IN THE NEWS – The Washington County Commissioners approved grants totaling $569,412 last week to expand access to health services, including mental health services and a new mobile health program for underserved areas in the county.
The Maryland Department of Health is providing all the grants; none of the money comes from the county government. The commissioners also serve as the county Board of Health and approved the grants in that capacity.
The grants include:
- $104,292 to expand mental health crisis response services. This approval is retroactive to Oct. 1, 2022, and is effective through June 30.
The grant pays for a contract with Way Station Inc. of Hagerstown, which “has a pretty extensive crisis — specifically mobile crisis — service that they are operating now,” said Washington County Health Officer Earl Stoner. The money comes from the Behavioral Health Administration of the Maryland Department of Health and is used, Stoner said, to add staff so the service can operate around the clock.
“When those crises happen, they can respond to those on-site and work with that individual to de-escalate and get them into some sort of treatment,” he said.
That could include responding to a substance overdose or responding to someone having a mental health crisis, Stoner said, adding that police most often contact the service for these incidents.
The grant allows the health department to add evening and weekend hours for this service, which sends crisis workers to the scene of the incident, said Behavioral Health Director Victoria Sterling.
Stoner said the grant is actually federal funding, funneled through the state Department of Health.
- $76,134 to establish a mobile health program through Meritus Medical Center.
This grant aims to address areas where residents can’t get care easily, and the Health Department plans to partner with Meritus to provide health services, including COVID vaccines and testing, in these areas.
“They have a pretty state-of-the-art mobile unit that they’ve been utilizing for some time now specifically targeting COVID vaccinations and testing,” Stoner said, “but in partnership with them, we’re really looking at expanding it and looking at health disparities from communities that are historically marginalized — communities of color, geographically isolated communities.”
The focus, he said, will be making sure these residents can get primary care and access to mental health services.
- $276,495 to continue the Adolescent Clubhouse program through Horizon Goodwill Industries, which provides safe places for youth to meet and participate in activities aimed at steering them away from harmful activities.
Stoner said Horizon has been operating the program in Hagerstown for the past year, and “it’s been pretty well-received in the community.”
The money comes from the Behavioral Health Administration of the Maryland Department of Health.
“This is state opioid-response funding,” Sterling said. The Health Department is required to make monthly and yearly reports, she added, to document results.
Last year, she said, the program served 45 county youth.
“Not only do they work with the youth, but they also work with the families,” she said, and had helped families find housing as many of these youth were homeless.
“There’s lots of different stories and successes that come out of it,” Sterling said.
- $112,491 for another contract with Meritus Medical Center to expand the crisis beds and stabilization services to cover the period from Oct. 1, 2022 through June 30.
This money, also granted through the Maryland Health Department’s Behavioral Health Administration, is being used for recovery specialists in the Meritus emergency department to work with patients affected by addictions.
The commissioners gave unanimous approval to all four grants.
This story was originally published in The Herald-Mail and on HeraldMailMedia.com in January 2023. Written by Tamela Baker, The Herald-Mail USA Today Network.