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Politics

Crownsville Hospital Center rehabilitation project to get first allotment of state funds in proposed budget

After closing its door in 2004, Crownsville Hospital Center has remained vacant and unusable with asbestos caked in the underground steam tunnels and a shameful history of “treating” mentally ill Black Marylanders.

The facility was originally named the “Maryland Hospital of the Negro Insane.” Staff forced psychiatric patients to work as farmers and manual laborers on the land in order to manage their illnesses.

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Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said cleaning and renovating the buildings into a productive space to help those in need in the county was a goal of his from the start of his first term in office. And he received a big win for that project late last month when Gov. Larry Hogan published his proposed fiscal 2023 budget, and $2.5 million was allocated toward improvements to the Crownsville center.

“We were thrilled that he did that in his budget — specifically singled out Crownsville. That was the first investment, the first commitment of dollars to a very large project,” Pittman said, adding his administration estimates the project will cost about $30 million in total.

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The administration’s vision for Crownsville Hospital Memorial Park includes turning it into a nonprofit incubator, with housing for veterans and health and wellness programs “that will grow from the ashes of yesterday’s approaches to mental health,” Pittman said to the Anne Arundel County Maryland General Assembly delegation last week.

“Our No. 1 ask of the Maryland General Assembly this year is more funding for Crownsville hospital,” he added.

One other small caveat remains: The county doesn’t own this property yet, the state does. However, Pittman said Hogan is favorable to the county’s request to obtain the land. The transfer first must be approved by the Board of Public Works and is expected to be completed by the second half of 2022.

Rehabbing the 60 buildings across 544 acres will be a long, step-by-step process. Pittman said his first step is creating a memorial park at the hospital to honor those who are buried there.

Janice Hayes Williams, an Annapolis historian who has studied the history of Crownsville Hospital Center extensively, wrote in an editorial in The Capital in 2020 that the first burial took place at the site in 1912 and headstones were labeled with only numbers, not names, until the 1950s when the patients themselves began labeling the headstones with names.

Williams and other local volunteers have been working to identify all the remaining nameless Marylanders who were buried there.


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