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August 30, 2022

Frederick County identifies location for crisis stabilization center, prepares to renovate building

Credit: Frederick News-Post, Angela Roberts

Frederick County has identified a location for its crisis stabilization center and should be ready to start accepting patients by the end of next summer, County Executive Jan Gardner said at a news conference on Tuesday.

The county is not yet ready to say which specific building will house the center, since the structure is currently occupied, Gardner said. But, she added, it is a space on the county’s campus on Montevue Lane.

Once open, the stabilization center will provide a safe, comfortable place for Frederick County residents experiencing mental illness, substance use problems and other crises.

People who visit the center can meet with a peer recovery specialist or clinician, get connected with other county mental health resources or just have a hot meal and a shower, Andrea Walker, the director of behavioral health services at the Frederick County Health Department, said on Tuesday.

There will be beds to spend the night, if they need to, and comfortable recliners where they can relax, she said.

The addiction crisis and opioid epidemic are “equal opportunity” problems, Gardner, D, said on Tuesday. They affect families in rural areas and urban areas, poor people and rich people, and everyone in between.

“I think people will see this over the next few years make a difference to the well-being of people in our community,” Gardner said of the stabilization center. “We all have a friend, a family member, a neighbor — somebody we know who has suffered from mental health and addiction.”

The county is getting ready to start renovating the building that will house the crisis center, Gardner said. On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. David Trone presented the county with a check for $850,000 to help with renovation costs.

The congressman, a Democrat who represents District 6, requested federal funding for the crisis center in last fiscal year’s budget. This year, he requested about $700,000 to help furnish the center and pay for equipment once it opens.

The addiction crisis is personal for Trone. His nephew died of a fentanyl overdose in 2016. One of the biggest reasons Trone ran for Congress, he said, was to help confront the country’s problems with mental health and substance use.

“That’s our whole, all-consuming focus,” he said at the news conference on Tuesday.

Although the county talked for many years about establishing a crisis center, the pandemic clarified the urgent need for one, Walker said in an interview on Tuesday.

Law enforcement officers have expressed concern for people they’ve met on calls, who were experiencing mental health crises but did not want to go to the emergency department.

For some, it’s a matter of price. For others, it’s the stigma or wait time.

The department’s bright lights, loud sounds and waiting room filled with people isn’t the most calming environment for someone experiencing a crisis, said Shannon Aleshire, CEO of the Mental Health Association of Frederick County.

The stabilization center will build on existing county resources for people facing mental health and substance use problems, Aleshire said.

The Mental Health Association’s call center gives Frederick County residents someone to listen. The county’s mobile crisis unit provides someone to respond.

When the crisis center opens, residents will have somewhere to go.

“This is the final puzzle piece,” Aleshire said.