Mary's Center Brings Services to Prince George's County

Gale Horton Gay | 5/31/2012, 5:27 p.m.

An organization dedicated to providing medical and social services to individuals likely to fall through the cracks has extended its reach into Prince George's County.

On May 16 a ribbon-cutting ceremony was a held for a new Mary's Center in Adelphi. Located within the Judy Hoyer Center building, the new facility will join five other Mary's Center locations in Northwest Washington and Silver Spring, Md. Some 1,500 persons [including 400 pregnant women and 300 children] a month are being seen at the new center.

"What we have found during these three months of services at our new center is a clear radiography of the health status in Prince George's County; most of the residents coming for services are uninsured and have not seen a doctor for years, pregnant women are starting prenatal care at an advanced stage, and adults with chronic diseases are not taking their medications regularly - all due to the lack of primary care providers in the county," said Maria Gomez, Mary's Center president and CEO. "We are very pleased to be a part of the solution."

In addition to primary care services, the new Mary's Center is partnering with the Prince George's County Public Schools, the Judy Hoyer Family Learning Center and the Prince George's Child Resource Center to implement a three-pronged "social change model of service delivery: the provision of health care, education and social services."

Founded in 1988, Mary's Center initially focused on maternal and child care for immigrant women from Central America. However, over the years it grew to provide primary health care and other services to individuals born in the United States as well as immigrants from more than 40 different countries. It estimates that it has served 24,000 clients from 91 countries.

Gomez praised Prince George's leadership for welcoming the center to the county. She said a surprising spirit of cooperation exists through government agencies such as the county health and social services departments as well as the school system, corporate partners and the faith community.

"There's a lot of positive leadership," Gomez said.

She cited CareFirst, a health care insurance company, which donated $1.5 million for the development of the Adelphi facility and funding for the first year. She called their gift a "fabulous investment." Additional funding came from Providence Hospital, March of Dimes, the Phillip Graham Fund and the George Preston Fund.

"This grant signifies our commitment to reducing health disparities in the communities we serve," said Maria Harris Tildon, CareFirst senior vice president of public policy and community affairs.

William R. Hite Jr., superintendent of Prince George's County Public Schools, commented, "A healthy child is a happy child. A happy child can focus on their schoolwork."

Operating as a federally qualified health center since 2004, Mary's Center provides access to health care services regardless of participants' ability to pay.

"It uses a holistic, multipronged approach to help each participant access individualized services that set them on the path toward good health, stable families, and economic independence," according to its website.

"We believe that individuals who are healthy and feel supported in their communities become better learners and are motivated to achieve greater economic stability. We have observed that stable families place more emphasis on the educational achievement of their children, thus strengthening the well-being - and health - of the next generation."

Gomez said the 10-exam room health center in Adelphi will offer mental health services along with the other health services and a mobile health unit will move about the county daily. Beginning in August, a new mobile dental unit [with three dental chairs] will start traversing the county.

Gomez said one of their priorities is making sure low-income people are enrolled in some type of health insurance and can be referred to health care providers for services.

"We hope we continue working with the [Prince George's County] health department and have an opportunity to build more sites especially in Landover and south Prince George's County," Gomez said.