Prince George’s County residents in the 20748 zip code said in a community health needs assessment report last year that MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center in Clinton should have more treatment focused on mental health and substance abuse disorders.
The hospital, which serves the area known as South County and neighboring counties in southern Maryland, is set to open a new behavioral health unit this month.
Hospital, county, state and federal officials celebrated the unit coming to Prince George’s at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday outside the hospital.
The $7.6 million project to construct the unit inside the hospital will provide 24 beds for inpatient care equipped with an examination room, dining area and a group/consult room.
The project, conducted in two phases, received financial support with $925,000 in federal money and another $840,000 in state funding. The second phase will provide outpatient services for those discharged from inpatient care.
Psychiatrists, social workers, physician assistants, nurses and other staff will be working with the patients.
“This is taxpayer money well-spent and will truly benefit the members of our community,” said Dr. Stephen T. Michaels, who became president of the hospital on Jan. 28.
The hospital, which has 260 beds and handles at least 150 patients per day, currently provides mental health inpatient and outpatient services for such needs as anxiety, depression and substance abuse disorders.
But the hospital’s specialized unit plans to provide additional support and programs for those 18 and older to assess conditions like bipolar, schizophrenia and those who may be suicidal.
The length of a person’s stay for treatment will be managed on a case-by-case basis, said Dr. Corina Freitas, a psychiatrist and medical director for behavioral health at the hospital.
Freitas told the story of a woman who voluntarily sought mental health treatment. She was diagnosed with early onset dementia.
However, Freitas said, she stayed at the hospital for nearly 60 days because “we could not find [a] placement for her. She didn’t have any income and no family support, so where would she go?”
Freitas continued: “We don’t want to keep anyone for 60 days, but we want a safe discharge plan. The reality is the people who have the supports they need come in and out. I can stabilize someone for three days. Those who lack the social support and social services in the community get stuck for a very long time. This [unit] is a very big deal.”
Prince George’s leads the state of Maryland in various health ailments including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Enthusiasm rose last year with the opening of the University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center in Largo. A groundbreaking ceremony took place on the hospital’s campus in April to begin construction of a new cancer center scheduled to open in 2024.
The behavioral health unit at MedStar aims to boost mental and physical treatment in the majority-Black jurisdiction.
“Your physical health is dependent on your mental health. If your physical health is poor, then your mental health follows that,” said Dr. Ernest Carter, the county’s health officer. “Most people just need a little bit of help. These are the facilities that will help people get over that hump.”