State to contribute to Poplar Hill recovery center

Wicomico County has been granted nearly $1 million from the state to begin renovating the former Poplar Hill Pre-Release Unit and transforming it into a live-in detoxification and recovery center for those addicted to opioids and other drugs.

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford.

On Thursday, Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver and Assistant County Administrator Weston Young attended a news conference in Baltimore, called by Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, who announced Wicomico will receive $972,684.

“This amount of money is a great start,” Young said, adding he’ll participate in upcoming conference calls with members of Hogan’s staff, to discuss the property where the former Poplar Hill is located, on Nanticoke Road in Quantico.

The county will put out a Request for Proposal, or RFP, for service providers interested in working at the center.

Providers in the area are eligible to bid, and Young said he expects a competitive bidding process.

“We, the county, are acting as a pass-through. Other than staff time we don’t intend to run it or put any of our money into it,” Young said.

“Our mission is to provide 24-hour detox, drug withdrawal management, and then residential treatment and residential recovery housing for the Eastern Shore,” he said.

Culver initiated the idea and first told the Wicomico County Council about it in July last year, assuring them no local money would be requested.

Culver met with Clay Stamp, who, at the time, was Executive Director of the Opioid Operational Command Center under Gov. Larry Hogan, and state officials, including those who were in Ocean City for the Maryland Association of Counties annual conference last summer.

Stamp no longer has that position, so county officials met with his successor, Steve Schuh, former County Executive for Anne Arundel County.

“What we’re trying to offer here isn’t currently offered. We need that 24-7 facility so that when a person makes up their mind, we can get them there within minutes,” Young said, adding the program will be in conjunction with the county’s Community Outreach Addictions Team, or COAT.

He credited county businesses willing to train and hire those who go through the recovery program, including Pohanka Salisbury.

“Locally what we’re finding is when somebody gets arrested, they get detoxed and sometimes they lose their job because they’re not showing up for work. Then they come out and within 90 days they are cycling right back though the system. So we will be trying to get them job experience,” Young said.

There is no target date for opening the center, because Poplar Hill needs considerable renovation, including making it coed. Currently, there is only one set of showers, for men only. Plumbing has to be upgraded and the building air conditioned.

The county will apply for additional funds, including USDA Rural Funds, but hopes to begin with 20 beds and expand to about 60.

The intention is for the county to lease the property from the state and for state and federal dollars to fund all renovations that Young estimated will total $10 million.

“We don’t plan to put county taxpayers’ dollars into this facility. We don’t plan to ask the County Council or other Councils for any money.

“This is purely state and federal money. We have spoken to people who got money in Delaware for a similar program. We are only asking the county for support,” Young said.

“And, we are asking if a person comes from Somerset County, for example, that we would like Somerset to have a job for them. We are asking that the counties that send people to the facility provide jobs for those people,” he said.

Also at the press conference, Rutherford announced funding initiatives including $248 million in the General Fund for substance use disorder services.

The Hogan administration plans to increase state spending on addiction treatment and recovery programs, Rutherford said.

“We’ve had a laser focus on implementing a holistic, multi-pronged approach to combating this epidemic through prevention, treatment and recovery, as well as enforcement efforts,” Rutherford said.


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