Prince George’s County could potentially receive millions of dollars from the state government for a healthy neighborhood program if the pitch is right.
State and local officials including Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) discussed the state government’s new Health Enterprise Zones at an Aug. 2 community forum.
“We got a 15-page document that outlines it, we’re looking to you to define it,” said Brown to a crowd of about 50 attendees at the Glassmanor Community Center in Oxon Hill.
The Health Enterprise Zones were authorized earlier this year by the General Assembly and under the plan, the state will provide $4 million to support multiple zones. Program proposals are due by the end of September and the winners will be selected in December. The winning proposals will receive their portion of the $4 million in January.
The zones will fund a new health focused initiative within a community tasked with finding ways to improve a community dealing with noticeable health disparities compared to the rest of the state, said Benjamin Stutz, Brown’s policy director.
Stutz said the funding would likely be split among four zones with a targeted community of about 5,000 people.
Fort Washington resident Tracie Robinson, a dance therapist with Largo-based Access to Wholistic and Productive Living, said she and the institute will most likely submit an application to create a program in the county geared towards dealing both with the needs of the mind and body, she said.
“We want to do something for the community,” she said.
The HEZ creation comes as a July report by the University of Maryland School of Public Health shows that Prince George’s County residents suffer from certain chronic illnesses at higher rates than neighboring counties as well as certain health disparities compared to other counties. For example, there are about 53 doctors for every 100,000 residents in Prince George’s County compared to about 95 doctors for every 100,000 residents in Montgomery County, according to the report.
With only $4 million dollars spread across multiple sites, Prince George’s County Councilman Obie Patterson (D-Dist. 8) of Fort Washington questioned the program’s effectiveness.
“[Four million dollars] isn’t going to do very much other than giving you an assessment of what’s there,” said Patterson, whose district includes Oxon Hill. “I’m a little concerned about building up expectations.”
The county is an ideal place for one of the HEZ and could produce ideas that benefit other areas, Baker said.
“We think we have a really great shot at having one of the zones here,” Baker said. “The innovative ideas and programs you come up with here will help the county and the state.”