Proper mental health care has been at a deficit for decades in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and now it's part of the county's focus as it improves its overall healthcare system.
U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) attended the opening Tuesday of a behavioral health unit that's not just focused on treatment but how they treat patients.
“Everybody knows when you have a broken arm they can see a broken arm and they can see how they can fix it and insurers can know that it’s going to get fixed and they can stop paying,” he said. “For centuries, millennia, mental health has been a much greater challenge.”
MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center’s new adult behavioral health unit includes new treatment areas, examination spaces, a quiet room and a facility for administrative hearings while patients are in care.
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“These facilities give us a chance to actually heal people so that we don't continue to recycle people who are sick and who are suffering in jail,” Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said.
When she was state's attorney, she saw firsthand how a lack of mental health resources impacted the court system, jails and the surrounding region.
“We've had two acute care facilities to service a million people – completely inadequate,” Alsobrooks said. “Over half of all of our residents who have needed inpatient care have sought it outside the county.”
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Seventy percent of the people in Prince George's County's jail arrive with prescribed mental health medication, according to Alsobrooks. The hope is that by providing more of these facilities, people can be cared for in safer environments.
“With the services that we are planning, it's going to mean that their family members are going to be living at home better and for longer,” MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Behavioral Health Chair and Medical Director Dr. Corina Freitas said. “They will have less admissions in the hospital.”
Alsobrooks said while there has been drastic improvement in mental health treatment in the county, there is still a long way to go.
A 16-bed inpatient psychiatric unit under construction at Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham will include walk-in/urgent care and will treat adults and adolescents. It's expected to open soon.