- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Hours after announcing late last month that the state would channel millions in state funding to help reduce health disparities in five communities across the state, including the Lexington Park area, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown assured Charles County officials that they would not be left behind.
Speaking to the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland in Annapolis, Brown (D) said the state received 19 applications from communities seeking designation as Health Enterprise Zones, an initiative modeled on Maryland Enterprise Zones, which encourage businesses to locate in certain areas by offering income and property tax credits.
From those 19 applications, five were chosen to make up the first batch of HEZs, which also includes Great Mills and Park Hall.
The project will receive $850,000 in state funding for four years to build a community health care center off Great Mills Road and bring five primary-care physicians, a psychiatrist and two licensed social workers to the area. A new transit route to help residents make it to their appointments is also planned.
“It’s a really exciting application,” Brown said. “It’s an exciting program. It’s going to bring more primary-care physicians into the area. It’s has a transportation system to connect patients to providers, so we’re really excited.”
Brown also noted that Charles County submitted one of the applications, and though it wasn’t chosen this time, its future prospects looked good.
“As we find more resources, we’re going to include you in that, as well,” he said to the Charles County officials in the room. “So don’t you worry. It’s just a first round of Health Enterprise Zones.”
Brown said he had discussed the county’s application with local health officials, who “shared a very common opinion and sentiment, and that is that just going through the process of applying for these Health Enterprise Zones, which requires collaboration and partnership, you all have identified resources that you’re going to be able to bring together to address disparities even though you’re not designated as a zone.”
The lieutenant governor touted the administration’s record on education, crime prevention and college affordability but said the state needed to do a better job of investing in its infrastructure.
He also mentioned Gov. Martin O’Malley’s (D) push to tighten gun regulations and establish a wind farm off the coast of Ocean City as the administration’s top legislative priorities.
At the mention of the offshore wind bill — which has caused controversy in St. Mary’s County over concerns it could interfere with the Patuxent River Naval Air Station’s radar systems during training missions and flight testing — Brown glanced at St. Mary’s County Commissioner Todd Morgan (R), former president of the Southern Maryland Navy Alliance.
“I know it’s not a crowd pleaser for the Pax River community, but I think we can certainly address the concerns that you have for encroaching on the Atlantic [test ranges],” Brown said. “It’s a pretty big ocean out there, so we’ll find the right spot to put those big turbines.”