Senator Steve Hershey Pushes to Reopen Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center

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Nearly five years after the controversial closing of Chestertown’s Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center,  Senator Steve Hershey (R-36-Upper Shore) wants to revisit that decision.

In a statement released today, Hershey commented that, “with the heroin overdose epidemic being a huge problem on the Eastern Shore and statewide, it has become both obvious and imperative that the Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center should be re-opened.” At a Board of Public Works meeting on May 13, State Comptroller Peter Franchot said the closing of the Center was “outright wrong” and that he intended to get the ball rolling to getting the Center re-opened. Hershey said, “Comptroller Franchot has always been a proponent of the Center, we met with him last year to seek his support for our advocacy efforts and he assured me that he would do whatever it takes to re-open the Center.”
When the 40-bed facility was closed by then-Governor O’Malley in 2010 to save the state $2.6 million, 94 state employees lost their jobs during an economic recession. The Center provided excellent service to Marylanders statewide with outcomes above 4 on a 5 point scale. “It was the only facility in the entire State Hospital System to offer treatment for patients with dual diagnosis of substance abuse and mental illness. With the abrupt closing of the Center, many patients within our community were left without care,” said Hershey.

Delegate Jay Jacobs (R-36-Kent) while Mayor of Rock Hall led the opposition against the hospital closure. Now as the Delegate from Kent County, he together with Senator Hershey, has repeatedly introduced legislation mandating the re-opening of the Center. Jacobs said, “Those of us who tried to stop the closing were assured by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that the community safety net of services would help the discharged vulnerable patients live successfully in the community. I asked then and I ask now – where is this community safety net of services?”

Gary B. Fry, the Queen Anne’s County director of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services for the Health Department informed that the department offers out-patient drug treatment, but funds for these programs are scarce. There are two private providers in the area. One of them, the A.F. Whitsitt Center in Chestertown, is the only provider of inpatient treatment services within the five Upper Shore counties. The waiting list for Whitsitt tops 100 and nearly always exceeds 30 days. “There is a shameful lack of substance abuse treatment facilities on the Upper Shore, yet a perfectly capable 40-bed facility remains closed. In the midst of an overwhelming heroin overdose problem, failing to re-open an existing facility is just unacceptable,” said Hershey.

Both Senator Hershey and Delegate Jacobs emphasized that there is general agreement by the health professionals, judicial and law enforcement officials, as well as those who shape policy to deal with substance abuse that treatment is the most effective method of dealing with addiction. Hershey declared, “Re-opening the Center is at the very least a partial solution to the problem of widespread heroin addiction that brings grief to families across every economic, educational, racial and geographic boundary.” Hershey added, “Delegate Jacobs and I are committed to working with Comptroller Franchot, Governor (Larry) Hogan and Lt. Governor (Boyd) Rutherford to addressing the needs of our community and re-opening the Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center.”

Letters to Editor

  1. Joe Diamond says:

    This would be a worthy destination for funds seized from drug dealers.

    The idea of asset forfeiture was a good one; take the proceeds of illegal drug sales from the dealers. Instead of dividing the loot up among cop agencies for more guns and flack vests…………..fund drug treatment facilities and give social services another tool for the mentally handicapped.

    Joe

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