Prince George’s County residents in need of mental health or substance abuse treatment will soon be able receive services within the confines of their own jurisdiction.

As soon as December, outpatient services will be available on the first floor of a 31,200-square-foot building located next to Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center in Lanham.

Earlier this month, Luminis Health submitted its application to the Maryland Health Care Commission for approval to offer a 16-bed, in-patient adult program for county residents.

Deneen Richmond, president of the medical center, believes the commission will move quickly and approve the request.

“Half of the county’s residents who required inpatient mental health care had to leave the county,” she said Monday at a groundbreaking ceremony next to the hospital in Lanham. “This facility will go a long way to address the needs of Prince Georgians choosing quality behavioral health care.”

The current building previously served as a nursing home for about 100 people who have since been relocated to a newer facility on the Luminis Health campus. Renovations will be funded by the county at a cost of $20 million with Luminis Health adding an additional $3 million toward construction of the building which they will maintain once it opens.

County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced last year the money would be reallocated from the police department budget and voters approved the redirection of funds in the November election.

When Alsobrooks served as state’s attorney before she became county executive in December 2019, she said about 70 percent of those arrested “were intoxicated.”

“We’re going to treat people with the dignity that they deserve and in facilities where they can actually be healed,” she said. “We are asking, in many instances, for police to do work they are not equipped or trained to do. It made sense to use $20 million to actually pay for people to be healed rather than to keep recycling them through a criminal justice system where they don’t belong.”

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated mental health disparities in Prince George’s with only two acute inpatient psychiatry units currently open. County statistics from 2019 indicate that more than 34 percent of adult residents reported experiencing at least one poor day of mental health in the previous month with 15 percent reporting challenges which lasted for one week or longer.

The new center will accommodate about 5,000 patients 13 and older annually for ambulatory services including substance abuse and psychiatric disorders and general counseling needs and will employ 100 in roles ranging from therapists and nurse practitioners to psychologists and social workers.

Luminis CEO Victoria Bayless said community and nonprofit organizations can volunteer as family advisors for patients.

“It is going to be a wonderful team of folks coming together,” she said. “To have a public-private partnership with the county is really accelerating our vision. We’re able to do things faster and sooner than we would have otherwise been able to do on our own.”

Richmond, a certified nurse and county native, said the proposed behavioral health center remains something that’s personal to her.

“This is a county of almost a million people and the fact that people have to leave [here] to get the care they need is a tragedy,” she said. “I am very proud to be a part of being able to offer behavioral health services for Prince Georgians right here, close to home.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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