- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
For residents of Charles County’s western side, notoriously underserved when it comes to medical services, help is on the way.
County and state officials gathered Wednesday at the Charles County Department of Health in White Plains to announce the receipt of a $125,000 grant to be used to open a patient care facility in Nanjemoy. The clinic will occupy the building where the Greater Baden Medical Services facility was housed prior to the group’s move to La Plata last fall.
The grant also will support the Partnership for a Healthier Charles County, a collaborative effort between the health department, University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center, Charles County Public Schools and the College of Southern Maryland.
The grant comes from the state’s Community Health Resources Commission. Previously, CHRC Executive Director Mark Luckner said, the group has distributed $1.2 million in grants to health groups in the county, including Health Partners in Waldorf, Greater Baden and the Bel Alton Dental Clinic.
Charles County Health Officer Dr. Dianna E. Abney said the grant represents a significant milestone in improving access to care for all the county’s residents.
“It will be like how being a doctor used to be, when your doctor was really there for you and got as much done for you as they could,” Abney said. “How excited we are to open a clinic in a part [of the county] that has had some disparities. I look at this as a way to start to work toward some of our other goals.”
The use of the empty facility to house the new clinic was granted by the Charles County commissioners. Commissioner Debra M. Davis (D), whose district includes Nanjemoy, said the opening of the clinic is a step in the right direction.
“What can we say but yes to this? … I feel there’s so much more to be done,” Davis said. “I think it symbolizes that we still care and recognize the disparities, and we’re working on them. I think that’s the biggest thing for me.”
State Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton, who helped establish the CHRC in 2005, said the clinic will help the county keep up with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which he described as a “monumental piece of legislation.”
“The job of the legislature was very easy there,” Middleton (D-Charles) said in reference to state deliberations on crafting rules for the requirements of the national act, calling Maryland a state “on the forefront of preparedness” to embrace the changes that will come with the legislation.
“I’m just tickled to death that we got this grant,” Middleton said. “Nanjemoy is not the most underserved in just the county, but the whole region, and we have to keep working at that.”
Later, he said the clinic is significant to him for one very simple reason.
“Access. Access is the big thing,” Middleton said. “We don’t have a gas station, a grocery store down there. There’s hardly anything. They go without access to a doctor’s office down there, and they can’t see one. It’s very important to get that coordination.”
Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said the clinic represents just one way the state is reaching out to limit health care disparities for its residents.
“One of the things is we’re trying to support local innovation,” Sharfstein said. “What we want to do is, instead of setting changes at the state level, passing the money down locally. I think this is a great example of that. I’m impressed by the strategic nature of this. [Abney] won’t just be putting a doctor in there … she wants to create a completely sustainable situation. It’s a terrific marriage of both the strategic and the local connection.”