Howard County pushes forward with detox center plans at Springfield Hospital Center

Kate Magill
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

Howard County began the process of finding a location for its first residential detox center in July, and has now focused its search on specific short- and long-term options, according to Carl DeLorenzo, director of policy and programs.

DeLorenzo said the county is looking at the possibility of using a floor of the medical and surgical building at the state-owned Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville as a way to provide some residential care in the short-term, before it can open a larger, long-term facility. The center, located in Carroll County, would be open to any state resident, but given its proximity to Howard County, would primarily serve Howard and Carroll county residents, DeLorenzo said.

The facility would offer the most intensive form of treatment, residential detoxification, according to DeLorenzo.

The state’s Behavioral Health Administration is in the midst of assessing the cost and feasibility of renovating the Springfield space to be used for substance abuse treatment, renovations the state would fund if approved, DeLorenzo said. County and state officials plan to meet in late November to discuss the assessment and whether the state will pay for the renovations, which DeLorenzo said Howard County officials are optimistic they will do.

Carroll County Health Officer Ed Singer said the floor being considered previously housed 18 beds for substance abuse treatment, but that after the state adopted new accreditation standards for substance abuse treatment centers, the services were moved to another building on the Springfield campus in August, as the original floor needs renovations to meet those standards.

The treatment services are managed by the Shoemaker Center, and it currently operates 22 beds in its temporary location on the Springfield campus. If the services are able to move back to their original location, they would expand to 39 beds, Singer said. That’s less than half of the 100 beds DeLorenzo said Howard County hopes to ultimately offer, half of which will be for those on Medicaid insurance.

Singer said the renovations at Springfield, if approved, could take over a year to complete.

“There's a lot of work being done and collaboration between local government, Carroll and Howard County trying to help each other and work through this situation,” Singer said. “We can't make these changes overnight, but I think we're making a lot of progress.”

In its search for long-term options for a larger, dedicated detox center building, DeLorenzo said the county is currently talking with Howard County General Hospital officials about the possibility of the hospital housing the center, specifically in the southwest area of its campus.

The county is using some of its $250,000 project budget for site planning and a feasibility assessment of the hospital space, DeLorenzo said, which they hope to finish in the coming months. The hospital is also in the midst of completing its own master facility plan to look at how it will meet the needs of residents in the next five to 10 years, which includes the possibility of adding a detox center, said Elizabeth Edsall Kromm, senior director of population health and community relations.

“This is great because as we’re doing that planning and thinking, we might be able to think of a way to be a part of the county’s long-term plan for behavioral health,” Kromm said.

Kromm said that it is likely that the hospital would need to construct new space for a detox center on the campus, as it is limited in its current building capacities. She added that such a space could also include space for addressing behavioral health needs beyond detoxification, including mental health services.

“We really want to be the county’s partner in health and so we just very much appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this conversation from the beginning and potentially be a part of the solution,” Kromm said. “That’s a great thing for us.”

In the past week, the county has also been approached by two private organizations about the possibility of partnering to open a residential detox facility, DeLorenzo said.

DeLorenzo declined to say who the providers were, but that one of them had recently constructed a facility in Anne Arundel County, and that after greater attention had been brought in recent months to opening a center in Howard, the provider reached out to the county.

“We are kind of going to jump at these offers and think about what a private-public partnership might look like,” he said.

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