After a partnership with Set the Captives Free Outreach Center and more than $1 million for design and construction, Baltimore County leaders and officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday for the new Woodlawn Health Center.
Located in the O.W.E. Center at Security Square Mall, the new facility will provide primary care services, health counseling, immunizations, screening, diagnosis, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and other services.
“I’m excited, it means more accessibility for the community,” said Dr. Karen Stanley Bethea, senior pastor of Set the Captives Free Outreach Center. “A lot of the services where they had to go to all these certain places for are now in one spot which encourages people to get out and do what they need to do — sometimes people won’t go get what they need because it was too difficult.”
Set the Captives Free Outreach Center, a nondenominational church that runs the O.W.E Center, originally paid $4.75 million in 2018 to buy 160,000 square feet in Security Square Mall for a space to hold worship and offer community services. O.W.E. stands for Outreach, Worship and Education.
The new 8,800-square-foot facility in the O.W.E. Center more than doubles the size of the previous Woodlawn Health Center.
“Through this first-of-its-kind partnership with a vital community partner, Baltimore County is now better equipped to ensure more equitable access to health services and improve health outcomes for our most vulnerable residents,” Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said.
Construction began on the $1.5 million project in December 2020 after the partnership was announced, according to a news release.
“This new site and the public-private partnership will go a long way toward removing barriers for accessing essential services, enhancing community education/outreach efforts, and improving health outcomes in this community,” said Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch, Baltimore County Health Officer and the county’s director of health and human services.
The new space also offers improved access for patients to public transportation, expanded on-site parking, and other community services.
Bethea said parking was a huge issue at the old health center, which operated in the basement of the county’s Woodlawn library branch on Woodlawn Drive nearby.
“It was tight and tiny and most of the parking was taken up by people who were going to the library,” she said.
The prior center also was the busiest health center in the county — accounting for about 25% of all patients served by the county’s eight health centers. Bethea said she envisioned a more modern health center that could support the community.
“We are so proud to partner with the county to relocate their health center,” she said.
Bethea also looks forward to expanding the community services at the O.W.E. Center, with plans to add a youth center, a 24/7 daycare, and a workforce development center.
“We are grateful to Pastor Karen Bethea and Set the Captives Free for their commitment to and partnership in supporting public health,” Olszewski said.