoke today to attendees at the ‘Healthy, Smart, Green and Growing Senior Expo’ in Prince George’s County. The expo was hosted in partnership by the Maryland Department of Aging, the Prince George’s County Department of Family Services and Behnke Nurseries and attracted approximately 275 seniors, caregivers and family members, as well as community leaders and elected officials. During his remarks, Brown announced the ‘Smart, Green and Growing Initiative’ that aims to plant one million new trees across Maryland by 2011.

“Our seniors deserve our support so they can live long, healthy and independent lives,” Lt. Governor Brown said. “Today’s seniors are more active than ever. By partnering with community leaders like the Behnkes and Secretary Lawlah, we can tap into the youthful vigor of our seniors to build a more sustainable state. In the coming years, we will plant one million trees across the state, which will help us protect the Bay and other natural resources for another generation of grandchildren.”

The ‘Smart, Green and Growing Initiative’ is a partnership of Maryland State agencies, businesses, schools and other community organizations to plant 50,000 new trees across the state by the end of 2009 and one million trees by 2011. Studies have concluded that one large tree can eliminate as many as 5,000 gallons of runoff and well-placed trees can cut energy costs by as much as 35 percent. The state will soon launch a Website that allows individuals to more-easily participate in the initiative by providing coupons and incentives for planting trees this spring. In addition, individuals and businesses can utilize the Website to track the benefits, savings and environmental preservation of the trees they have planted.

Secretary Lawlah detailed the ‘Pots on the Patio’ program to encourage a healthier diet and active life style among seniors and decrease the carbon footprint of the growing senior population.

“For our healthy seniors, the goal is to keep them healthy for as long as possible,” Secretary Lawlah said. “By encouraging utilization of Medicare’s preventive services and the adoption of healthy lifestyles that include healthy diets and routine fitness, we have the potential to achieve improved health outcomes that translate into a higher quality of life as well as lower expenditures for health care.”

Brown and Lawlah both highlighted the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s support for seniors, notably efforts to make health coverage more affordable and expand affordable senior housing.

During the 2008 General Assembly Session, legislation proposed by Governor O’Malley was enacted that added $4 million annually for the Maryland Senior Prescription Drug Assistance Program (SPDAP) to provide assistance to enrollees whose drug expenses place them into the coverage gap or “donut hole.” SPDAP is a program administered by the Maryland Health Insurance Plan (MHIP) that subsidizes the Medicare Part D premium up to $25 per month for approximately 25,000 enrollees. The additional donut hole benefit helps those on Medicare with limited income and significant drug expenses, by providing up to $1,200 per person in annual state subsidies to reduce their out of pocket costs in the donut hole. The SPDAP donut hole assistance will be available starting in January 2009.

The Accessible Homes for Seniors program, funded by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and jointly sponsored by the Department of Aging, offers zero-interest loans to income eligible households to be used for home modifications to enable seniors to ‘age in place.’ Installation of grab bars, lever handles on doors, wider doorways and first-floor bathrooms are examples of such modifications. In 2008, 14 individuals made accessibility-related improvements to their homes at a cost of $349,649, an average of $24,975 per homeowner. For many seniors, these improvements are critical to allowing them to stay in their home and maintain their independence.

Today’s expo was held at Behnkes Nurseries in Beltsville. Behnkes has been a local landmark since the 1930s and has been owned and operated by the Behnke family since it first opened 79 years ago. Safeway and Earthboxes also partnered to help sponsor the expo. Environmental Science students for Parkdale High School also participated in the expo. The students are conducting an experiment using organic fertilizers on Christmas Grape Tomatoes and will be visiting Behnke’s Nursery over the next two months to monitor growth and record data to determine fertilizer influence.

 


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