St. Mary’s County Designated a Health Enterprise Zone

January 31, 2013

Health Enterprise ZoneLt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown announced on Thursday the designation of the State’s first Health Enterprise Zones (HEZ) in five locations including Greater Lexington Park in St. Mary’s County. Community coalitions in each area will receive a range of incentives, benefits and grant funding to address unacceptable and persistent health disparities.

Championed by the Lt. Governor and jointly administered by the Community Health Resources Commission (CHRC) and Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), the Initiative is a four-year pilot program with a budget of $4 million per year. St. Mary’s County’s portion of the award is $850,000 per year, totaling $3.4 million.

“As the trusted leader in caring for people and advancing health, MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital actively seeks ways to improve the quality of life for our community. To reduce health disparities in Lexington Park, we began the Get Connected to Health program as a means to close the gap,” said Joan Gelrud,vice president of MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital.

MedStar St. Mary’s already has a strong relationship with community partners so the collaboration was a natural effort. “It takes the whole village to change health care disparities and in this case the village includes Walden Sierra Inc., St. Mary’s County Health Department, SMC Department of Social Services, Greater Baden Medical Services, Minority Outreach Coalition, SMC Community Development Corporation, SMC Department of Aging and Human Services, SMC Housing Authority and the Southern Maryland Center for Independent Living and many others,” said Lori Werrell, director of Health Connections at MedStar St. Mary’s.

“We can’t wait to bring additional providers to Lexington Park to provide culturally competent, integrated primary care and behavioral health,” commented Gelrud. “This care will be supplemented with transportation via a van service along a 16-mile healthcare route, translator services and community health workers.”

The purposes of the HEZ are to: (1) Reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic minority populations and among geographic areas; (2) Improve health care access and health outcomes in underserved communities; and (3) Reduce health care costs and hospital admissions and re-admissions.

“The HEZ opportunity provided a chance to partner with our colleagues and use creativity to design programs to reduce disparities while making a difference in the Lexington Park revitalization effort,” Gelrud said.

Grant budgets will be finalized shortly with the Community Health Resources Commission (CHRC) and Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH).

For additional information about the HEZ Initiative, please visit http://dhmh.maryland.gov/healthenterprisezones/SitePages/Updates.aspx.

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