Montgomery County Chief Administrative Officer Rich Madaleno and David Dise, Director of the Department of General Services, delivered good news to more than 40 people gathered Thursday evening for a town hall meeting at the county council offices in Rockville.
“There is no project, [County Executive Marc Elrich] does not intend to build a bus depot on the Seven Locks site,” Madaleno told the group.
The news received a round of applause. The rest of the night, however, was more contentious.
Madaleno was referring to a plan being considered by the county’s health and human services department, police department, fire and rescue personnel and senior government officials to build a bus depot, food court and a new county detention center on county-owned land off Seven Locks Road. and Wootton Parkway.
County officials said the bus depot project — which would have parked up to 250 buses (most school buses) and a maintenance facility — has been shelved. This was good news for many members of the public, including several members of the Seven Locks Alliance – a group of neighbors against the depot and restoration center.
But they weren’t happy with the plan to move forward with the restoration center — a facility that county officials say would serve as a valuable resource for those with mental health issues and help divert the people from the nearby detention center for treatment.
Madaleno and Dise, along with several other senior county officials, argued that such a facility would help free up resources in many parts of county government and help address the ongoing challenges of people with mental health issues. These officials included: Police Chief Marcus Jones; Fire Chief Scott Goldstein; Raymond Crowel, Director of the Department of Health and Human Services; Ronaldo Santiago, chief of behavioral health and crisis services at HHS; and Angela Talley, director of the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation.
Madaleno said the Seven Locks property is the county’s preferred site for the restoration center.
“Is there an optimal solution on another site?” We will always keep looking for that, but at some point there may not be one,” Madaleno said.
The case of the department for a catering center on the site of the 7 locks
For about two hours, county officials argued that a restoration center could serve as a model for others across the state and country in how to handle those experiencing a behavioral health crisis.
There were also practical benefits to having a food center, they said. Jones and Goldstein told attendees that police and other first responders spend hundreds, if not thousands, of hours each year caring for people with mental health issues.
Having the ability to deliver those people to a food center would allow first responders to spend more time on patrols and service calls, chiefs said.
County officials also asked two drug-addicted residents — Amy Bormel and Jeffrey Searcy — to share their experiences with mental health treatment.
Bormel said she grew up in a supportive family and did well in school before becoming addicted to drugs and ending up in and out of treatment centers, hospitals and prisons at the age of 19. .
“If there was somewhere I could have gone in this time of crisis to stabilize myself and take the time to come up with a plan, I truly believe that the pain I have caused myself, my family and my community would have avoided,” said Bormel. “There is a huge gap in services in our county, and I think a food center is exactly what we need.”
Crowel and Santiago said locating the food center near the detention center’s central processing unit would allow residents who need help to be diverted to needed medical care instead of jail.
Plans for the restoration center call for 20 general patient beds, 20 sobering up stations – which would include recliners to help stabilize people regardless of their mental or medical condition – and five additional recliners in a recovery area. ‘Evaluation.
Generally speaking, Santiago said the recovery center would assist people for 24 to 72 hours, and then medical staff would decide if long-term treatment is needed or if the person could be discharged. Jones and Goldstein said their departments would help drop off potential patients at the central processing center, where they could then be sent to the restoration center.
County officials said the county will cover transportation costs once patients are discharged from the recovery center.
Santiago said in an interview that it is difficult for people in the neighborhood to hear that a food center is on offer. But the location near a central treatment center will divert people from prison to treatment that needs it.
He gave the example of a visibly intoxicated man in an urban part of the county and a police officer who arrested him for indecent exposure.
“They take him to [central processing center] then does the officer decide to charge him with indecent exposure, which is the nuisance [crime] kind of examples… where does that person go to that detox unit that I talked about? Santiago said. “It’s pretty obvious. And that’s the kind of hijacking we’re talking about.
Many residents asked officials questions about security, given that the proposed detention center and food center would be about 100 yards from some homes. Officials said the county would have 24-hour security for the food center, but logistics were still being worked out.
In an interview, Talley pointed out that the prison and the restoration center would be two separate facilities. She said the plan reflects the fact that Rockville Jail has seen a decline in prison population, since another jail that can hold up to 1,000 inmates opened in Clarksburg in 2003.
Rockville Jail can hold up to 200 people, but only averages about 50 inmates a day, Talley said.
“There will be separate security measures to ensure that – as we do now – anyone in the public comes to the jail [that] there are guarantees where you can only reach certain points of an installation… and so all of this will come in the design and planning phase [of the jail and restoration center]“, said Talley.
7 Locks Alliance, local residents express strong opposition
Most of those who attended the town hall were against the idea of a catering center at the seven locks site and officials wondered why the location had been chosen, whether other sites in more commercial locations or industrial buildings had been considered and whether they considered the potential security risks to adjacent neighborhoods.
Rockville City Councilman Beryl Feinberg, like many others, said a food center next to the jail could deter potential patients from seeking treatment. She and Rockville residents thought there were plenty of opportunities to locate the facility in vacant office or industrial space elsewhere in the city.
Mariana Cordier, president of the nearby Falls Ridge Homeowners Association, told county officials she was concerned State Attorney John McCarthy was in attendance. Cordier, a criminal defense attorney, said she doesn’t think the proposed detention center and restoration center won’t be effective in serving people who need help.
“We’re not against a food court,” Cordier said in an interview. “As a criminal defense lawyer, I have defended these people. It is necessary. But to make it fail because residents are afraid to call the police – and the police do not have a 100% case right answer, things happen.
It would be best to locate the food center near a hospital and close to public transportation, she said.
“I’m proud of every client who has recovered and been able to turn their life around and move on,” Cordier said. “But that road was tough, not everyone can do it, and you can’t assume that everyone who walks away [the restoration center site] is cured. They still need help, but they have the constitutional right to say no, and that’s the fight.
Seven Locks Alliance member Sara Devine said in an interview that some view opposition to the alliance as a form of NIMBYism.
But Feinberg told City Hall that just because residents are asking important questions doesn’t mean they need to be tagged so quickly. And Devine noted that some families have lived in the area so long that they remember when the land owned by the county – where a former police station and current county maintenance facility now stand – was something something completely different.
It was the poor farm— a site to help people with health issues, as well as a cemetery, Devine said.
“What I don’t like about NIMBYism [argument] it’s that we lived in Seven Locks long before there was a neighborhood there,” Devine said.
Santiago said in an interview that he would continue to meet with the Seven Locks Alliance Steering Committee to provide updates on the restoration center proposal.
And Madaleno said county officials plan to speak to residents about every three months as the project develops. County officials said of the planned $18.7 million cost for the restoration center, about 90% would be covered by state funding.
No decision has yet been finalized, although it was evident that county officials were pushing for the restoration center to remain at the location of the 7 locks.
During a sometimes tense evening between residents and county officials, David Myles, a pediatrician and Rockville City Council member, offered his thoughts on the proposal.
Myles said as a pediatrician he worked in emergency rooms where intoxicated people who had ‘nothing to do’ in an emergency department distracted medical staff from a job. vital. But he understood residents’ concerns about safety in nearby communities.
“I have mixed feelings about it,” Myles said. “I treated patients, but I also lived in the neighborhood. There were two [incidents] in my neighborhood where situations have arisen. Someone from the prison broke into one of my neighbor’s cars. I cycle past the detention center three times a week…. I know we need this facility. He has to go somewhere… but if that happens, I think my biggest concern is safety. I want to make sure, selfishly, that my daughter can come home safely. I want to make sure you’re all safe.