Health care systems in several of Washington’s Maryland suburbs — Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties and Annapolis — have been awarded funding under a new state “Health Enterprise Zone” program to increase access to medical services for the disadvantaged.
Also receiving funds will be health care programs in Dorchester and Caroline counties and West Baltimore.
Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) on Thursday announced the launch of the new, $16 million dollar, four-year pilot program.
“As a state we have the second highest number of primary care providers on a per-capita basis, and some of the nation’s best hospitals, yet we rank 35th when it comes to geographic equality,” Brown said, “There are still communities in our state where people don’t have access to primary care. We need a new approach...to addressing gaps, these disparities that exist in our most underserved communities.”
The Prince George’s zone will create five new patient-centered medical homes in Capitol Heights, a neighborhood that Brown's office says, “leads the county in poor health outcomes,” including teen births, low birth weights, and late or no prenatal care.
Pam Creekmur, a health officer from the Prince George’s County Health Department, said she hopes the proposal creates jobs as well as helps people. The agency is hoping to reduce incidents of hypertension, diabetes, and asthma attacks.
In Annapolis, the Anne Arundel Health Care system will focus on providing health care for low-income senior citizens. In West Baltimore, health officials want to improve access to healthy food and exercise facilities.
All of the grant recipients say they want to bring primary care providers into communities where the population has been underserved, and to reduce the utilization of Emergency Rooms.
One of the speakers, Dr. E. Albert Reece, dean of the University of Maryland school of medicine, said that he hopes that the program will become a “national model.”
“I’ve already had two calls, one from the state of Georgia and the other from New York State,” he said.
Brown, a likely candidate for governor who said he has taken the lead on the initiative for nearly two years, said that he hopes that this program is just the beginning of a larger one.
“Over the last six years... we’ve taken steps to make Maryland one of the healthiest states in the nation,” said Brown, “And we’ve enjoyed successes...we’ve reduced infant mortality to the lowest levels in the history of the state, we’ve led the way in implementing President Obama’s Affordable care act...but there’s still a lot of work to do.”