The Maryland Community Health Resources Commission (CHRC) presented the State Behavioral Health Award to the Prince George’s County Health Department in order to serve county residents who are re-entering society from incarceration.

The three-year grant will go to support a “public health-public safety” partnership between the Prince George’s Health Department and the Department of Corrections to provide comprehensive health coverage to 990 previously incarcerated individuals. Del. James Hubbard, D-Dist 23A, who chairs the Public Health & Long Term Care Subcommittee and helped co-sponsored legislation which created the CHRC, is happy to bring the financial assistance to Prince George’s.

“We are very fortunate that Prince George’s County has received this health care grant from the Commission,” said Hubbard in a statement. “This grant will help expand access to behavioral health services and help promote public safety in our community.”

The grant is just one of 14 awards totaling $1.3 million. Their purpose is to address the needs of underserved areas of Maryland’s population during the difficult economic time. The grant given to Prince George’s will total $300,000.

“The Commission is dedicated to addressing the most pressing health care needs in Maryland,” John A. Hurson, chairman of the Maryland Community Health Resources Commission, said in a statement. “This grant to Prince George’s County will expand access to health care and help drive down runaway health care costs for all of us.”

Behavioral health is just one of many issues plaguing Prince George’s County’s ex-offenders. County officials have been trying to find different ways to address the needs of the populations of that sect so they can not only stay out of jail, but become productive members of society.

Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters, D-Dist. 23, who co-sponsored an Inmate Aftercare Bill, says it’s necessary for inmates to be given the proper care if they’re not to repeat the mistakes that landed them in jail in the first place.

“An individual making the transition back into the civilian world after prison has a real high possibility of relapse if they don’t continue their substance abuse program,” said Peters. “This is a way to build a bridge between coming out of prison and going into society.

“We’re very concerned that people coming out of prison aren’t getting healthier,” Peters continued. “You have people that suffer from substance abuse and they get out of prison after getting counseling and there’s nothing there. Then they’re going to go right back to substance abuse and that leads to a lot of problems.”

Now that this funding is being dispersed, officials expect a closer relationship between the county’s public health sector and its public safety sector. They believe intervention and prevention are greater possibilities with these resources.

“The Prince George’s County Health Department works side-by-side with our public safety community to provide direct and meaningful services and interventions to help individuals develop the skills and resiliency to stop participating in criminal behavior,” Hubbard said. “These resources will provide the Prince George’s County Health Department with the essential resources to access and counsel offenders with substance abuse and mental health disorders.”

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO