Howard County officials are preparing to survey land in Elkridge as a possible home for the county’s first residential drug treatment center.
The site, at Meadowridge Road and Old Rockbridge Drive, is on county-owned land adjacent to the Mayfield Maintenance Facility, according to director of policy and programs Carl DeLorenzo.
DeLorenzo said the county’s maintenance operation would be moved to make room for the in-patient treatment center.
Officials are reviewing three bids from architectural firms to survey the Mayfield site, as DeLorenzo called it, to determine if the land could house a facility.
The county won’t know for certain if the three-acre site is the right choice until after the survey is completed, DeLorenzo said. The county has budgeted $250,000 for project planning and the survey, expected to be completed by the end of summer, is estimated to cost about $100,000.
“We have to see what the architect comes back with, but this is the [site] that we want them to evaluate,” he said.
The announcement comes as the county continues to battle an opioid epidemic. As of April 9 there have been 77 fatal and non-fatal opioid overdoses in the county, according to police. January, February and March this year all saw higher overdose numbers compared to 2017.
County Executive Allan Kittleman included the project in his proposed 2019 capital budget, but no money is allocated to the facility for next year.
The project description includes an estimated $14.8 million budget and a timeline to break ground in 2021 and open in 2023, but DeLorenzo noted the dates and budget are subject to change as the project moves forward.
The survey of the property will include input from health experts who will help determine if the site can adequately support the necessary functions of a residential treatment center, according to Howard County Health Officer Maura Rossman.
“Form has to follow function,” Rossman said. “We want to make sure we get this right and do well by our residents that we will be serving, making sure that we have the expertise needed to inform the decisions that go into designing and operating a state of the art facility.”
DeLorenzo said the county hopes to create a center that can treat patients’ full spectrum of needs, including crisis stabilization and outpatient services; he’d like to see the facility hold a minimum of 50 beds.
Mayfield’s selection came down in large part to land availability in the county, DeLorenzo said, but it also offers the benefit of its proximity to Interstate 95 and its relative seclusion, with a portion of forested land on the site.
The county has not begun conversations with neighbors about the project, but DeLorenzo said officials plan to do so as the project moves forward..
“We are very confident that this can be operated as a safe and contained facility,” he said. “In Howard County, it’s going to be difficult to find property that is completely contained from communities. But what has to be more of a factor is finding the right location and then it’s incumbent on us to communicate with the community.”
If the Mayfield site is the right choice, DeLorenzo said the next major step will be for officials to decide whether the facility should be county owned and operated by a contracted private provider or if the county should sell the property to a private provider.
The decision will be influenced by the cost of a privately versus publicly owned facility, as well as how quickly each could be built, “since there’s a sense of urgency with this,” DeLorenzo said.
As the county moves forward with the Mayfield site, DeLorenzo said they are continuing to work to draw private providers to the county to establish their own centers.
The county is in talks with the state to use a floor of the Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville, but that that possibility has slowed as the facility undergoes renovations.
“We have to be pursuing all three [options] and keep our options open. We are definitely encouraging multiple facilities [to open], because if we have multiple facilities then we an be more nimble and creative in how we spread the services around,” DeLorenzo said. “Maybe we could work with our partners and set up a continuum that’s a system of care for multiple facilities. We think the approach we’re taking lends itself to moving forward on certain locations while at the same time keeps our options open.”