Former Motown Artist Pens Book About Overcoming Anxiety And Emotional Disorders

A former Motown singer has traded the microphone and stage for a pen and notebook. Clarence “KD” McNair, Jr., who was once part of the R&B group “Prophet Jones,” has written a new book titled, “Give it One More Try.”

The recently released book is McNair’s story of triumph after hitting rock bottom.

“There was no way that I could keep this to myself. I’m hoping that there will be people who could relate to what I’ve experienced from growing up in the inner cities of East Baltimore to signing a million-dollar contract with Motown Records and losing it all,” McNair said.

For the first time, the 41-year-old Baltimore-native is sharing his experience at Motown and his struggles with anxiety disorders.

“It’s been a long journey. I just felt in my heart that everything that I had experienced could not just be an experience that you keep to yourself,” McNair said. “I wanted to share my experience and try to help others.”

For years, McNair suffered greatly from panic attacks and other difficulties. The book details his road to recovery and McNair’s advice on how changing one’s perspective can lead to a restored way of living, despite the obstacles that get in the way.

“I grew up in an environment that was filled with mental health issues. The interesting part is that before for social media, we didn’t really know what mental health was,” McNair said. “I remember back in the day— I’m 41— we had to rely on older aunts and uncles and maybe grandparents. In fact, during those times, people didn’t speak about mental health, we were just taught to pray on it, and you’ll be okay.”

McNair realized that he had serious issues that needed to be addressed.

However, it wasn’t until after he lost his record deal in 2002 that he did anything about his anxiety.

“I didn’t even know what anxiety was. When I lost my music deal, I started noticing that I was feeling weird. I started feeling sick and sluggish,” he said.

Heart palpitations also accompanied other symptoms, which led to multiple doctor visits. Each time, the diagnosis was, “there’s nothing wrong with you,” according to McNair. He then had an epiphany thanks to a television commercial where a female narrator asked, “Do you feel worried or anxious or tired?”

“She said it was anxiety. It was the first time that I heard the word anxiety in connection with mental health,” McNair said. “I went back to see a doctor and told him that I think I have anxiety. From that point, it was an uphill battle because I didn’t even understand what it was. That’s why in my book, I say that not admitting to needing help is the first sign of self-neglect.”

The book underscores the importance of mental health, particularly in the African American community. McNair shares how he often gave in to fear of failure, and how he endured many traumatic experiences while growing up, including being born with a collapsed kidney. He was fatherless and many in his family had emotional disorders, financial hardships, drug addiction and were involved with crime.

“You had to fight for survival,” McNair said. Today, he counts himself as anentrepreneur, celebrity brand architect, motivational speaker, and advisor to several public relations firms.

He says he believes that before a person decides to throw in the towel, it’s worth challenging yourself when you choose to “give it one more try.”

“In a society where suicide and mental health disorders are at an all-time high, it is important that we invest in our body and our mind before we do anything else,” McNair said. “Not admitting to needing help is the first sign of self-neglect. We can reverse this by opening up about the trials we face so that we don’t become our enemy when battling against our own emotions.”

“One More Try,” is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and local bookstores. Follow McNair on social media @planetmcnair and @therealdmcnair.

December 15 Deadline To Enroll For Health Care In Maryland

The door is closing on the opportunity to sign up for 2020 health insurance coverage through the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. With the December 15 deadline fast approaching, officials have worked to point out that costs are down and more affordable than last year.

This year, residents have the option of Value Plans, which feature lower deductibles and increased access to primary care, mental health care, and generic drugs before deductibles apply. Value plans are designed to lower consumers’ out-of-pocket costs for the health care services the majority of people use most frequently.

“Not only are most premiums going down, but we are excited to introduce our new Value Plans,” Michele Eberle, the executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, which operates the state’s health insurance marketplace, stated in a news release.

“These plans offer deductibles that are hundreds or even thousands of dollars cheaper than in 2019,” Eberle said. “Value plans are designed to give Marylanders more access to primary care, mental health care, and generic drugs before their deductibles apply.”

Officials are hoping that everyone takes advantage of coverage. A year ago, enrollment via Maryland Health Connection reached 153,963 during the open enrollment period for coverage, which was a 2.2 percent increase over 2018, when 153,571 bought plans.

In September, the Maryland Insurance Administration announced that average individual market health insurance premiums (before any subsidies are applied) would be 10.3 percent lower in 2020 than they were in 2019.

As the deadline to sign up for 2020 coverage approaches, the Maryland Health Connection announced it would hold as many as 20 “Last Chance” events throughout the state during the final week leading up to the December 15 deadline.

Residents can enroll in health and dental coverage through the Maryland Health Connection, the state’s insurance marketplace.

At the free “Last Chance” events, certified health insurance navigators will help Marylanders sign up for a health plan and understand their coverage options and financial help available. Assistance also is available in Spanish.

Residents can visit: MarylandHealthConnection.gov or the Enroll MHC mobile app to browse plans, compare coverage and costs, and enroll. Among the choices of health care providers for Maryland residents are CareFirst Blue Choice; CareFirst of Maryland, Inc.; and Kaiser Permanente.

“The fall open enrollment is for private health and dental plans only. People who have coverage through Medicaid will receive a notice when it’s time to renew; enrollment for Medicaid is all year for eligible Marylanders,” Eberle said.

To learn more about 2020 health insurance plans and prices, Marylanders can visit MarylandHealthConnection.gov. To find free, in-person help at an upcoming event, visit: MarylandHealthConnection.gov/LastChance.

Communications Class Takes Morgan Students Straight To The Top

Discuss Class Projects and More with Mayor Young

For a group of Morgan State University students, their class took them straight to the top.

Straight to the city’s top elected official that is. The young men and women are students in Morgan’s SCOM 220 (Strategic Communication Writing) class, and were given an opportunity to discuss their Fall 2019 class projects with Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young.

Their class projects are called “Branding Baltimore”, and are multimedia narratives of everyday people living in Baltimore. The narratives are slated to begin airing on CharmTV Spring 2020. Launched in 2014 by the City of Baltimore, CharmTV’s mission is to creatively deliver content that spotlights the essence of Baltimore.

Morgan senior Blanca Assie, 26,was among the students to participate in the Meet & Greet with Mayor Young. The session, which included a tour of City Hall, and even cookies baked by the Mayor, took place Tues. Nov. 26, 2019.

“It was really exciting,” said Assie who wants to work in Public Relations and Advertising. “We were rewarded for the work we have been doing. I am really grateful for that.”

She added, “Meeting Mayor Young face to face, I learned that he is for Baltimore, and is working for the people. He means what he says, and really wants to turn the violence around.”

The students also participated in a Q&A session with the mayor.

David Marshall, Ph.D., APR is Professor and Chair of Morgan State University’s Department of Strategic Communication, School of Global Journalism & Communication.

“I think the students are leaving City Hall with a greater sense of understanding the challenges facing leaders in urban communities,” said Dr. Marshall. “For most of these students, it’s the first time they have been in a room with the mayor. The question and answer session also gave an opportunity to follow-up instead of relying on a soundbite. This makes for a better-informed student, which leads to a better democracy.”

According to Dr. Marshall, the SCOM Capstone class has been doing a content analysis research project this semester examining more than 6,000 social media and digital postings about the hashtag #baltimore. The students are using the theory of framing to explain exactly what people are saying about Baltimore in the social and digital world–and making communication recommendations to the city based on the data about strategies to better tell Baltimore’s stories.

“The role of the university is not to produce just practitioners,” said Dr. Marshall. “The role of education is to get students to think about their role in the world, and do something on their own personal convictions. It empowers them to move democracy forward.”

He added, “The tools are cell phones, cameras and press releases. That’s the big value of an event like this. How many young people in the city can say they got involved in a ceremonial room at City Hall? It’s a big deal and the type of positive things we need in light of the political landscape. More positive experiences to keep young people engaged in politics and in their communities, so that they are not turned off by what they see. This is a powerful way of making that happen.”

Tonya Miller Hall is Senior Director of Public Affairs for the Mayor’s Office and Executive Director of Charm TV.

“My goal at Charm TV is to bring forward content that spotlights Baltimore in a new and interesting way,” she said. “I partnered with the students at Morgan State University under Dr. Marshall’s leadership to create content specially for CharmTV. The stories the students share through their programming are the small gems. These are the local heroes of Baltimore that the students showcase in short form content.”

Hall said events like the Meet & Greet “shows” young adults what they can become.

“We often forget that many of our young people of color don’t have the same access to people as others do,” she said. “The fact that they were in the room with the mayor allows them to see what’s possible. Mayor Young is a local Baltimorean. He was born and bred in this city. Although it may be aspirational, it shows the students that becoming mayor is attainable.”

Christmas Village Includes A ‘Cynful’ Delicious Dessert Endor

Experts on The Food Network have noted that the modern and fast-paced world where the phrase “killing two birds with one stone” has trickled into nearly every area of life. “Believe it or not, it applies to a trend showing up on the restaurant scene, too,” Food Network contributor Carlynn Woolsey wrote. “Chefs nationwide are combining desserts and drinks to make for some super special — and convenient — creations.”

And, that’s what Cymande Hagans has done for patrons of Baltimore’s Christmas Village.

She is inviting all to “come taste temptation” at her Cynful Bliss stand at West Shore Park, that’s now a traditional indoor and outdoor German Christmas Market.

“It’s cold, but we are enjoying Christmas Village in Baltimore,” said Hagans, the founder of Cynful Bliss, an online boutique and mobile baker specializing in alcohol-infused cupcakes, cakes, candies and other desserts. “We also offer traditional non-alcoholic dessert options for any occasion.”

However, what’s making the mouths of customers water are Cynful Bliss Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake, Cynful Colada, and Chocolate Covered Cherry. Also appealing are her creations: Greed, a peach cobbler mixed with peach brandy; Envy, a red velvet cake with rumchata; Gluttony, a chocolate cake with Guinness, Jameson, and Bailey’s; and Lust, a raspberry cheesecake with white chocolate liqueur.

“It’s all a little naughty and taste so good,” Hagans said. “We have something for everyone. This is the first year at Christmas Village in Baltimore; we were at Christmas Village in Philadelphia last year, but after doing some wine festivals here, we decided to come to Christmas Village.”

When Christmas Village closes in December, the delicious desserts won’t. Cynful Bliss will continue to take orders on their website, at www.cynfulbliss.com. Hagans says the company allows customers to “get blissed” with services that cater to weddings, bridal showers, baby showers, birthday parties, and even fundraising events.

“We can come up with the perfect item to sweeten any occasion, including at schools, clubs, and for groups and organizations,” Hagans said. “It’s always great watching people enjoy our desserts for the first time. Our flavors aren’t too overpowering.”

Hagan and her Cynful Bliss will remain at Christmas Village through the closing date of Christmas Eve.

This year, Christmas Village has a remodeled and expanded layout, with a new and expanded open floor plan for the stage, added decorations and space for the Christmas Village Beer Garden, a brand new centerpiece in the middle of the wooden shopping huts, an expanded outdoor food and drink area, a new kids’ corner, and the addition of a second circle of wooden shopping huts.

The 65 feet tall Christmas Village Ferris Wheel returned next to the Visitor Center. Like last year, its colorful lights will shine bright throughout the whole Inner Harbor. The Christmas Village Christmas Tree will again light up at the Inner Harbor Ice Rink, which is sponsored by Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Fund, this year.

In partnership with Waterfront Partnership, Christmas Village, Christmas Village Ferris Wheel, Inner Harbor Ice Rink, and other festive attractions will again create the Holiday District in Inner Harbor. Other exciting changes include an expanded selection of mulled wine, even more food options, new artists and vendors, and updated theme weekends.

“It’s the most wonderful time of year on the Baltimore Waterfront,” Christmas Village Project Manager Nancy Schmalz stated in a news release. “After a terrific year last year, we want to continue to surprise and delight with even more new additions, new vendors, more food, and changes in how we use the space.”

The Christmas Village will be open until December 24. Hours are Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Christmas Eve from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The village is closed 9, 10, 16, and 17.

For more information about Christmas Village, visit: www.baltimore-christmas.com

Celebrate The Season Aboard The MDOT MTA Holiday Bus

Receive a Free Ride and Track Santa with the Transit App

Continuing a 41-year tradition to help spread holiday cheer and goodwill, the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) is offering free rides on its Holiday Bus, featuring Santa Claus and his elves.

The Holiday Bus operates weekdays on various CityLink and LocalLink bus routes until Friday, December 20, 2019. Passengers will receive candy canes and greetings from Santa, and will enjoy festive holiday music during the ride.

“During the holidays, we look forward to thanking our customers and wishing them the best of the season,” said MDOT MTA Administrator Kevin Quinn. “There’s something magical about the Holiday Bus that assures big smiles for everyone who’s lucky enough to catch one.”

Although Santa cannot reveal the exact location and schedule of the Holiday Bus, MDOT MTA customers can track it using the Transit App, which provides real-time information for CityLink, LocalLink, Express BusLink buses, along with Commuter Bus across the region. For information on the Transit App and details for free downloading, go to mta.maryland.gov/transit.

Customers can also follow MDOT MTA on Facebook at facebook.com/mtamaryland and on Twitter @mtamaryland for clues on where the Holiday Bus will be located each day.

To learn more, visit mdot.maryland.gov.

Baltimore Woman Considered Medical Hero For Participating In Clinical Trials That Advance HIV/AIDS Research

In 1997, Gail Graham was diagnosed with HIV. Graham, who currently serves as the Director of HIV/AIDS Outreach Services and Ministry at Mt. Lebanon Baptist church in Baltimore says it was her church pastor’s acceptance and support that resulted in her taking an active role at the church.

In 2014 she joined an HIV/AIDS clinical trials group at Johns Hopkins Hospital and, because she was motivated to do more, Graham joined a clinical trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Thanks to major advances in medical research, Graham says her disease is now undetectable and not transmittable.

For those battling serious diseases, researchers say the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial can be a lifeline. However, for many, deciding whether or not to participate in a clinical trial can be difficult. There are a lot of unknowns like— Why should I do it? Are there side effects? Will participation disrupt my job and affect my health coverage? How far will I need to travel? Will I receive the results of my clinical trial?

Those questions led Kenneth Getz, the founder of CISCRP (Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation) and deputy director and research professor at the Center for the Study of Drug Development at Tufts University School of Medicine, wrote, “The Gift of Participation: A Guide to Making Informed Decisions About Volunteering for a Clinical Trial.”

Many have called it the ultimate guidebook for patients and their support network.

The book, which is available at Amazon.com and other outlets, offers critical information on what to expect, where to find trials, and what questions to ask.

CISCRP, whose motto is Education Before Participation, routinely celebrate research participants like Graham. They call the participants, “medical heroes.”

“Today, nearly 4,000 new medical therapies are in active clinical trials. The success of these medical advances— ultimately measured by improvements in the quality of patients’ lives and by the availability of new treatments and cures for unmet medical needs— depends on the millions of people who participate in clinical trials each year,” Getz said. “We call these brave individuals like Gail Graham ‘medical heroes.’”

“Ordinary people like you and me who have chosen to give the extraordinary gift of participation in clinical research,” Getz said. “Their decision to participate is a selfless act because participation always carries risk and will likely not provide any direct personal medical benefit. Future generations are the direct recipients of the gift of participation. Medical heroes— through their participation and partnership with the clinical research enterprise— profoundly contribute to society’s collective knowledge about the nature of disease, its progression and how and how not to treat it.”

Graham says clinical trials are vital and her journey has made her a believer.

“On April 29th 1997, I found out at work that I was HIV positive. I was the supervisor of admissions for Kennedy Krieger Institute Neurobehavioral program, and my first thought was, ‘God please, I just want to live long enough to see my kids graduate high school,’” Graham said.

She wondered how she would tell her children.

“I made a point of learning as much as I could and still can about this virus and the disease, and I had a great boss who supported me,” Graham said. “I was open with Human Resources and they worked with me and gave me all the exceptions to use regarding leave and sick days. My best friend learned with me and has continued to be by my side unconditionally.”

Now, in her role as director of HIV/AIDS Outreach Services and Ministry, Graham says she remains busy assisting others.

“For the last eight years we have had a World AIDS Day testing for turkey event. The last Saturday of November we provide free testing counseling gently used clothes blood pressure screening and any other services that we can obtain for the community,” Graham said. “HIV is no longer considered a death sentence. With proper treatment, you can become undetectable (level of HIV virus so low it can’t be detected).

“If you keep taking your medication and maintain your undetectability, the risk of you passing it to others is zero.”

Baltimore Screenwriters Competition Now Accepting Submissions

— The Baltimore Film Office at the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA) is accepting entries for the 15th annual Baltimore Screenwriters Competition. The competition is open to all screenwriters.

Applicants can submit screenplays in the feature or shorts categories. Scripts must be set in or can be filmed in Baltimore. The top entries in each category win cash prizes, and feature winners also receive all access passes to the 2020 Maryland Film Festival and passes to local movie theaters.

The deadline for submissions is Monday, January 13, 2020 by 5 p.m. The application and guidelines are available online at www.baltimorefilm.com.

The Baltimore Screenwriters Competition is a project of the Baltimore Film Office, a division of BOPA, in conjunction with film programs at Johns Hopkins University and Morgan State University. Funding is provided by The Arts Insurance Program, a division of Maury, Donnelly and Parr. Additional support is courtesy of the Maryland Film Festival, NEXTCAR and Visit Baltimore.

Submitted scripts receive coverage from students in the Johns Hopkins University and Morgan State University screenwriting programs and by local screenwriters and producers. Final screenplays are judged by film industry professionals. Winners of the competition are announced during the 2020 Maryland Film Festival on Saturday, May 2, 2020.

In the feature category, the first place winner receives $1,500, an all access pass to the 2020 Maryland Film Festival, a Weekend in Baltimore Package, a rental car for the weekend and passes to area movie theaters. The second place winner receives $750, an all access pass to the festival and movie passes. The third place winner receives $350, an all access pass to the festival and movie passes. In the shorts category, winners will receive cash prizes.

For more information on the Baltimore Screenwriters Competition, call 410-752-8632 or visit www.baltimorefilm.com.

Addressing Out-Of-Pocket Costs Key To Health Improvement And Cost Savings

More than 190 million Americans suffer from chronic diseases. For them, healthcare reform isn’t a political football— it’s a matter of life and death.

Unfortunately, both parties keep pushing reforms that won’t improve patients’ lives. One side is focused on making insurance coverage skinnier and cheaper; the other on having the government takeover large segments of the healthcare system, setting prices, and sacrificing innovation and consumer choice.

Both these approaches would make it harder for patients to get the care they need and burden our healthcare system in the long run. To cut costs and help patients save billions, politicians ought to focus on making preventing and managing chronic diseases more accessible by addressing out-of-pocket costs.

Chronic diseases account for 90 percent of all U.S. healthcare spending. Today, six in 10 Americans live with at least one chronic condition.

People with chronic conditions face unreasonable out-of-pocket costs. On average, individuals with two or more chronic diseases spend five times more out-of-pocket than patients without any chronic conditions. People with three or more conditions pay 10 times more.

These out-of-pocket burdens have grown as insurance has steadily shifted more costs onto patients. Because of such trends, average out-of-pocket spending has grown 58 percent over the past decade.

Consider the growth of high-deductible health plans, which typically require

patients to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket before coverage begins.

This year, 30 percent of workers have a high deductible health plan compared to just 4 percent in 2006. For people living with chronic conditions, surging out-of-pocket costs often mean delaying or forgoing care altogether.

A recent study showed that even women receiving a breast cancer diagnosis delayed treatment at every step— screening, testing, surgery, radiation, and therapy— when insured under a high deductible health plan.

This harms patients and adds to overall costs. Medication non-adherence alone causes approximately 125,000 deaths and adds nearly $300 billion to America’s healthcare bill annually. In fact, we spend more failing to optimize adherence and medication benefits than we do on drugs themselves. Reducing out-of-pocket costs would improve adherence— thus keeping people healthy, saving money and lives.

As Congress considers legislation to improve our healthcare system, it is shortsighted to focus on just one silo of care in our continuum.

Instead, policymakers should focus on ways to lower out-of-pocket costs for people living with chronic conditions. Improving access to high quality chronic disease care could save our nation $6.3 trillion in spending.

Chronic diseases are the number one cause of death, disability and rising healthcare spending in the United States. The only way to save lives and reduce costs is to invest in better treatment— and address out-of-pocket costs so treatment is accessible to the people who need it most.

Kenneth E. Thorpe is a professor of health policy at Emory University and chairman of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease.